April 22, 2015

Attitude makes all the difference

We knew what type of pram we wanted for our first child. However, the salesperson had the right attitude and sold us the pram that we needed.

For many mothers and fathers who are expecting their first child, one of the most important purchases before the child is born is a pram. And so it was for us, too. My husband and I did substantial research: we looked up the features of various prams on the internet, read reviews and evaluations written by other users, and consulted friends.

When we went to the pram shop we had a clear picture of the type of pram we wanted. But what happened when we were approached by the salesperson? She first asked us, "What kind of road do you live on?"

And then she asked us a series of additional questions. “What kind of house do you live in? Where will you take the baby in the pram? Will you need to transport the pram in your car? Might your family continue to grow?” She carried on like this, and within 15 minutes she had identified our real needs. Then she sold us a pram – the best possible one for us, a totally different pram than the one we had initially planned to buy.

I recently needed to visit several car dealerships. Once again, I had read reviews, evaluations and comments from other users. There seemed to be some potential alternatives. What the salesperson asked this time: "When did you last have the timing belt changed on your current car?" and "What size of engine do you want?".

Not one of the car salespeople asked me a question related to my real needs. They never asked me for example what type of journeys I will need a car for, how much I drive and where, what size my family is, or what I need to transport in the car.

Experience is about emotion—and is created with attitude

When shopping for a pram, I felt that I had really received something in return for the time I had spent in the shop, but the car dealership did not generate any value for me at all. In October 2014, I wrote about how a good customer experience begins with feeling (blog post in Finnish). That feeling can be mainly achieved by having the right attitude:

  • Are you genuinely trying to generate value for your customers? Is your objective to sell items on your list of sales targets—or are you trying to satisfy the customers' actual needs and make their lives easier or improve their businesses? 

    Are you only interested in your own products and services or are you also interested in the people who will use them? Show a desire to understand your customers, ask the right questions, prove that you are genuinely capable of listening and recommend the options that meet your customers' real needs.
  • Do you strive to make it easy for your customers to do business with you? The majority of us follow processes in their work. Do not hide behind these—instead, widen your perspective and take a look outside in. Get to know your customer's journey to understand what your customers really do, what they need from you, what are they thinking and why they might be dissatisfied.

    You might notice that it is possible to make it easier for the customer to do business with you in several different ways, all within the scope of existing processes. Or you might learn how to improve your practices.
  • Are you willing to exceed customers' expectations? Stefan Einhorn describes exceeding expectations in his book, The Art of Being Kind, which was published several years ago as follows: "They had done their work impeccably. And then they went beyond that level. It only required them to spend just a little more time and effort, but it made our family incredibly happy."

Exceeding customer expectations is also about doing things that show you care. Once again, let’s approach this issue with an example: Last December, I phoned a haberdashery in Helsinki and inquired about a product that I wanted to buy for my mother as a Christmas present. The person on the other end of the line told me that they had the product and, as I thanked her for the information, I mentioned that I might stop by and buy the product the following week.

The following week I went to the shop and asked for the same product. What happened? They did not have it – right? No: The salesperson asked if I was the one who had called the previous week. After the phone call, her colleague had noticed that they only had one unit of the product that I wanted. She had looked up my number in directory, reserved the product in my name and told her colleagues to sell me the product if I came into the shop.

She did this without being asked to do so and without even being sure that I would buy the product, just because I had been promised that they had the product.

Wow! I was taken aback by the amazing customer service, and I thanked the salesperson for making my Christmas. I felt that they had cared about me: my purchase was not particularly profitable for them but they seemed to have understood how important it was to me. I shared the story on Facebook, where it then delighted others. Several people commented and liked the story.

In what contexts does the right customer service attitude matter?

  • At every stage of the customer journey. The overall customer experience is based on all interactions across all stages of the customer journey. From the company's perspective, such a journey may lead to encounters with several people operating in different roles. It is the job of all these people to understand the customer's needs, make it easy for the customer to do business and try to exceed the customer's expectations.
  • In all channels. The right attitude is not only required in face-to-face encounters. Consider whether the desired customer experience will be transmitted via electronic channels. How do your service channels work together to support the customer journey? And, above all, are you developing the service channels based on how the customers want to interact and do business with you?  
  • In all interactions between people. Attitude is not just relevant to B2C; it is of great importance in B2B contexts too. "There is no more B2B or B2C. It's Human to Human, H2H" writes Bryan Kramer, among others. Companies do not communicate with each other, buy things or otherwise make decisions—people who work in those companies do.

I have encountered incredible customer service attitudes at all stages of the customer journey, in all channels, in large and small matters, both as a consumer and a corporate customer. But in all of these contexts, I have also encountered situations that left something to be desired. I admit to being a typical customer: someone who is quick to complain about bad experiences to anyone who will listen, but who often neglects to mention good interactions.

I am trying to change my attitude as a customer: instead of complaining, I try to remember to give constructive feedback on how my experience as a customer could have been better. I also try to remember to thank people whenever there is any cause to do so. Attitude makes all the difference, even as a customer.

While we are on the subject: I would like to thank Erkin Sauma ja Tikki for their great service—I will be glad to shop with you again.

Teija Kuustonen heads the customer experience development at Tieto and expresses her gratitude for exceptional customer service experiences on Twitter with the hashtag #greatservice


Read our study about digital CEM in the Nordics

Read how decision makers in Finland, Sweden and Norway see CEM, now and in the coming years. A Tieto commissioned study with 320 c-level respondents in retail and financial services.

Stay up-to-date

Get all the latest blogs sent you now!