Don’t Assume Your Customer is an Idiot

Customer Service cat

Don’t Assume Your Customer is an Idiot

“Have you tried turning it off and on again?” The phrase spoken by many IT pros and made even more famous in the Britcom The IT Crowd. The character Roy has repeated this question so much he made a recording of it that he plays whenever a call comes in. It’s funny because it really happens, but don’t assume your customer is an idiot before they even speak or all is doomed from the start.

Your Customer Wants to Connect

If your customer is emailing, texting, posting or calling there is a good chance they have an issue. However, they may have insight or even praise!

Regardless, they are contacting customer service because they want to communicate. If agents assume the customer is an idiot that belief comes across in the agents’ voices or text. Not a good start and bad for First Call Resolution.

Be Clear About your Brand and Policies

This doesn’t mean your company should completely change it’s policies or branding to appease an unruly customer. Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair took a hardline on his company policy of passengers printing their own tickets or paying through the nose at the airport to have them printed if they don’t.

Their policies were clearly presented and in 2012 when a passenger who did not do their due diligence was faced with the exorbitant charges she decided to complain on social media requesting a refund as ‘goodwill’. The public support she garnered had little effect.

Instead of the airline honoring her request the CEO publicly shamed the customer, calling her an idiot and appeared no worse off for it. People still want cheap flights, perhaps more than than they want amenities like polite speech.

For more amusing reading, you can see some more of O’Leary’s provocative statements here.

This is an extreme example, but it brings up the question of brand. 

What is your brand personality? Is yours a luxury brand or an economy service? What is the main benefit your business is offering? Is it a low price or exclusive experience or unique physical product?

Answers to these questions inform the best policy for your agents and your customer service strategy. This isn’t to say abusing your customers is a good idea, but defining in advance what situation will garner a refund and what will not and being clear about it is advantageous to both sides.

Have a Plan

Having a plan in place to handle belligerent customers, without treating all of them as if they will be, makes a smoother service road. Sometimes, it is good economics to sever ties with costly customers.

Author and research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, Michael Schrage gives an example of a company that strategically offered a solution to serve both themselves and their client. They discovered:

“The firm would never make money on this client. Even worse, the opportunity cost of this client was undermining the company’s ability to attract better customers. The software vendor cut its worst customer loose.”

Customer Care Improves the Bottom Line

So what happened to ‘the customer is always right?’ This has been muddied in the growing chasm between economy and luxury brands. Time will tell if this approach will last, but even O’Leary has recognized the value of being nicer since that 2012 example above. He included new amenities like changing rooms and free space for kids’ car-seats. He also allowed flyers to have a second bag without a fine.

Even though some customers are willing to sacrifice good customer service for low prices others have higher expectations. That trend is on the rise. If basic human respect isn’t enough of a motivator for giving quality customer service  this article on an American Express study shows that good customer service increases customer spend.

“More companies are realizing that delivering great care is not just the right thing to do; it also makes great business sense. Seven in 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service

Your customer is the reason your product exists and how your company continues to grow. Don’t assume your customer is an idiot. Recognize that they are a vital part of your business success. Giving them your best paves the way for a lasting relationship that benefits both sides.

Just like your customers deserve the benefit of the doubt so do service agents. We will be addressing the flip side in a future post Don’t Assume Your Customer Service Agent is an Idiot.