Positive interaction

Customer Service: Is It Instinctive?

“A customer is someone with whom you have dealings.” – Congruence Training

This definition of a customer, which we coined in November 1996 when we started our customer centric journey, is important. Because if you’re human, you’re a customer to many brands and people every day. Chances are you also have multiple customers whether or not you sell products. 

This means you not only receive service, you also deliver it. 

Customer Expectations

The word “service” has a positive connotation, but service can also be poor, or in the case of 0 out of 10, non-existent. It can also be negative, in which case a minus 3 out of 10 could apply.

So how does one understand each individual’s service expectations?

The easiest starting point is to consider your personal expectations of adequate service. If you instinctively deliver that same level to others, you should be in positive territory and that could be sufficient.

Let’s say you order a home delivery pizza and it arrives by bike in 25 minutes, hot and with the right change if you’re paying cash. The rider is polite. What was expected was delivered in terms of product, speed and politeness. If the pizza tasted great that’s a useful bonus.  

If your objective is for things to remain as they are, then all good. But what if you have a higher objective? For instance:

  • You wish to make others feel better
  • You want to increase your popularity
  • You want to find a partner
  • You want an increase of customers through the door
  • You want to increase sales
  • You want to recruit a high calibre of person
  • You’re seeking promotion
  • You want to persuade
  • You’d like people to order from you again.

In any of these cases you will want to provide a level of interaction that is better than what you regard as adequate.

Meet Bernice

This year I’ve worked with an organisation that has an extraordinary receptionist. Her name is Bernice. Bernice is always friendly, engaging and helpful to me – and this was since the first time I arrived as a stranger. 

Because she is also responsible for the venue I’ve been using I’ve interacted with her frequently and something has struck me. Bernice treats everyone exactly the same as she treats me – and I mean everyone, regardless of position. 

With Bernice there is no preferential treatment for rank, only for emergencies. Her tone of voice is consistently friendly. She smiles a lot. Her pace of service is brisk but not frantic. She uses her initiative and caries out small, thoughtful acts of kindness. 

Bernice sets the tone for the entire organisation because her attitude rubs off on everyone who enters the building.

Now, there must be a gap between what Bernice regards as adequate service received and the high level that she herself gives. How could she possibly expect her own service standards from some of the grumpy folk she encounters (as we all do)? But for many of us it’s the other way around. We have lofty expectations of what we expect, but sometimes we fall short on delivery.

So what makes Bernice, and the other Bernices in our world different to the rest of us mortals? Perhaps it’s this: Sometime in her life she made a decision that regardless of how her day started or what she’s dealing with – she’ll treat everyone with kindness and consideration. A key word here is “decision”. And decisions foster habits. Once installed, habits becomes instinctive.

Making The Decision

People’s expectations are also instinctive. They’re seldom consciously created. So by deliberately learning to treat others with kindness and flexing the smiling muscles frequently it’s not that hard 

to install a great service habit. But it takes a decision, follow through and consistency. 

The benefit is quite staggering. When you are kind, friendly and helpful other’s will start feeling better and they’ll treat you better. Just by being kinder you feel a whole lot better about yourself, and about each day that comes. This affects your health, your sleep and your enjoyment of life. And perhaps best of all, this great attitude comes to you free of charge.

Imagine if every person in your organisation could do that?

Not surprisingly Bernice’s company has a number of customer centric people. I wonder if she played a part in that? 

Paul du Toit, CSP is the Founder of Congruence Training and author of its best selling course “Customer Relationship Skills” www.congruence.co.za. 

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3 Responses

  1. Ha ha, nice one Bruce. My experience is that it is alive and well in small pockets all over the world, usually at the instigation of individuals. Sometimes you find a company with genuine all round service entrenched in their culture. Those are the ones I love doing business with.

  2. Agree with the write up of Bernice here. She is without a doubt one of the most down to earth humans I have ever come across. She sees things in other people that most do not and always exceeds customer expectations. Any company would be oh so lucky to have Her!

    1. Terrick, I’m glad you agree with me. It’s her consistency that makes her so special. She’s like that all the time.

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