When I was a young insurance sales representative I got thrown out of a client’s home. It was one of the best lessons I ever learned about customer service. In my zeal to do what was right for the client, I failed the first rule of customer service: I did not to listen. I heard his words, but failed to understand what he was really saying.
It was a good lesson and I have never been aggressively dismissed from a sales call again!
At first glance, customer service is about providing a positive experience for the client during which needs are identified and met in a pleasant, professional manner. That is the service formula that meets the minimum standard all customers expect. The customer, having enjoyed a good experience, will likely return and will also recommend your products or services to others.
To go beyond customer service is to engage the client as a partner in the service process.
I failed to partner with my client as I sat in his kitchen to discuss his insurance needs. He had asked for an insurance policy that was not suitable given his age and other conditions. I recommended another product for which he could qualify. I thought I was doing an excellent job, using my expertise to suggest a better solution to his needs; but I was only talking about policy options and premiums. I did not spend enough time seeking to understand the real reasons he wanted the insurance in the first place. Had I done that first, I may have gotten the sale and I certainly would not have been angrily dismissed with, “You’re not listening to me!” ringing in my ears.
True customer service reaches people at an emotional level. It requires asking questions and really listening. We listen to what they say, and we listen for what they are not saying, and we listen for what they are trying to say. We ask more questions, repeat the answers, and summarize what we hear to ensure we understand. Only when the client indicates, “Yes, you understand my needs,” do you know that you have made an emotional connection. You are now partners in the process.
The final transaction no longer feels like a sale. It is the natural outcome of a satisfying experience. The client will recommend you to others saying, “Their customer service is great!” but what they are really saying is, “They go beyond customer service – they listen and they understand.”