In a previous blog, I controversially said that the customer is not always right. However, that does not mean that they do not come first, and more importantly, that they do not deserve empathy from your front line and back office teams. As the article shows, the writers at Harvard Business Review agree with me on this, going further by sharing some insights into how to help overworked teams relate more easily to their customers by meeting with them face-to-face.

The personal touch is the Midas touch

Coming into contact with customers is not the same thing as having a personal relationship with them. In a service based organisation, employees need to be encouraged to see customers as individual human beings. Many companies have set up such prescriptive service protocol that their employees defer to policies over people. For a customer to feel that they’ve received good service, they have to feel connected and understood. For that to happen, your service teams have to be willing to see them as people.

For a customer to feel that they’ve received good service, they have to feel connected and understood. For that to happen, your service teams have to be willing to see them as people.

Of course, in suggesting that customer service teams be given the opportunity to hear service stories direct from the customers themselves, the Harvard Business Review has hardly published a brand new concept. But it does drive home the point that when your people connect emotionally with your customers, there is a much stronger commitment to delivering better customer service. I often talk about empathy as being key to providing quality customer service. And the surest way to feel empathetic is to meet with your customers in the flesh. Your team can then better appreciate customers’ desires, while gaining a fresh understanding of the importance of their role.

Motivate employees by informing them of their impact

It’s important to remember that every single employee who comes into contact with your customers acts as the face and voice of your company. No matter how insignificant the employee feels their role is, the customer will feel as if they’ve been communicating with the brand itself. For example, I recently stayed in a Newcastle hotel and held a door open for a member of staff who completely failed to acknowledge the gesture. This singular act of rudeness created an atmosphere of disrespect that permeated her whole team.

But how can leaders control every last action of every single member of their team? In short, they can’t, and of course, shouldn’t. What they can do is make sure that their employees understand the impact their role can have on customers. When employees engage with customers as people who are deserving of individual respect and service, those customers are more likely to be left feeling like they’ve had a positive experience. This is why an inspired leader is one who is willing to bring customer stories into the work place. This has started with social media, which now puts a face to a name, but it should end with a personal introduction, with leaders using every means at their disposal to bring the customer to life.