What Customers Want: Just a Little Respect

I was tempted to attach an audio file of me singing Aretha Franklin’s well-known 1960’s song Respect.  Though I might lip sync, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out What it Means to Me,” sometimes in the car, I would not subject anyone to that torture.  If I had to describe in one word what customers want when interacting with companies, respect is the one-word answer. 

  • Respect their time: don’t transfer them around to numerous places and make them sit on hold; if they have already done some work in the IVR or on the Web, don’t make them start over and make interactions available when and where they want (over the channels and devices they use). They need assistance, so connect them with employees that are capable of answering their questions. Proactively notify them on the status of their requests. Don’t make them have to contact you again.
  • Respect their intelligence: don’t give them vague answers that probably aren’t going to ultimately resolve their issue, and don’t push offers to them for products that are irrelevant, inappropriate or for things they already own (financial services organizations, please take note).
  • Respect their value: not just as a customer of a single product, but as someone who has invested in a relationship with your organization, understand the complete context of their relationship with you and manage the relationship accordingly.
  • Respect their feedback: directly ask for feedback, listen for it through social channels, and, more importantly, implement change based on their feedback.

So how do you earn this respect? Follow the lead of customer-focused companies like Kaiser, American Express, Royal Bank of Canada, OCBC, and Prudential, which have earned their customers’ respect and their results show it.  How have they done it?  Through a combination of well-established goals, organizational focus and intelligent use of their technology, including these acheivements:

  • They are making it easy for their customers to get superior service over multiple channels, and at the time of day they need it most. They are making it easy for their customers to transition from one channel to another without losing the context of the conversation.
  • They are guiding their call center representatives through each interaction to give the best resolution for that specific customer’s inquiry, and delivering it consistently, efficiently and confidently.
  • They are personalizing the experience to each customer based on their value, the products they own, their interaction history and applying critical context in real-time.
  • They are recommending complementary products and services to their customer that adds value to the customer’s life, not just pushing a product.
  • They are gathering feedback from their customers and employees and rapidly adapting the service process to incorporate suggested changes.
  • They are anticipating their customers’ needs and proactively communicating with them to ensure the customer never needs to contact the company with trivial non-value add questions
  • They are breaking down traditional product and organizational silos and enabling customer facing personnel to drive resolutions through to completion. Put simply they are not “passing the buck”.
  • They are eliminating and automating unnecessary manual activities resulting in tremendous levels of efficiency and timeliness.

So as a customer do you feel respected by the companies you do business with? And as someone responsible for the customer experience at your organization, are you demonstrating the proper respect for your customers?

On a lighter note, one question I will leave you with (and please feel free to comment below): what are some other song titles that best describe the demand for a great customer experience? 

Mine are as follows:

  • Rolling Stones,  I can’t get no Satisfaction
  • Elvis Presley, A little Less Conversation
  • Kelly Clarkson, Don’t Waste My Time
  • Bobby McFerrin, Don’t Worry, Be Happy
  • And a special shout out to the Siebel fans: Prince’s, Tonight We Are Going to Party Like it’s 1999