“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule…and it is a wonderful rule to live by. But if you want to give your customers the best service – you should break it; and from now on apply the rule: “Don’t serve your customers as you would like to be served.”
Strange thing to say? Certainly is for me, because I’ve spent the last five years telling audiences that they don’t need me to tell them what good customer service is – they already know the difference between good and bad service from their own experience as consumers. The inference here is: serve customers the way you would like to be served and they will see it as good service. Wrong.
It is so easy to irritate, antagonise, even offend our customers – with the best of intentions!
Customers all demonstrate different behavioural styles. Not only that, but the same customer can exhibit different behaviour in different situations; for example if they are shopping for an anniversary present in their lunch break or browsing to kill time in their holidays. But, let’s not get too complicated. The main point I want to make is that if you use your own behavioural style as a rule, you will alienate approximately 75% of your customers*.
Whenever I suggest to staff that they apply some different customer service strategy, one of the most common objections I hear is “I hate it when they do that to me!” The most typical is when I suggest they think about ‘add-on’ sales – simply asking a customer if they’d like some complementary item to go with the one they’ve just chosen. The immediate analogy is the McDonald’s’ line “Would you like fries with that?” Response: “I hate it when they ask me that at the drive-through! If I do that it will just annoy customers as much as it annoys me.”
To which the most appropriate reply is “So what! You might find it annoying, but a lot of customers find it helpful to be reminded about other items that they would probably buy at some later time anyhow. This is good service.” It is common knowledge that when McDonald’s did introduce the “Would you like fries with that?” policy, sales of fries increased 40% – so, obviously, many customers didn’t get annoyed.
So, don’t try to use the Golden Rule in customer service. Understand that all customers have different behaviour and if you are observant, you can identify it. For example, some customers prefer formality, others appreciate an informal approach; some love attentiveness, others want to be left alone. Try to understand your customer’s behaviour and serve them how they would like to be served – and your sales will show the results.
* William Marston created one of the most widely recognised behavioural styles systems in 1920. Called DiSC®, it describes peoples’ styles in four very broad categories – Dominance (direct, assertive), Influence (friendly, influential), Steadiness (helpful, patient) and Conscientious (analytical, systematic).
By Alexis Dean