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Take the Road Less Travelled in Creating Customer Service Differentiation

The famous late poet, memoirist and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, is often quoted for having said: “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.” 

Although I would perhaps beg to differ slightly on the point of people forgetting “what you did,” knowing that actions (or the lack thereof) are often remembered, there is a great deal of truth in people never forgetting “how you made them feel”.

Warren Buffet is well-known for his views on customer service and the benefit of constantly seeking ways in which to delight customers – ways to foster a sense of positivity that go well past mere satisfaction.

When unpacked, the meaning of ‘delight’ ultimately boils down to customer experience, to how it feels to interact with a business, be it a product or service.

While the world has increasingly invested in the use of technology, relying on systems and processes to ‘streamline’ business by so-called ‘improving the customer experience’, the delivery of actual service appears to have all but died. 

It matters not an iota to a life insured whether their insurer sends an SMS on their birthday, if – in their hour of need – there is no real engagement with the person’s life circumstances. 

It is of no benefit to anyone for a service provider to send two weeks’ worth of updates via WhatsApp messages and voice-notes in order to sign a simple transactional contract; when a more personal, engaged and focused approach via a phone call and an email or two would have met the need and completed the job in a matter of hours.

Another very common and irritating category of extreme absent service is when a call, email or some kind of other attempt at customer interaction is received with a generic ‘you are important to us’ type of message – with nothing but irritatingly repetitive music; pushing endless #1 and #2 buttons and repeating the question to an infinite number of agents from different departments, to show for it. More so, when one is so often left none the wiser, or is diverted to ‘go online’ for the answer.

As an aside, albeit not technology related, it is simply astounding that when thanking a waitron for the presentation of an ordered dish, one is so often met with the response: ‘not a problem’ – as if choosing to eat at the venue could have presented some kind of potential inconvenience for the staff!

Sadly, as technological advances have mushroomed in recent years, disguised as a means through which to improve service, exactly the opposite has transpired. A vast vacuum of non-service has evolved and the customer has become a faceless object, devoid of recognition and individual personality.

One of the many challenges discussed with the entrepreneurs, small business owners and consultants with whom I enjoy working as a personal business coach, is that of market differentiation and how one gets to be seen and selected as the provider of choice – standing out from the competition.

Besides some of the obvious factors such as the rolling out of a completely unique product, alongside the old stalwarts of efficiency; quality and price etc., there has never been a better time in the world to choose to focus on delighting customers with real service.

The time to proactively invest in the customer experience is NOW – not only because technology seems to have all but erased it – but also because just about everyone across the globe finds themselves in need of a modicum of interconnectedness as we explore recovery; rehabilitation and rejuvenation in this (almost) post-pandemic period.

Notwithstanding that the practical application of ‘delight’ may include a variety of components, a handful of the most valuable include the following:

1.   Understanding customer needs

2.   Building a personal relationship

3.   Creating trust

4.   Listening

5.   Personal attention

There is no better way in which to meet the needs of a customer than by listening to what their needs actually are; not what might be imagined to be required, but what really is!

There is nothing in any walk of life that can replace the value of a relationship built on trust.

And there is nobody in the world who does not benefit from being truly heard, and or does not enjoy receiving a little personal attention. 

As much as each item in the above list may be a topic worth exploring on its own, these are not complex areas of focus. Nor are they difficult or challenging to invest in, develop and build. 

They do however require genuine interest in service; the engagement of personal energy; a bit of dedicated time and an honest commitment to make a difference in the life of each and every customer, one at a time.

There is no technology, process or system in the world that can delight the human-ness in each of us, than that of being met by the very same human-ness in another.

When service providers choose to put in the time by personally attending to the work required to help a customer; to take ownership of their actions; are accountable and see things through to their best end point, the chances of a delightful outcome increase. A hundred-fold.

As for the return-on-investment; it increases a thousand-fold.

In the words of Robert Frost:

‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.’


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