customer service … Be Careful What You Cut!

Customer ServiceDo not underestimate the value of the old approaches to customers.

There are psychological reasons for this. Here is a maxim: Your customers don’t know what they’ll miss until you take it away from them.

People form emotional attachments to many aspects of their lives, including attachments to certain employees, procedures, layout and service features.

Emotional attachments, by their very nature, are not rational. This is true because, if you have repeatedly experience delight in a particular context, you tend to form an emotional attachment to many aspects of that context. For example, a child happily raised in and accustomed to a room with yellowing white walls may not react favorably to a gleaming white repainted wall as one would expect.

In the same way, certain aspects of your customer service may seem expendable and wasteful to you may have emotional value for some of your customers. Even interviews with and suggestions articulated by customers may fail to register accurately the depth of their attachment to certain practices. For example, if they have become accustomed to being greeted by the smell of fresh coffee in your reception area, the strength of long-term emotional attachments tend may cause an unintended reaction to a seemingly trivial change.

A more general problem is that customers usually aren’t paying close attention to their positive experiences, and therefore don’t know what specific aspects of their experience felt especially good to them. When you ask people to think back on an experience, they will try to come up with a theory of why they liked or disliked something.

I don’t usually vent in my articles, but I had a recent experience that simply rubs me the wrong way. A few months age my doctor retired and I transferred to a different one. The physical layout of the office is a little different, with the administration at the very front of the suite with the waiting room. I absolutely hate having the receptionist greet me with the statement, “there will be a $$$ co-payment for this visit. Now, I realize that a co-payment is due, but the feeling it engenders in me is that the co-payment is more important than my health. This may be irrational, but that’s how I feel about it.

One of the best-tested findings in social psychology is that “while people do have accurate access to their feelings, their theories about why they feel the way they do, can be wildly inaccurate.” People are especially poor at detecting the origins of their positive feelings. The bottom line? Even very intelligent and well-intentioned customers can lead you astray if asked to, ‘‘List the five things that make you feel the best during your encounters with us.’’

So don’t be too quick to delete things that didn’t make their top lists. It can be a move fraught with danger.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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