The Greatest Customer Service Trait
What is the greatest customer service trait? Without question – Empathy!
Customer service is far too often thought of as being nice and friendly. Although both these traits are important they do not necessarily set one part from competitors. The secret to great customer service is empathy. That’s the ability to get into the customer’s head and think like your customer thanks, to know their challenges and frustrations, to understand what makes them happy, to see their turn-offs, and understand what gives them pleasure.
Nordstrom, Walton, and Penney all understood this important principle. It is why Nordstrom gave a refund to a customer returning automobile tires even though the store didn’t sell tires. It is why Sam Walton continued to drive an old pickup truck and live in a simple home despite having enormous riches. It is also why Penney is one of the most quoted leaders of all historical retailers.
How my financial planner learned about empathy
Almost all professional salespeople I have met believe they give outstanding customer service. Yet in many cases they know little about their customer other than what they had to ask to fill out insurance applications or financial plans.
Russ, a financial planner, and I were talking one day about sales calls. He told me he was struggling with listening. I shared a story my attorney had told me about a client that was head strong and demanding. He was making an eloquent argument for his client before the judge. In the middle of his monologue he felt his client tap him on the side. He looked down to see that she was giving him a note that said, “Sit down and shut up”.
I told Russ that whenever I am having a discussion with a client or prospective client and feel the need to interrupt them I recall that sign. I actually visualize what it might have looked like in my mind. Then, I keep quiet.
A few weeks later I found myself sitting across the table from Russ once more. He told me that a couple days after our last get-together he was on a sales call with a client who had a huge problem with stuttering. As the man struggled to complete his sentences Russ felt an overwhelming urge to finish his sentences for him. Yet he told me that each time he started to say something he visualized that sign and was able to refrain.
When Russ finished giving the gentleman his value statement he asked what the man wanted to do. The gentleman told him he was going to invest his money with Russ.
As Russ got up to leave meeting the man asked him to wait a moment. He got up from the table and gave Russ a firm handshake. More importantly the man told him how great it was not to have been interrupted.
Russ’ secret, every time he thought about interrupting he could see the sign and thought to himself what it must be like to try and tell somebody something without ever being afforded the opportunity to complete his thought.
Russ showed empathy in action. When you master empathy you will constantly provide world-class customer service. Unfortunately empathy is a lot like humility. Someone who is truly humble is only humble until they realize they are humble. As soon as that happens humility is gone. Empathy is only yours as you work toward being more empathetic. When you stop your ability to empathize begins to fade away.
Author Rick Weaver is founder of Max Impact a leadership and business strategy development company. His white paper “You’re Not Running a Vineyard – so stop your whining!” provides insight into lame excuses for poor performance, is one of the complimentary resources available in the MaxImpact Resource Center