Your Customer Service Network

Several years ago I picked this up from Seth Godin: “the only purpose of customer service is to change feelings. Not the facts, but the way your customer feels.”

We’re inundated with facts. Those facts come as statements, or invoices, or requests, or meetings, or complaints, or _____ (fill in the blank).

Most of the time, the customer is looking for validation and a human touch. It may be because we need to put them back into the place they were in before something went wrong, OR it may be because they have something they want to share with us, business related or otherwise. Either way, knowing how they feel requires actually listening. Imagine that.

Not changing the facts, but changing the feeling can be extremely subtle too. It might mean making “bad” turn into “less bad.” It might mean making “good” turn into “great,” or “ordinary” into “special.” Baby steps matter a lot here.

Godin adds that success can then be measured by one metric alone: would the customer recommend you? Notice that he didn’t say did they recommend you, or make sure to ask for a referral, or anything like that – he just asked they question if they would.

Enough baby steps eventually equal a marathon. Goodwill compounds. The best way to encourage that snowballing effect is to engage in listening for the facts and the feelings together. If you can marginally improve feelings in most of your interactions, pretty soon you’re going to find yourself surrounded by some pretty happy and engaged people.

David Burkus has a new book out that I’ll recommend (or at least that you listen to his podcast interview with Michael Covel). The book is called Friend of a Friend, and it’s all about networking. What Burkus says about networks heavily reminded me about what Godin says about customer service.

Far too often we look at each step as if it’s transactional. When we’re focused on “just the facts,” that may be true. However, if we’re focused on feelings, then every step is always developmental. Remember, we want to take at least a baby step every time. We want to nudge every interaction in the “right” direction.

Burkus’ most impressive insight is simple and obvious. Instead of thinking of transactionally building our network, he says we should look around and realize that we’re already embedded inside of one. We should focus our energy on developmentally shaping that network. The same is as true for our social groups as it is for our customers.

By focusing on developmental feelings, we can potentially open up all sorts of new and interesting pathways for ourselves. Best of all, we don’t have to build anything new to start off the process. It can start with the next phone call we answer or email we respond to. All we have to do is address and elevate the feeling.

Our friends have other friends, just like our customers have other potential customers, and it all spirals outward. It’s all about making incremental adjustments. It’s all about development.

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