Customer Service vs. Customer Focus

What’s the difference, how do you do it and does it matter anyway?

Good customer service includes being polite and friendly, going the extra mile, fulfilling your promises, making sure that your systems are easy for the customer to use and that information is accessible and relevant. But really excellent customer service includes something more – Customer Focus.

Question 1

Who are your customers? The first thing to remember is that you are not delivering a service or product to a customer. (Or a client, patient, service user or passenger etc.) You are delivering a service to Jon or Susan or Mrs Miggins or Shareef or Doctor Braun or Great Aunt Winnie. They never cease being these things, even when they are on the phone to you, looking through your catalogue or walking into your shop. Their priorities, experience, likes and dislikes will always be there. If you don’t allow for this, then you are immediately letting them down. Letting down the controllers of your income is not a good business strategy. So think carefully about who they really are and design your business processes accordingly. That includes giving permission to your staff to see customers as people. Real people, with unique likes, needs and wants.

Question 2

What do they also want? Hopefully we can easily deliver what customers want. If we are smart we deliver what they also want. To do this we need to analyse what is ticking their boxes and what is wrinkling their noses. Face to face businesses have the advantage here but only if they use that advantage. Businesses need to exercise some sensitivity – what NLP practitioners call sensory acuity; using your senses to pick up subtle clues from the other person about how they are feeling. You then need to test out and act on your findings. Your policy should be to treat each customer individually. For on-line businesses this is proving more difficult. Being told what other customers also bought can be irritating, though occasionally quite amusing.

Question 3

What do they need? This is where real customer focus comes in and makes the difference. Customer focus is stepping into the shoes of your customer and asking the questions that they need to ask. “Do you care about my situation? Can I trust what you are saying? Will this product work with other products that I use? Is this going to be too expensive for me? What else do I need to make this work?” Suppose a lady comes into your shop wanting a new handbag to take to a swanky party this evening. She may have a thoroughly pleasant time with the sales assistant selecting just the right one and leave your shop delighted with her purchase. If, however, when she gets home there isn’t room in her new bag for her purse and she ends up using her old faithful, not only will she not like the bag anymore she will also not like your shop. You on the other hand will never know that you missed the chance to sell a purse or that you’ve just lost a good customer for ever.

Only by answering question 3 will you be giving excellent customer service.