A few months ago I wrote about ‘People Power’ and how it’s people that make companies successful.
Now, years ago, I used to get pulled up by my bosses for being ‘too friendly’ and was told it was ‘unprofessional’ to be on first name terms with vendors or clients. I was supposed to be more standoffish and distant and ‘squeeze’ the last inch out of the relationship. Needless to say I’ve always ignored that instruction and behaved in the only way I know how – by being personable. When it’s genuine it always pays off.
This week I attended the first of the annual KANA Customer Summits (EMEA). The keynote speaker was the charismatic Ross Shafer. Ross used to be a television presenter and still makes his living through motivating people. Ross talked about many things during his keynote speech but I took a couple of things away.
1. ‘Women rule the world’
2. ‘It’s not about you’
Being a woman, you’d expect me to pick up on ‘women rule the world’, right? But the reason this resonates so strongly with me is that Ross was trying to explain to an audience made up of 75% men that women think differently to men. They use their emotions in everything they do. For example, women relate to the victim in a violent movie whereas men say ‘It’s only make believe’. Women empathize and use emotions in building relationships (personal and professional) or buying a car/dinner/dog food/clothes etc. We instinctively know that in this connected, global world, people want empathy (feeling) and not just customer service.
The other point that struck home was ‘It’s not about you.’ If you really care about relationships (both professional or personal) you don’t keep turning the conversation/issue back to you, you turn it back to the other party. As a TV presenter Ross explained that the best interviews are those when the presenter does most of the listening. TV host Johnny Carson was successful because he ‘never tried to be the best guest on my own show.’ So, the companies who are doing well in these challenging times are the ones who listen and realize ‘It’s not about us’ – think Starbucks, Apple, Ed Hardy. These, and many others, have gone out and asked customers ‘Tell us what you want and how you want it’ and have provided it, with feeling. They make experiences memorable, they go the extra mile and their customers become their most powerful advocates. The one’s failing are the ones not listening.
As companies slowly wake up to the fact that running a customer service centre should be less about business metrics and all about the customer, I’m feeling vindicated. It feels good to empathize with the person you are talking to. To connect with them. To go the extra mile. People like people and behavior breeds behavior. I’m glad I listened to my emotions and not my old bosses.
KANA invited Ross to the Customer Summit because of our shared values. The KANA SEM product suite enables agents to know much more about the customer. They now have the time to provide empathy and to ‘go the extra mile’ instead of asking her to repeat her issues time and time again, for the information is there – at the agent’s finger tips. The company can also listen to customer sentiment across all channels whether that sentiment is directed at them or not. By listening, they learn and can change to be what the customer actually wants…
(Anne Wood is Social Media and Knowledge Management Consultant, KANA)