Customer Service Can Save The World

I am going to come right out and say it. Customer service can save the world.  I know, it’s kind of a ridiculous thing to say, but I believe it. Some in the business of hospitality, sales, retail are only nice to you so they make money, but I want to believe that the majority of us in the business of taking care of peoples needs like being kind to others and helping find solutions to their problems.  This is where we come in.

Modeling of kind, civilized behavior has to start somewhere. Parents, obviously play a role in this, but society could prove that some did not put much effort in to it.  That being said, those of us who are kind to others for a living can model kindness and respect back to our customers.  It literally starts with us. That is what inspired me to begin this blog journey.  You can show the world how it’s done, because you are sometimes as much a part of our customers lives as anyone, depending on your business.  I know, it’s an incredibly idealistic thought, but I stand by it, and want to be a part of the change in how people treat each other.

Next time you have a difficult customer or guest, remember the way you handle it can not only diffuse the situation, but model to EVERYONE that witnessed it, how to kindly and eloquently handle a difficult situation. It will reflect on your business, and show others ways they can handle a similar situation in their future. Crazy thought eh? That you could teach kindness just by being kind? You can. You are one of a zillion interactions your customer is going to have today, but they take notice when you stand out as one that evolved from and interaction to a CONNECTION.

It’s not hard. Simply put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What will make you feel good about yourself and the business you are in? We all get motivated by similar things. I know, you are an individual. But humans still are the same in a lot of ways, and when you let customers know you are aware of that, and that you care about them as a person as much as a you care about them as a customer, you’re not just giving them what they want. You are giving them what they need.

Give them what they need.

Treating Customers As Humans

It seems like a painfully obvious statement.

“Customers are human, too.”

But it gets overlooked every day. Many businesses treat the relationship in a way that suggests they think they are the only ones with human needs, emotions, and vulnerability. In the course of the daily grind, we all sometimes forget that the people we are dealing with are facing the same crap we are. The same bosses, same family issues, same barking dogs, same life hurdles, etc.

However, when we DO realize it, we change the way we interact with those wishing to do business with us, regardless of the business we are in. A man named Abraham Maslow studied psychology and Human Actualization throughout his career, creating what is called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which we will learn a little about, because it is the backbone of this whole concept of customer service. Basically, it is a list of emotional needs that must be met for self actualization. While there are arguably now more than five, the original five needs are:

PHYSIOLOGICAL NEEDS
You know….the basics of survival. Food, water, clothing, shelter, sex, sleep, and what not. Maslow, considered all other needs secondary to this one. It’s pretty big. I would definitely concur.

SAFETY NEEDS
We all want security, order, protection from the elements (like tigers and hurricanes), law, stability, and freedom from fear. He listed these as the second most important needs to be met. Makes sense to me. How about you?

LOVE AND BELONGING NEEDS
Maslow says that after the above mentioned needs, comes the need to belong. The need to love and be loved motivates behavior in a big way as we have seen played out in both life and in literature. Friendship, acceptance, trust, and intimacy are a part of this group of needs, and the need to be part of a collective is a strong need that should never be ignored. If you do, it will be your peril.

ESTEEM NEEDS
Our buddy Maslow broke this one down in to two categories: (1) esteem of oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (2) the desire for reputation or respect from others). Maslow actually found the needs for respect and reputation were most important for children and adolescents, proceeding self esteem or dignity, although today, there would be there would most likely be a lively discussion about that.

SELF ACTUALIZATION NEEDS
This need involves self fulfillment and personal growth, realizing one’s full potential. Maslow said it was “a desire to become everything one is capable of becoming”.

Look this guy up when you get the chance. Remember my friend Tony in the Grand Canyon? He told us “People spend money to feel good about themselves”. It was a simplified version of “People spend money to have emotional needs met, leading them to feel safe, secure, loved, fed, clothed respected, and fulfilled.”Tony’s explanation was simpler, but you get the point.

Are you going to fill all of these needs in your next transaction with a customer? Probably not, but knowing what they are is the first step in creating a sanctuary for your customers and guests.

Welcome to Dealing With Humans

In over 40 years of customer service, if I have learned one thing, it is that there are those who see customers as customers, and those who see customers as humans.  There is a big difference.  A big, BIG difference. Over the years, the number of businesses in the latter category has diminished significantly.  If you don’t think so, tell me why Amazon is so popular? 

American business spends a bunch of money on stuff. Take a a product launch, for example.  Thousands, if not millions are spent on marketing and Public Relations, thousands more for design, packaging, and presentation of a product. Thousands more on CRMS software to maintain relationships with customers. And, at the end of that chain, that glorious point in which you make human contact with the customer you worked so hard to obtain, is a minimum wage employee with little training, and possibly little desire or incentive to establish, or maintain a customer relationship.

Over 40 years, I have served, or catered to in some way, Presidents, vacationing families, rock stars, cowboys, retired couples, kids, sports fans, concertgoers, and people from virtually every walk of life, and they all wanted to walk away from the experience with the same things, whether they were aware of it, or not. No matter what socioeconomic group they were from, their expectations and demands were driven by the same human needs.   

When I worked at the El Tovar Hotel in the Grand Canyon in the late 80’s, I had a roommate named Tony. He was a Detroit Italian who was one of the best waiters I have ever met, and he once told me, “No matter what they are buying, people spend money to feel good about themselves, and our job is to make sure that happens.”  At first, I did not agree. I thought it was an oversimplified statement, but over time, came to realize that it is absolutely true. 

Repeat what good ole Tony said to yourself now, because it is the underlying mantra of this whole program. People spend money to have emotional needs met, whether they are aware of it or not. A pack of gum? A nice meal? A new boat? It doesn’t matter. Yes, they want the materialistic outcome, but the act of the purchase is to satisfy needs not met elsewhere.  As soon as retail, hospitality, and all sales front lines realize this, the process of creating and keeping customers becomes a whole new ball game.  This information is game changing.  Ask someone why they shop Amazon, and they will most likely tell you it’s about price and convenience.  It’s not. Those are only two of many emotional needs people need met in a purchase, and the dismal state of customer service has left consumers accepting that maybe that is the best they are going to get…price and convenience. This is where brick and mortar can always win if you remember why people buy in the first place.