Any successful business is built on the strenth of its customers. No matter how much you innovate; no matter how amazingly you deliver your service; and no matter how low you drop your price; you won’t get far without a foundation of happy, loyal customers.
To make the obvious point, innovative products and services, outstanding service delivery, and competitive pricing tend to make customers happy and loyal. But the point is this: The output of every business is a solution to a customer’s problem. By extension, if your product or service becomes the problem, the higher calling of great companies and exceptional customer experiences mandates earnest, faith, and effective customer service and support.
The All-Binding Customer Service and Support Mandate
While most companies would agree with this basic premise, some have a less strident commitment to the level and duration of service. Truly, these companies do no heed the call of the All-Binding Customer Service and Support Mandate. If our purpose as humans is to do good in the world, certainly this guiding light carries over the call center as well.
(For clarification’s sake, I’m assuming that you and I represent the business interests of our respective companies, while also maintaining an active life as consumers away from the workplace.)
The Emotive Buyer
As businesses, though, before we even get the opportunity to fulfill the mandate, we must first acquire the customer. And consumers, as mere human beings, are often irrational. Even the most finely targeted, segmented, and nurtured sales prospects may consider the facts, identify the best choice, and pick the pretty red one instead.
As consumers, we all do things that don’t make sense. Against our own best judgement, we often let emotion creep into our decisions; and we make purchasing decisions with our hearts rather than our heads.
The Loyalist of Circumstance
Strangely, once we’ve made our choice, this fuzzy, emotional frame of reference sticks around. As soon as the box is open and the cables and twist ties and pictographic instruction manual team up to form a haphazard consumer packaging monster on our living room floor; we are entrenched, staunch, stubborn, immovable. As the much sought-after existing customer, we make irascible decisions based on comfort and fear of change.
To illustrate the awkwardness of our new posture, consider the following scenario. After weeks of research and testing and asking questions, we buy something against instinct. You either buy the sensible one, or the impulsive one. In either instance, we don’t buy the one we really wanted. Or the one that made more sense. Does that all make sense?
On these occassionas, we almost instantly recognize our hard-earned, newest purchase for what it is. A complete dog, an electronic bundle of disappointment, an utter failure, second place in a one-prize sweepstakes. Or, more plainly, we simply recognize it as a mistake.
With this horror front-and-center in our minds, what do we do? How do we correct this horrendous misstep? Usually, by doing nothing. Instead, in an inexplicable haze of unjustified loyalty, we take every opportunity to disparage our trusty little lemon, but make no move toward replacement. We don’t seek a willing buyer on Craigslist, someone willing to give back at least some of our money. We typically won’t even consider euthanasia.
Does this make sense? NO, NOT AT ALL!!
Oddly, as consumers and as humans, most of us default to loyal. We want to trust you. We want to love your products, and sing shower songs about the many splendored thing we bought from you. We want to tell others how awesome stuff your amazing company makes.
Why? Because the individual becomes awesome by association, of course! In addition to some other, more sensible reasons. First, we want to know we bought the thing you were selling. Next, we want your product or service to solve the problem we told you about in the first place. Sometimes we really need a solution. Lastly, we demand satisfaction with stamina! Bare minimum, the satisfaction should long enough for the next shinier upgrade to greet us with a hardy “hello!”
Also, we definitely don’t want to pay for a replacement. I mean,seriously. Another $300? Three months later? Nobody likes that.
A Light Side and a Dark Side
And here we reach a crucial point. A real character builder. As businesses, once we have the customer in our arms, it would seem we have a great deal of leverage. They already bought the product, they don’t want to replace it, and their inclined to stick around just because it’s easier.
Here, the Mandate demands your attention. Will you fullfill your greater destiny? Will you provide the amazing service your customers want and deserve? Or, do you take the alternate route? Do you ignore the Mandate in favor of short-term cost savings? Do you pretend your product is more than enough to keep them coming back? Will Frodo cast the Ring into fires of Mordor, or attempt to wields it’s power to his own ends?
If you look at your captive customers as prey, it’s easy to take advantage of their primitive desire for loyalty and familiarity. But it’s spiteful, wrong way to do things. It’s petty and vindictive and unprofessional. It’s also a stance with short-term benefits, and short-term benefits only. So, keep that in mind.
In the end, people want to trust you. They’re inclined to stick it out. They want this relationship to work. And while they may be resistant to change, they’re not totally averse.
And if you forgo the Mandate, they will take notice, and they will not soon forget. They will turn on you, find your most fierce rival, and buy from them. Oh, they’ll also tell everyone they know that you’re a terrible kisser.
The Gleefully Loyal Customer Party Platform
To reiterate, we as consumers, want to be loyal. We’re desperate for someone to give us a reason to believe. To earn our trust. Do it, and we’ll be your loyal horde. In return, we only ask a few simple things, outlined here in the Gleefully Loyal Customer Party Platform:
- Be as good as your word: Unless the salesperson has his eye on long-term value of trust and consultation, whatever she’s selling fixes every problem, downloads every viral video automatically, cures the whooping couch, and makes breakfast in the morning. And every time this sale happens, your company is less than its word. We want stuff that works the way its supposed to, and awesome support when we need it. Any additional line items in the positive column are nothing but gravy.
- No, the customer’s not always right, but he always deserves your help and full attention: Each of your existing customers did at least one thing right. They bought what you were selling. For this gracious act, every customer – the nice ones, the truly stupid ones, the pushy ones, the misinformed ones, etc. – are covered beneath the soft canopy of the Mandate. Even the biggest, bona-fide-butthole-of-a-customer took that one right step. Even he deserves your help. And any attempt at honestly good support requires a full dose of support agent’s loving attention.
- Solve problems! The most simple, straightforward, and easy-to-grasp plank of this platform is somehow the most mysterious aspect of modern customer support. Any roadblock or hesitation or begruding acknowledgement or casual “sorry, sir, there’s nothing I can do”; is an affront to the greater sensibilities of consumers everywhere. Anything less than solving the problem, or offering reasonable, easy enacted alternatives, just sucks.
And so there you have it. By selling something to someone, you automatically fall beneath the Mandate. But it’s a topsy turvy world out there on the competitive landscape, and try as you might, prospective customers are hard to predict. As they traipse through this landscape, these prospective customers, beset by emotion and irrational whim sometimes buy impulsively. These impulses are often mistakes. Regardless, they want to love you. They will try to love you in spite of your flaws, in spite of their mothers’ admonitions, and in spite of that sinking suspicion you’re not who they thought you were.
Under these circumstances, where many companies stray to the side of customer contempt, the Mandate calls for mindful action. Unhappy customers, served well, will reconsider their decision to date your best friend. Happy customers will recognize your valiant efforts on behalf of the unwilling jerk in front of them in the checkout line. They will tell their friends! Their friends will become loyal customers and tell their friends!
And the customer contempt sloths will keep making excuse, ignoring the Mandate, shunning the Platform, and finishing last in both our hearts and minds.
As for the end result: YOU WIN!