The Psychology of Customer Service

At their core, psychology and business have a lot in common. Both seek to understand human being’s needs, desires, choices, and behaviors.

What do people really want? What motivates people to make the decisions that they do?

These are the types of questions that any psychologist or businessman should be asking themselves on a daily basis if they want to be successful.

And any good psychologist or businessman doesn’t have to search long before they realize the importance of relationships in our everyday life, in our everyday choices, and especially in terms of business.

When we buy products or services from someone else, we want to feel safe and trusting of that person. We want to feel accepted. And we want to feel like the people we are doing business with really care about us and our needs. Without that relationship, most businesses can’t last very long.

Traditionally, this is the job of “customer service.”

Customer service is a series of activities, before or after the purchase of a product, that are designed to enhance overall customer satisfaction.

A company may be able to sell a product once with poor customer service, but good customer service plays a huge role in retaining customers and keeping a loyal fanbase.

When we buy products or services from someone else, we want to feel safe and trusting of that person. We want to feel accepted. And we want to feel like the people we are doing business with really care about us and our needs.

One example from my own life includes my experience with Apple’s customer service. My first Macbook went through various issues throughout the 6+ years I owned it, but Apple’s “genius bar” was always there to answer my questions, fix software issues, replace faulty parts, and even give me free products. On top of all that, they were always incredibly kind and respectful – and that was important.

Because I had such a positive experience with Apple’s customer service, I didn’t hesitate to buy the next Macbook once I was ready for a new laptop. I will probably continue to buy products from them so long as they are around, because I know if anything goes wrong they will be there to support me.

Creating this relationship with your clients is key. Not only does it retain current customers, but it attracts new customers, because it builds a solid reputation for you and your business.

When people have a positive experience with you, they are likely to talk about it with others. And if they have a bad experience with you, they are likely to talk about it with others too.

Customer service is all about having a positive influence on the customer’s experience.

The remainder of this article is going to describe the most important ways we can improve customer service – ie, “the customer experience” – whether as a business owner, employee, or even just an educated consumer (who knows when they are being treated right vs. when they are being treated wrong).

Be available.

The very first step in good customer service is to actually be available to the customer. This can happen in a number of different ways: telephone, e-mail, social media, a service desk, or all of the above. The important thing is that people know how to reach you when they need you, and that you are responsive toward them.

The amount of attention we pay toward others is important, like in any relationship. If you completely ignore your customer’s questions or needs, they aren’t going to feel like they are being taken care of properly – that means they are less likely to do business with you in the future. Before all else, businesses need to put in the time and effort to be there.

Be polite.

The next most important thing in good customer service is to be polite and respectful toward everyone. This can be difficult, because most people go to customer service for complaints and problems (which means they are usually a bit irritated), but it’s crucial that businesses are “the better man” and don’t let customers get under their skin.

Being polite is simple in theory, but sometimes difficult to practice. Try your best to smile and make eye contact. Be honest and straightforward. Speak in your natural voice – don’t yell. Don’t curse or make insults. And, most importantly, be genuinely concerned that the customer leaves happy and satisfied.

See the situation from their point-of-view.

One effective tool we have in building stronger relationships (in any domain of life) is perspective-taking. Humans have an extraordinary ability to take themselves out of their narrow viewpoint and see the world from another person’s viewpoint. This is a big reason we have evolved into the complex social species that we are today.

By trying our best to see a situation from another person’s perspective, we can often learn a lot more than if we only stuck with our own perspective. So by putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we can approach a problem more effectively, and we are more likely to find a solution that benefits everyone involved.

Apologize for any mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and businesses are certainly no different. The important thing is how we respond to the mistakes that we make.

Customers appreciate it when businesses admit their own mistakes, and don’t downplay or ignore them. They appreciate honesty. And if a business shows that it is genuinely sorry for a mistake that it’s made, people will notice it and appreciate it.

Rightfully owning up to mistakes gives your business a “human element,” that a lot of companies are too afraid to acknowledge – often because they have too much pride. Sometimes, however, we need to swallow that pride and do what we know is right.

Amend any losses.

Of course, if anyone buys a product or service that is having issues, or is not as advertised, then they should be entitled to a product that actually works or a full refund.

Economically and morally, this is just the right thing to do. People deserve what they they believe they are paying for, and a company that doesn’t meet those expectations probably won’t be able to sustain itself long-term (unless they are up to something really shady or illegal).

Businesses should make it a habit to amend losses with their customers whenever possible. It’s a necessary part of building trust over time, as well as being a good business to society that actually serves the people.

End on a positive note.

Businesses should try their best to end every customer interaction on as positive a note as possible. This is the experience that the customer is going to walk home with. And it could make all the difference between them coming back to you or not.

One of the best ways to end on a positive note is to throw in a small gift or free product. This let’s the customer know that you don’t just want them to be happy with what they paid for – but you want them to be happy in general.

When you “over deliver” it makes the customer feel that much better (and smarter) for choosing to do business with you. And it’s a great way to build a long-term relationship with your clients.

Other ways to end on a positive note could be sending a sincere “thank you” card or calling to check if the customer is fully satisfied with their product.

For example, when I purchased my first bottle of wine at Wine Library, they called me the next day and even recommended some food that may go good with the type of wine I bought. That kind of customer service really leaves a lasting impression – it makes you think, “Wow, these guys really care.”

Accept that you might not please everyone.

I honestly believe that businesses should try to make every customer as happy and satisfied as possible. However, I’m also realistic, and I know that every now and then there are people out there who you just can’t make happy.

Sometimes customers want to take advantage of you. So if someone is being completely unreasonable or rude, just ask them to leave you alone and don’t do business with them again. It’s not an ideal situation, but it can be necessary. Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t please everyone.

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