Are Customer Service Standards Declining – Or Are Customers More Demanding?

As customer demands increase, here are some key tips for harmonious customer relationships.

Angry customer

A Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Boiling Point’ report found that in a survey of just under 2,000 people, 64% believe that people are in general, becoming angrier. People working in Customer Service delivery form a buffer zone, and are perfectly aware of this development.

We are used to customer needs and expectations constantly increasing – after all how many people in the western world would be thrilled with a small black and white TV set, or a party line on their home telephone?

Technology changes all the time, and with it goes customer demands. We have quickly become accustomed to instant telephone and electronic communication, and can watch television programmes “on – demand”. Whether working on the telephone or customer facing, Customer Service Professionals need more coping strategies than ever to maintain standards, and personal confidence.

In contrast to our technological advances, human evolution is a slow process and some things don’t change at all. When it comes to interpersonal communication, the human race still responds according to the primal ‘fight or flight’ mechanism that is lodged in the oldest, sub cortex part of the brain.

Back in the caves, when we lived in tribes, we painted our faces with a design specific to a particular group. We still take information according to that system. When we first see someone, the first thing we notice is the overall face (tribal identification), next is the mouth (to register either a smile or a snarl), and finally the eyes. If we sense danger, the adrenal gland, situated close to the liver, activates and pumps round adrenaline, moving blood to the muscles.

This gives the body both extra strength and immunity to pain, in order to either run away or fight it out, according to what was, and is, best for survival. Fight or flight is clearly defined. What we are not programmed to deal with is being ignored. Our system doesn’t know how to cope, and goes into panic mode.

If front line staff only knew that they are able to affect both customer response, and personal well – being, by some tiny details of their own behaviour. For example, when we smile, the mind does not compute whether or not we are happy. It takes the instruction without judgement and produces endorphin. This reduces both physical, and emotional pain, making us feel more cheerful and optimistic.

Eye contact and a nod of the head to tell a waiting customer that they have been noticed, recognised, and will be attended to as soon as possible, will usually relieve the customer’s anxiety and shorten the perception of time spent waiting.

These small, easy, cost – free measures make each interaction more pleasant, fruitful and satisfying. Anger levels diminish, and the quality of life improves all round. Unfortunately it’s the tiny essentials that often go by the board.

Whatever the business may do, it is all about people.

Six Key Points For Harmonious Customer Relationships

1. Always acknowledge a customer if they are waiting to be served

2. Most people will respond positively, even commenting that they are pleased to take a brief break whilst they wait.

3. Make eye contact, especially at the very beginning and end of an encounter

4. It’s absolutely fine not to know something – the essential issue is taking the trouble to find out.

5. Always call a customer when you promised – even if to say that you need more time to check details or complete the order.

6. There is a Chinese proverb that states that every crisis contains an opportunity. On the same basis, the most challenging customers are potentially the most satisfying.

About the Author

Candy Bowman is a specialist trainer in Customer Service and Assertive communication skills. © Candy Bowman 2008.

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