Customer Report Card

Customer Sign

We don't get high scores as buyers.

For all the progress we've made in writing reviews and looking at what others have said about a product or a service, our sophistication when it comes to being informed about the purchasing process — doing due diligence, looking at the data, knowing how to source stuff — consumers or business buyers alike, we pretty much buy based on emotion.

Convenience and relevance also play a role.

It shows we're human. However, it continues to create a disconnect between buyers and marketers — who are by far super sophisticated in their approach, comparatively-speaking. They know more about the products features and benefits than you as a buyer ever will, or ever want to.

They are smarter even though, admittedly, marketers are socially awkward, to put it mildly. Showing up uninvited in your conversations, and interrupting them with commercial messages.

I'm writing about buyers because we talk about so much about the sellers, we grade them, we watch how marketers do on loyalty, and so on, and we forget to grade buyers. Yet it is with buyers that we begin to understand why products (or posts for that matter, when it comes to readers) make it and why they don't.

Something interesting happens in this relationship between the savvy marketer and the customer.

The marketer either doesn't care about the individual customer — all they want is volume and quality leads to get a nice pat on the back from senior management and sales (in B2B that is the goal) — or gets too close for comfort — sees your every click, knows your email address and is not afraid to use it.

The disconnect also happens because the customer doesn't worry too much about developing a relationship. Is there no accountability on the customer side? Is our own behavior as customers creating the treatment we get from companies?

Which ones of these statements ring true to you? Customers:

  • want convenience and a good price
  • will easily go elsewhere, even if they have a good experience
  • need recognition for being loyal
  • don't value or use reward programs
  • have their own preferences to communicate
  • will say one thing and do another
  • don't read or follow directions
  • demand attention and give none
  • complain all the time

Forget when we gang up on companies, we're not much better one to one. I've heard some very interesting comments from customer service reps over the years. It's a very intense job — it takes a lot of patience, dedication, and care, to help customers. Here are 21 things your customer service reps would never share with you (until now).

Sometimes, as customers, we need to get out of our own way. Experienced service organizations will tell you that better communication is a good way to help us do that.

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0 responses to “Customer Report Card”

  1. Although my company’s customer care always maintain a level of professional performance which is required when dealing with such matters, I have to admit I personally witnessed some situation in which the customers did all he could to show that “the customer is always right” motto isn’t really exact.
    Even though the customer care representative will do all he can to help you as a customer, you shouldn’t forget you’re dealing with a human being, and not with the personification of the evil company which just (in your view) scammed you with an ecommerce sale. I have had situations in which the customer was so happy with the customer care he received that he promised to keep using an ecommerce portal despite the incident, and some other cases in which the customer care girl cried because the customer swore at her for a simple misunderstanding.
    Whatever happens, I think there are lines you shouldn’t cross as a customer, no matter what.

  2. To answer your question, Valeria, I think it depends on what the customer is buying. If the purchase is a life necessity, the customer usually looks for convenience and a good price. If the customer is looking to buy something luxury, or a non-necessity, they demand more from the company, such as recognition for being loyal.
    I am happy to see companies employing social media as a way to better communicate with customers. However, it seems that the majority of this communication is for damage control, or is one-sided for promotional purposes.
    As a consumer, I’d prefer that they use these channels to inspire me. Have you seen a company recently use social media or other forms of communications as outreach to create good rapport with customers, regardless of experiences that the customers may have had?
    Maybe if companies reach out to their customers in this way, customers will regard it as an invitation to develop a relationship with the company.

  3. First thought across my mind as I read this:
    “Most automotive enthusiasts have a better understanding of the product than the engineers who designed the tooling to build it. We see right through marketing hacks spinning fluff in an appeal to emotion over logic (which seems dishonest).”
    Second thought:
    “Most customers are mindless, mouth-breathing cattle, who feel as though their $20 purchase entitles them to some kind of royal treatment, or otherwise go deeper into debt on a major investment they will not be bothered to maintain.”
    Final thought:
    It’s a shame that so much marketing – like our laws – is tailored to the lowest common denominators of our society.

  4. @Gabriele – I’ve been in line behind some of those customers at some point. We probably all have. It takes thick skin to be in customer service. However, it also takes a big heart to want to be helpful, despite the occasional rudeness… there are lines one shouldn’t cross as a human being. Not in customer service issues, not in life.
    @Alexandra – I would challenge the statement about luxury item and demanding more of the company. I was born and raised in the land of fashion design and there, as well as here, I witness more an attitude of desire to belong on the part of the customer when it comes to an expensive brand. In fact, the less one can afford the item (not true across categories), the more the awe in obtaining it. I’m not sure I understand “inspiration” as you intend it. Do you mean like corporate social responsibility?
    @Brian – I think emotion has a role in marketing. You just need to push harder to find that core value to customers, that thing that connects with them emotionally. I think Ducati and Ferrari do it well. I’m biased, I know. Your second thought is something not many will admit. I read Chris Elliott’s column in the Sunday paper and he is often reporting on how some travelers *know* what they should have done to get a refund, or communicate with the hotel, etc., yet insist on doing it their way, or wait too long to do it. Don’t get me started on standard education testing, the entertainment industry, and so on. I admit I am never afraid that someone will say something incredibly smart…

  5. I grew up working retail. My parents owned what’s now a quaint old fashioned variety store – think tiny neighborhood Target. I know how hard customer service can be. And a twist on the maxim the customer isn’t always right. You just want to make them think they are (not sure where I first heard that).
    In the B2B Service business it takes a good client to get good work. If you the customer are not willing to partner with the vendor you’re not going to get their best work/service. This applies to working with agencies in particular. How often have we seen great creative concepts reduced down to milk toast because of the clients’ draconian approval/review process. And then gets blamed for poor results.
    Customer service is one of the most thankless yet important jobs around. Companies should reward and empower them accordingly yet few do. Scott Stratten posted this about a hotel customer experience that went from bad to good because of one person –

  6. Patrick:
    Making a person feel welcome is the secret.And as owners of a small retail store, your parents could teach us a thing or two about that.
    Working with agencies and providing them no access, or delaying responses and then holding their feet to the fire for delivering on time is a bad practice that too many organizations overlook. Doing so, they cheat themselves out of the best work.

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