What do you think of when you hear “customer service?” Ask 100 people, and you’ll get 100 answers, but you’ll see trends based on age, gender, location, and much more. There’s nothing inherently wrong with “old-school” customer service, and in some cases it’s even preferable. For instance, an octogenarian is going to have very different expectations of good customer service compared to a teenager. There are cultural preferences, regional, and it’s up to the customer service rep to gauge what their customer wants and needs.
That’s a tall order to fill! As customers evolve, so should customer service. However, humans are creatures of habits and we like to stick with what we think works and what’s comfortable. This can be tricky if you’re a customer service rep serving people who are in general a different generation than you or who come from a different background.
For instance, in many Asian cultures, it’s very common to “hover” over customers, continuously show customers possible items they might like, haggle, and generally overwhelm them if the customer isn’t used to it. Take that customer service approach to a store in Montana, and the customer service rep wouldn’t last very long before a plethora of complaints rolled in.
America’s old-school customer service of the Mad Men era is mostly gone. Here’s what’s lingering, what should stay, and what should go.
• Building intimate relationships with customers. This depends wildly on the industry and even location, but it’s pretty rare to find a customer who wants to be wined and dined these days. Time is precious for everyone, and today’s customers want to get the honest details so they can make a fast decision. Being available and respecting a customer’s time is preferable to “romancing” them.
• Hiding hard numbers to engage in a negotiation dance. Perhaps one of the most maddening remains from a bygone era is holding back information in order to make the customer “want it” more. In today’s age, information including hard prices is readily available to all. If you try to play this game, the customer will walk away. Incidentally …
• The walk away game. Complementing withholding information, the idea of walking away (by either the customer or the sales rep) is another old-fashioned game. It can also be dressed up in the, “Let me go talk to my manager” game. Again, this is wasting a person’s time and is more frustrating than anything else. For the most part, these days have ended.
• Hard sales and up-sells. In the past, using hard sales tactics could bully on harassment or bullying. Fortunately for customers, this is largely in the past and it’s part thanks to the popularity of online shopping. Customers who don’t want to be pressured can simply go online for most purchases and customer service reps know this. It’s forced hard sales to disappear.
• Engaging with customers and building lasting relationships with them. There can be a fine line between going overboard with building relationships and actually taking joy in the customer-customer service rep relationship. The best customers are loyal and return. Genuine customer service reps, the ones who are truly cut out for this line of work, love their job because they love their customers. They’re happy meeting new people, catching up with existing customers, and truly want to match their customer with the product or service they’re after—even if it’s not always necessarily through them.
Today’s tools, such as CRM software, help keep customer service representatives free to focus on the big part of their job. It’s just one tool amongst many that’s ushering in the newest era of customer service best practices. Plus, when you’re instantly seeing quotes, it’s pretty easy to ditch the habit of playing hard to get with customers.