I am a hot weather person—can’t tolerate cold, or even chilly, and love hot whether it’s dry or steamy. Yet every summer, when the outdoor temperature finally gets comfortable for me, I have to deal with the battle of the air conditioners.
Yesterday I walked to lunch in gorgeous weather for mid-summer—82 degrees, slight breeze—from my perspective it was perfect. The doorman greeted me, held the door wide open, and said, “Come in, out of the heat!” He was only being polite, making small talk, but it occurred to me that he had no idea whatsoever that I would not feel about the weather exactly as he did. To me, it was not hot. It was just right.
That is often true when we communicate with our prospective customers. We have a mindset that we know what they need or want, and sometimes we neglect to test our assumptions or, simply, to ask.
Here are some lessons from the restaurant scenario that are applicable to our relationships with our customers—the assumptions that make for bad business:
- Assume they know what I am looking for. I walk into a restaurant whose management assumes I want to be chilly. So instead of settling comfortably, I am already disappointed. They also assume that I have come in for food, and they don’t understand that if I feel cold it will be hard to enjoy that food.
- Make it clear that they are being inconvenienced. If I ask for the thermostat to be raised, someone will argue with me: “Actually, it’s 72 in here.” I am therefore supposed to be comfortable. With a deep sigh: “I’ll see if we can turn down that overhead fan.” Sigh.
- Take no steps to learn. If they happen to have a customer satisfaction survey, temperature of the room is never an option. No one is thinking about how my experience could be improved. They’re only thinking that I am a problem.
- Assume that I am the only one dissatisfied. Odds are good that for every patron who complains, several will just eat in silence and fail to return.
- Don’t solve the real problem. Given that their patrons have a wide range of preferences regarding temperature, perhaps there could be different temperatures in different rooms. Or the restaurant could offer shawls to chilly guests, just as airlines used to offer blankets (but no longer do). Or consider how to separate temperature from air blowers. Just a thought.
These five principles drawn from my personal experience are useful illustrations of how easy it is to be indifferent to our customers’ preferences. You have your own set of experiences as well. What if we draw on our experiences as customers and apply them to the ways that we interact with our customers? I think it will lead to more powerful customer relationship plans and policies.
What experience have you had that taught you a lesson about customer service? We’d love to have you post a comment below.
Visit Barbara Weaver Smith online at blog.thewhalehunters.com or follow me on Twitter twitter.com/whalehunters.