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September 1, 2018

Author: Venugopal Chepur

When customers serve you!

What is the true untold reward you can give to your family and friends? First and foremost by understanding them so well that you can forgive them when they say or do something that is usually unacceptable. That’s when they appreciate the benefits of their relationship with you for being so well-understood, perhaps, adored. The bondage grows!

But when it comes to business, this is not so common either way. Businesses develop commercial relationships where they (mostly erroneously assume) are restricted how far they can go to value their customers. True. They need to balance between customers who seize every chance they get to squeeze and complain and others who somehow can find a way to forgive or justify almost any short-servings for what they have paid for. Both, of course, can be too extreme.

Business must be run as business and not as charity. Customers too are usually unkind when it comes to forgiving companies for mistakes. Alright, but there are many customers who are kind, tolerant, and endeavor to suggest improvements to products or services. You can see this mostly during their conversations with call centers and surveys requested. Despite a lot of design thinking that targets to build “customer-centric” business, there is little that happens for a “human-centric” follow-up.

I have had several conversations with credit card firms and many product companies where I had to express my grievances and also gave them fairly valuable (I can actually call meaningful and holistic) “win” suggestions. Once I have sent pictures of a shaving cream can that had mechanical problems (with liquid-squeeze system) to the company that manufactured it. None of those companies ever returned a favor. The best I had experienced was a small waiver of the fee that the rep could have done it anyway.

Our policy doesn’t allow, Aha!
I have recently spoken with a major American bank where the customer rep refused to see my point of view, and stated coldly that their ‘policy’ doesn’t allow them to view it any differently, in spite of me being fairly reasonable and a premium category customer (whatever that meant!).

Not just an empathy approach!
It is not assuming that being empathetic is good business practice. But to find humility and willingness to listen when customers serve you. And also to verify if the customer-facing rep is empowered to be ‘human-centric’ as well.

Consider, the successful online retailer. They have made customer service responsible for the entire company and not just as another department. They have built their culture around ‘customer happiness’ as the key business driver. I’d appreciate if you would share some thought-triggers and experiences here that would put ‘human centricity perspectives to customers when they serve!

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