Humanity-based customer service is the new rule

Since customer service is a top-down equation, poor customer service experiences are clearly designed with pessimism in mind. Which is odd because that’s a person or a team of people working against human nature to manifest experiences they themselves do not want to encounter.

‘I’m just doing what they tell me,’ we hear customer service reps say. I frequently tell the pleasant ones, “You sound like a nice person. I hope you one day find an employer who will allow you to do a great job.” (Most reps actually tell me they appreciate hearing that, and the conversation always gets better afterward.)

If management isn’t designing humanity-based customer service processes, we need a revolt.

Customer service can be an overall positive experience which helps companies keep existing customers happy. In fact, that’s how it used to be, and for good reason. It’s always cheaper to keep your existing customers happy than to attract new ones. (It also helps people speak of you in a good tone.)

If your customer service team is treating people poorly, you lose revenue as you hemorrhage customers, and you have to spend more on marketing. If, on the other hand, your team is working with human nature in mind to make sure people have positive experiences, you keep customers happy and can budget your marketing more frugally (or grow more).

Somewhere along the way, someone who was treated poorly decided they didn’t like their customers, and they wanted new ones, no matter the cost. How this attitude caught on like wildfire is something of a mystery. Barnes & Noble comes to mind. When their stores were packed with book-buying public, they brought in creature comforts and chocolate because people buy those things when they are comfortable. Customers bought less of these items when BN changed to aggressive sales tactics that made people uncomfortable. They could have taken the hint, it seems.

The companies who buck the trend, like Zappos and CDBaby, stand out for it. Both of these stellar examples embrace human nature in everything they do, and their reputations (and profits) rock because of it.

Poor customer service is the rule that should never have gained prominence because it lacks a fundamental level of humanity, and can lead only to failure. It’s refreshing to see smart companies challenge it. Good customer service is good marketing and a business fundamental.

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

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