This Principle is the Secret to Making Your Customer Service Irresistible Customers share a strong desire for recognition: to be seen, acknowledged and appreciated. If you incorporate this into your customer service approach, you're destined for success.
- You're headed for greatness if you incorporate the Recognition Principle into your customer service.
- By aligning your viewpoint with your customers, you can continue providing the recognition that builds a customer for life.
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Before becoming a customer service consultant, trainer and author, I helmed a domestic manufacturing company that started in a spare bedroom in my tiny house. Over time, the company became prominent in our modest niche in the marketplace.
Making this growth trajectory more fun, we always had our share of colorful customers with picturesque hobbies, side gigs and personal passions: Jeremy, the part-time rodeo star; Jessica, who worked weekends as a costumed character at the local theme park (and always dared us to guess which of the theme park's characters was her); Julian, an amateur hypnotist and aspiring life coach; and, finally, Mrs. Gold, who will be the star of this chapter.
The Mrs. Gold principle
When my company was tiny, every member of my little team of employees was acquainted with Mrs. Gold and her endless ability to find a place in her home for just one more stray feline in need. So, any time Mrs. Gold called us (typically to check on the progress of one of her manufacturing orders), we would greet her amiably, without prompting, by acknowledging and inquiring about her passion for cats.
As my company grew, we had to get more systematized if we were going to continue to provide personal recognition to customers like Mrs. Gold and all our other always-unique customers. We pulled this off with technical pizzazz and manual work, entering colorful details about each customer into our customer relationship management (CRM) system whenever we had a spare moment.
This way, even after years of company expansion, anyone who answered the phone would be cued to offer some variant of, in the case of our favorite cat lady:
"Oh, Mrs. Gold! I was just thinking about your collection of cats. Are you holding steady at twelve cats . . . or have you perhaps gotten up to . . . thirteen?"
I expect this sounds over the top when you're reading it here in black and white. It's a little farfetched to believe that whatever random employee picked up the phone had Mrs. Gold's collection of cats on their mind the very moment she called in. However, consider this: Mrs. Gold herself would most likely be thinking about her cats any time of the day, including when she called us to check on a project. So the idea that we would be thinking about her cats and, by extension, her, would sound eminently reasonable to Mrs. Gold herself. By aligning our viewpoint with hers, we could continue to provide the kind of recognition that builds a customer for life.
It's not just Mrs. Gold...It's (nearly) everybody
Whenever we acknowledge Mrs. Gold's assorted felines, we fulfill her desire for recognition: for being seen figuratively and literally. Almost every human, including the humans we call customers, desires recognition. Customers want us to see them and value them as one-of-a-kind human beings.
So, although no customer is ever going to belly up to the service counter at your business and say, "I want to be recognized by you as the unique and valuable human being I am," customers, with few exceptions, share this desire to be seen, acknowledged, and appreciated.
When you fulfill this desire, it becomes a powerful (although unspoken and likely unconscious) reason for customers to continue doing business with your company, time after time and year after year.
An important exception: Serving celebrities and other similar customers
There is a category of customers who form an exception to the "more recognition is better" principle. These are celebrities, some (not all) high net-worth individuals (HWNIs) and ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHWNIs), and some customers who are private for other reasons.
If you serve a customer who falls into this category, your approach must differ from what I've preached in the rest of this article. If it's either obvious to you or your spidey sense suggests that the customer falls into the presumed-to-prefer-anonymity categories (celebrity is one of the most obvious), then you should go right ahead and modify your approach. With a celebrity, never initiate a conversation, whether a generic one along the lines of "How's your day going?" or, heaven forbid, a more probing one like,
"Heard your concert went well last night, Ms. Swift; did you feel it was one of your best performances as well?"
If a guest in this category initiates conversation, e.g., "How are you?" of course, you must respond, but don't take it beyond where it naturally should go in your role of serving. A good response: "I'm doing great, and you, Mr. X?" A catastrophically, almost comically, bad response:
"Well, I'm working on my startup and the hours are getting to me. Do you have any advice for how to not burn out from not getting enough sleep, Mr. X?"