Making Customer Service Personal

“Make it personal! Get as close to your customers as you possibly can, and then get closer still so you can give them a squeeze.” – Jeffrey Hayzlett

Customers expect to receive courteous treatment. Research too reveals that a whopping 78% of customers said that their most memorable experiences with a company happened due to polite, competent, and personalized customer service. Customers have repeatedly emphasized that there could be no substitute for top class customer service. Given that this is the expectation, companies would have no option but to innovate and look for ways to make customer service personal and as refined as possible. By making customer service personal, companies could enhance their reputation, status, and profitability rapidly.

Making customer service personal is not about doing something for customers. Rather such service allows customers to understand what your company is about and be truly appreciative of its values. By lending a humane and personalized touch to service, customers would associate courtesy, empathy, care, and true commitment with your company, which in turn would lead to trust and loyalty. With most business now conducted online, making customer service personal through a smile, friendly tone and pleasant experiences, is not possible. The way to making online customer service personal, would be by providing fast responses, efficient solutions and customer-friendly processes. Customers now understand their value for a company and therefore are unwilling to accept anything but the best – companies need to treat them as celebrities even online if they want to make customer service personal. With social media becoming a rage and the high visibility of these platforms, add to the challenges companies face with regard to providing personalized service. A single missed complaint, an unanswered comment / compliment or even a delayed response over social media, are immediately noticed by all, making it harder for companies to set them right.

By making customer service personal, a company would stand out from the crowd and customers would perceive additional value in being associated with it. Making customer service personal is not an overnight job – it takes time, concerted effort, true dedication, and the support of each person within the organization. While it is hard work and could be complicated, the rewards are rich and many.  When a company succeeds in making customer service personal, customers recognize the efforts and would reward the company with more business and brand advocacy. The more a company can make a customer feel that they are conducting business with real and caring persons and not just some business entity, the easier it would be for the customer to trust the company. A company must however, consciously strive to make every interaction person and add small personal touches to every customer experience. Making customer service personal then would be about viewing every interaction from the customer’s point of view such that they feel valued and remember the experience for a long time.

In everyday life, what is it that you would do to add a personal touch to relationships? The first step, we believe, would be to try and, understand the people around us – learning about what they like and do not, what makes them happy, the things that make their lives easier and other such aspects. Relationships with customers are the same – in making customer service personal, it is crucial to first, completely know your customers. It is about knowing the little persona things about them outside the purview of the business relationship that give a company a large number of opportunities to make their customer service personal.  What are some of the things your company does to enhance the personal touch in the service it provides?

Companies and customers communicate with each other almost daily – sometimes even several times a day. Customers want to connect with a human being rather than an automated voice or some machine that conducts business on behalf of the company. When a customer connects with a company, ensure that they are greeted by an enthusiastic customer service representative. It is important for any company to hire people with proven people skills in addition to the required job knowledge. These front-end staff must share the company’s values and represent them when they interact with customers. This is true even for social media interactions – most of the criticisms and negativity for a company could trace back to poor experiences and a lack of personalized service.

In-store experiences have a profound bearing on how customers view a company. It must be remembered however, that in making customer service personal, ensure that your staff maintain a respectful and reasonable distance from customers. As a customer, we know how annoying and creepy (!) it is when store staff follows us around or continue to hover and stare until we actually decide to buy something. It would be safe to equate this behaviour to annoying spam messages and calls – a sure shot way to put customers off for good. A large part of making customer service personal is allowing customers the freedom to stay with your company or opt out if they deem appropriate. Making customer service personal is therefore, all about making things simpler and easier for customers.

With so much activity and so many options to choose from, customers often get distracted by all the ‘noise’ and may forget about your company and its offerings. One of the best ways to keep them ‘attached’ to your company is by seeking their opinion and feedback. This is a great way of making customer service personal – you seek to know first-hand what your customer thinks about your company.  To ensure that customers can provide feedback even without it being solicited – make it easy for them to ‘talk’ to you and let you know what they think about your company.  Let them know that your company is open to complaints in addition to positive comments – this shows customers that your company is willing to improve and move in the direction that would help to serve them better. Ensure that their suggestions are recorded and where possible are implemented. It is important to let them know what your company did with their feedback and how it helped your company to improve its products and in making customer service personal – such positive ‘conversations’ lead to engagement, trust, and loyalty from the customer – aspects that are invaluable for any company.

We know that customer expectations and needs are constantly changing and hence it would be imperative to align the company’s policies and strategies to keep pace with these needs. It would be essential to constantly monitor and track the effects of changes on customer behaviour, such that your company has real time and updated insights into customer expectations. This is a quintessential portion of making customer service personal, which in turn would lead to enhanced customer satisfaction.

As customers, all of us would have had some poor service experiences and we can safely assume that none of us can say that we have forgotten them – a surly store assistant, an unhelpful and poorly trained customer service representative, a badly made website and other such experiences. In the words of Mary Angelou – ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Companies that remember this about their customers will be able to provide truly excellent service and would consistently succeed in making customer service personal – elevating it from good to the very best.

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