From the Customer’s Perspective

Customer's PerspectiveWhen a business considers what type of customer service they offer, they should always do so from the customer’s perspective, not their own. When a customer has a problem, the business is usually more interested in offering reasons, explanations, justifications or excuses as to why things happened or are done in such a specific way, rather than actually listening to understand the message the customer is attempting to get across.

What the business forgets is how the customer perceives the experience is what is real to them, and how it makes them feel is what will be remembered; the further they get from the actual situation, the less likely they will perceive it accurately.

Last week I was in a well-known department store, and as I was browsing I heard over the loudspeaker “You can expect great things at register eight!” The young woman sounded less than enthusiastic as she spoke, and laughing to myself, I thought “How dumb does she feel having to say that?” I had no sooner thought that to myself when I also heard a chipper follow-up announcement: “Great job, (the young woman’s name)!” My impression? Store management was asking the register clerks to make announcements they were clearly uncomfortable with – so uncomfortable they needed immediate, public reinforcement over the loud speaker. It was funny, but sad.

When I stepped up to the register, I asked the young man how I would know which station was register eight – he told me it’s displayed on the sales computer. Thinking about the “great things” happening elsewhere, I asked how I, the customer, would know which one was which. With a puzzled look, he called over a woman – clearly a manager or supervisor – and repeated my question. Again, the answer was on the computer. When I explained why I was asking, a sales clerk standing next to her made the comment that what I had to say was a very good point; the manager said that perhaps the stations should be numbered.

But then this woman went on to tell me that what I had heard didn’t apply to the customers at all – it was some sort of internal code. Huh? Smiling, I explained to her that from my perspective – the customer’s perspective – I had been told that register eight was a good place to go. She conceded that “Wow, as a customer, I hear that there are great things going on at register eight and I want great things!”

Well, no actually, I was thinking that there might not be a line of customers and I could receive immediate help at register eight, but either way, my interpretation was the loudspeaker announcement had been made on my behalf.

From her facial expression, I think she understood my point. However, her response? “Well, we’re not going to stop saying it.” And then she wandered off without saying anything more to me.

I could only shake my head and smile. For the record, I had told her I teach customer service and was simply offering feedback — from the customer’s perspective. The two young people who manned the registers both understood what I was saying; it was obvious in their body language, facial expressions, and words. The woman? She was only interested in looking at the situation from the company’s side of things.

It all comes down to what sort of an impression you wish to make.


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One Response to From the Customer’s Perspective

  1. Nolan Yaws August 7, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing, Jodi! I found this to be especially true when I worked in Residence Life. Students or parents would often call or email very upset and frustrated. We were often told to constantly refer to policy and put the families back to that. The key step that was all too often missed in doing so was the part where the student and parent is genuinely heard, affirmed and supported. Referring to policy without fully hearing and acknowledging the student’s experience failed to recognize that policy or not, their reality and experience wasn’t ideal in that particular moment. Failing to listen also leads to repeat occurrences, because the policies and procedures were never critically examined and questioned.

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