Why Empathy fails to win in Customer Service (and why SME’s can out perform the big guys).

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What is Customer Service? The top ranked result in Google provides us with the following answer:

The assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.’

Interestingly ranked a few spots below is a marketing definition:

‘The act of taking care of the customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high quality service and assistance before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met.’

Note that the first definition precludes those people who don’t use the company’s products and services. In other words, if you aren’t a customer you ‘aren’t getting any customer service. This is often referred to as ‘after sales service’.

This highlights an interesting divide in company strategy, which is determined by the question – “Should we help people, even if they are not our customer?”

By and large the Corporate/Enterprise Big Company approach is only to offer Customer Service to their existing customers.

A personal recent example:

My mother recently switched mobile phone service provider. Naturally, she wanted to keep the same number – as is supported by the regulator – and requested such as part of the sign up. The new provider connected her service with a new number, without telling her that was the case. When subsequently challenged on this issue, the new provider stated that the old provider would not release the old number – even though OFCOM in the UK says it is the responsibility of the new provider to ‘port ‘ the old number.

What was the outcome? – Silence from the new provider and lots of effort for my mother to inform friends and relatives of her new number.

The Service Representatives tried to convey messages of understanding but at the same time conveyed that they were neither empowered or interested in attempting to put things right or identify any ways that might reduce the effort involved.

And that’s where SME’s can win.

In another personal example I recently attempted to purchase some items from a sporting goods store, I wasn’t an existing customer. They didn’t have what I wanted, but didn’t attempt to persuade me to accept an alternative. Instead, they recommended and contacted a competitor of theirs to establish that they had the item I wanted in stock.  They then provided me with directions to their competitor.

The difference between the two experiences is clear as is my disposition towards the two companies. The Mobile Service Provider will not get any more business from me or my family and friends. Whenever their name crops up in conversation they will get a dire review. On the other hand, the sporting goods shop will always be my first port of call and will get glowing recommendations to anyone that will listen.

I’m willing to bet that there will be a direct increase in revenue to the Sporting goods shop, whilst the opposite will be true for the Mobile Service Provider – though that will almost certainly go unnoticed).

The difference between the two companies isn’t that the Mobile Service Provider staff didn’t show empathy. They listened and said they were sorry, but couldn’t do anything about it. I agree – it’s not their fault and there’s not much point in ranting at Customer Service Representatives that aren’t empowered.

And that’s where SME’s can win out, because they can do something about it. The owner(s) of SME’s can take the opportunity to understand potential and existing customers and put right things that are wrong. They don’t necessarily have to be wrong – reputation can be enhanced and the strongest marketing channel of all – word of mouth, will spread. Giving true Service is not limited to just those that have already paid. Good Service provides a stream of new customers and opportunities for revenue in existing ones.

If you would like to understand more about growing your business through True Customer Service than please contact us