Who Is Our Customer?
A few months ago my staff and I had a conversation about who our customer is. We work in Higher Education so we serve students, faculty and staff. So our customers are not clearly defined into one segmented group.
The question came up, “Who is our customer?”, because we were talking about the importance of being really good at customer service. It was a fair question because we can’t point to one specific group and say, “those people are our customers.” But it is helpful to define this.
I think your customer is anyone who consumes your goods or services. In our case, that is students, faculty and others on our staff. Even my boss is a consumer of the work our staff does.
The face-to-face interaction is primarily with faculty and staff. Interaction with students is primarily email and phone. With everyone we come in contact with, it’s important to have skills in customer service honed to best meet the needs of the customer.
Serving the Customer
In our case, we also need to be aware of the fact that something we do for one customer could have effects on other customers. For example, we produce lectures that are made available to distance students and we need to make sure they receive a quality product. Recently, we had to upgrade the audio system in one of our classrooms which then necessitated the instructor to wear a wireless microphone. Sometimes our customers are involved in teaming up with us to serve other customers because we have the same customers.
Regardless, it is important to serve your customer well. Here are three things to keep in mind that will help:
1. Be Friendly
Observe people you encounter on a given day and take note of their friendliness. If there’s one thing that seems to be in short supply, it is friendliness. Just watch the news any day of the week. Friendliness begets friendliness. Friendliness pays it forward. Friendliness keeps the customer coming back.
2. See Things in From Their Point of View
The best way to serve your customer, especially when they may be upset about something, is to try to see the situation from their side. Work to understand their need in resolving the issue.
Years ago, I worked as as customer service rep for a mutual fund company. I had a shareholder call me who had shares in a fund that were in the form of a physical certificate. Well, those stopped being in use some time ago when everything became computerized but it was my job to help her cash them in. She didn’t have a lot of shares and she wasn’t planning to keep an account open but she was my customer to take care of as best I could. I remember her more than almost any other customer at that job because I worked on that project quite a while. But I listened to her and tried to put myself in her shoes and it helped me serve her better.
3. Show Appreciation
This is simply a matter of being a thankful person. Without customers, where are any of us? Jobless. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Thank them for helping you understand their situation. Be sincere with them with and attitude that shows you appreciate them.
For more on this topic, I recommend reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It is one of my favorite books that I like to read over and over.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of how to care for your customer so share some of your own thoughts in the comments! Tell us your stories of experiences in customer service.