On Management

Be naked for good customer service.

[First published on StartupCentral]

Or rather, allow me (your customer) to believe that you are. I’ll contact you for my problem that needs to be solved, or a requirement that needs to be taken care of. You’ve been contacted since I’ve chosen you to be the right solution-provider. And I’m paying you for it.

As a customer, I don’t like mixed & confused answers. I don’t like veils, opaque walls, half answers, lack of accountability and unexplained delay. As a customer, I might distrust an impeccably dressed company sweet talking me without much action. I’d rather have a naked one that helps me with what I want. Remember- you are what and the way you tell me you are.

What matters to me? Information does.

I need someone to listen as I explain my issue, understand what I’m particular about and help me out at the earliest since I don’t have much time to spare. I need to know who I’m talking to, need prompt replies (brownie points if they are grammatically correct), need to know that I can trust you. If I ask questions, I need answers. This is what my friend went through last week-

“I purchased this Samsung Note II last week. No weird apps were activated except email and Dropbox. But my phone is not working since and I don’t know what’s wrong. Can you help me out?”

“Ma’am, the motherboard is ruined because the app had lost its validity and the phone has now gone to ‘root’. You will need to replace the motherboard and that will cost you 14k.”

“What? Like I said, nothing with expired validity was installed or activated. Why did the motherboard go bust? What do you mean by ‘root’?”

“No, no ma’am. The motherboard is ruined and the phone is ‘root’. Sorry.”

This conversation is filled with replies that are not helpful to my friend, the customer. Her brand new 36k phone is not working, it is not being covered under warranty, she is being asked to shell out 14k more and she doesn’t even know what’s wrong. Of course, she can go into the abyss to find out more about the problem. But what about the 5 mins spent there, talking to someone who cannot explain what is wrong with her phone? Why is he facing her, there to help sort out her problems, if he cannot explain them to her in the first few lines?

I care about minimizing my uncertainty about your service.

“Hallo, I’d like to book a cleanup. Where is your office? How do you clean? What do you use? How are your people? How will you clean my kitchen and my washrooms? Are your chemicals toxic? What time will you come and when will you leave?”

While talking to a cleaning services provider, why will I ask so many questions? Do I really want to understand how you run your business? Or is it only about doing away with my skepticism about your service quality? I’ll appreciate relevant answers to my questions, with you understanding the objective of doing away with the uncertainty in my mind. Don’t talk about the various brands available and how you choose one with the most complicated name. Tell me how the one you use will help me make my life better. Better still, I’ll appreciate if you figure out a way of helping me to understand what service you provide without having me ask you so many questions.

If you’re late, inform me.

A pickup was supposed to happen at 1 pm. No one turned up, so I called up the service and asked for an update. “Sir,” the prompt voice replied, “he is on his way and should be there in the next 5-10 mins!” Why wasn’t I informed? Shrugging the frown off, I waited expecting the pickup guy to arrive in the next 30 mins. He reached in the next 35. No one cared to inform. Why is that? “The customer is home anyway, right?” Wrong! If you’re late, inform me! I’ve better things to do than wait and open the door!

Being naked is being open & frank

Customer service is a highly emotional aspect of a design & process oriented business. It is often directly related to the thought processes of the top management in the company, their values and principles. It is directly related to how you think as a human being.

When you’re naked, you’re most vulnerable. You’re open, there is nothing to hide. As an adult, if you’ve been naked in front of your better half, you probably share a strong emotional connect with them. That’s an essential part of your relationship, one that builds love and trust.

A customer (often subconsciously) requires a business to be naked when dealing with him. If there’s a problem that occurs while serving him, he needs to be updated about it. He needs to be in the loop with everything that is going on with his transaction. His e-commerce delivery, his food plate order, his home cleaning session, his grocery request, and his booked cab- he needs to know what is happening since he’s involved in the transaction.

As a business, ensure that you at least appear to be naked, if you can’t be so. Be diplomatic, stick to facts, stick to written agreements, help the customer out, accept shortcomings, keep your cool and acknowledge what the customer says. Why keep your cool? Because no one goes to war wearing nothing. Be a fellow human being for your customers. They’d love that.

I know I will.

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