What (I think) you have done for me lately - The game of customer perception

"...It doesn't matter what I believe. It only matters what I can prove!" Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise - A Few Good Men)

This line has stuck with me for years - it speaks directly to the mindset I've had to have while working in the service operations arena.  I have pondered this interesting conundrum.  That what I think doesn't really matter.  What I know to be true doesn't matter.  It is not about me.  It all comes down to what our customer thinks.  If they think I'm doing a poor job.  I'm doing a poor job, despite the fact I may have a mountain of evidence for the contrary.


"Perception is reality" is a mantra that I lived with for years.  A distant cousin of the good old saying, "the customer is always right."

Customers have more options than ever, and a sea of information to help them locate a replacement.  If service is your game, you have to play along with the perception game.  Customers are a premium and need to be treated beyond what we think is sufficient.  We need to treat them so well that they believe they are being treated beyond good.  I recently took a meeting with a Senior Manager in a large Service Company.  We spoke at length about the competitive nature of the industry.  About the fact that customers found the different vendors so similar, that they would pick a service company depending on who bought them lunch last.  Lunch!  That is what swayed business!

As a manager of a service team, this fact drove me crazy.   Despite all the efforts, gimmicks and technology, decisions were made based on the free stuff they received most recently.  Seriously, some Buffalo Wings can be the different between hitting goals and not?


However, I'm not one to stew on a problem - So with this information in mind and knowing customers were so fickle, I pushed my people to bond with their clients.  First by using the customers preferences as a guide.  As we all know, some people are chatty.  Some are to the point, with little caring of personal information.  So step 1 was always to match the personalities of the customer to those of team members.  Hence the importance of having a group of diverse team members.  Next, was to foster the natural relationships of the matches between team member and customer.

Why?  Because customers fire companies, but have a very hard time quitting a person.  A person who builds into a friend.  We forgive friends!  We sure don't forgive companies!  Have you read Yelp? Filled with downright mean comments about businesses, but very few are about specific people.

So get out those friendship hats!  Get to know your people personally.  Oh and don't forget to pick up the tab on a few lunches!  Rumor has it, it's the way to win business!

Thank you Reading!

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