If you’re in business you’ll understand more than anyone else that business is not about product features, benefits, revenue, or anything so stuffy and businesslike. It’s about people.
The trouble with that rather heartwarming statement is that people can be real pains in the butt. (Were you expecting a very politically correct report here?
Ask any poor unfortunate who has manned the customer service desk for any business, and I daresay in any place in the world, and they could dine out on the stories they have to tell you.
Dealing with the public is often something that scares people. Sometimes it can add to their day when that extra little personal contact leaves them feeling like they’ve been helpful and served a purpose. But there are those times when someone who’s obviously on a mission to destroy your soul will appear in a sulfur- scented puff of smoke.
What makes these difficult people a double blow to you or your employee is that contrary to long held opinion, people don’t judge themselves on their pay or status as much as might be assumed. The philosopher Maslow arrived at the idea that people behave according to a hierarchy of needs which they need to be fulfilled.
Physiological – food and water
Safety – in our ancestor’s time this meant getting away from sabre-toothed tigers Social – the need to have friends
Esteem – the need to be thought highly of
Self-actualization – this is self-knowledge, spirituality, and religion
The problem with Maslow’s hierarchy, as you might imagine is that people tend to want all of those things and all at the same time. This is contrary to Maslow’s idea that only after achieving one level do we look to the next.
But we know now that people don’t graduate from one set of needs to another – they try to attain most or all of these needs simultaneously.
Studies have shown that people often yearn more for social esteem than financial reward. They want to feel that as a human being, they provide a valuable contribution to society.
Which means that actual money and status generally don’t compare to a feeling of being useful – of having a purpose. So when one of this red faced, angry customers start to tear away at that sense of value, it can be emotionally devastating.
That’s why it’s important to understand what your customer expects of you. And more importantly, what you should expect of your customer. It’s all about customer service.
Customer service has evolved over the years. When it began, the process involved a trip to the shop where an item was bought. Then in 1876, the telephone was invented. At first, their use was limited, but as they grew in popularity they enabled customers to contact the stores they shopped at directly to look for customer service. When the ‘60s arrived, so too did call centers which really took off in the ‘70s – and are as reviled today as they were popular back then.
There was a short gap between the launch of touch tone dialing (“please press #2 for customer service”) in 1962 and the invention of 1-800 numbers in 1967.
Interactive voice responses automated customer service in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
It was as far back as the late ‘80s when call centers were outsourced, and so began their slow lingering slide into a source of utter frustration on the part of many consumers. But we have more technological advances in customer service to go, just yet. In the ‘90s the emergence of the Internet brought the ability to use email and live chat support to the world.
Now – we can look for customer service through a wide variety of resources at our fingertips. Almost none of the old forms have died out. They just became more sophisticated over time. With the exception of call centers.
Social media is now the form of communication that approximately 60% of the population has used to seek customer support. Yet despite all the advances in customer support, we still face many of the same issues – when customers and customer support are brought out of isolated existence and forced to meet.