September 2016: Customer service or customer care? Who cares?!

What makes you and me choose one shop over another? Why do we choose this airline and not that one? How come we decide to go to this pub instead of that one over there. Well it can of course be because of some material consideration like the variety on offer, the quality of the beer or the convenience of the flight time. But when two or more offerings match we would probably say that we choose on the basis of where we think we will receive the best ‘service’. Or we could more accurately point to that fact that we go to where we are made to feel the happiest (or the least unhappy).

In fact we make all our choices based upon feelings. Really?!

Yup… Even the apparently ‘logical’ ones like where to buy fuel and how much to pay for our holidays. We will often travel the extra mile or two for the cheaper fuel to achieve the thrill that getting a bargain can bring (thereby wiping out the saving). We will find ways to justify the need or lack of worth of the beach view (it just isn't worth the extra 130 Euros for the week on the basis that it’s a meal out for free / it is worth it because we only do this once a year). But behind those plausible pieces of rationale lie our wish manage our feelings – either to be happier, or less distressed.

 And yet interestingly, even though we are such feeling-based creatures, we don't always behave towards our customers or our colleagues in ways that create happiness. I’m not referring to actively nasty behaviour but to the tendency to just do exactly what's required… and no more. The absence of what we might call The 2%. The things that we might do or say that would use up 2% of our energy and time but produce a huge positive emotional effect.

A recent issue of the Harvard Business Review, citing their latest survey, pointed to the finding that we consumers are becoming increasingly demanding. We don't want good, we want amazing. So this 2% isn’t just a very nice factor that makes life pleasant, it’s now a market differentiator.

OK, then. How? How do we do that? How do we do that when most transactions are rather more complex than buying a bag of sweets and often involve long value chains (more like leaky pipelines in many cases).

The answer lies in the word that will earn you a Wikipedia ‘redirect’ if you put it into a search with the word customer. Tap in customer care and you will betaken to customer service. Not the same thing at all. Not a synonym. A dodge.

Who could blame them because when we get into the territory of ‘caring’ then woah! Watch out, there be dragons! (real feelings).

In the webinar this month and next (and the 2-Minute Models that we’ll be making to support them) I want to go into the detail of how we can show we care at work without needing to take religious vows. I want to explain how caring can be in the fabric of organisations in even highly regulated, apparently inflexible industries such as Financial Services and Insurance.

But so as to not leave you hanging here, (this post is not intended as a teaser – I’m just aware that I'm exceeding my regular monthly word count!), here are couple of signposts for you. Something to chew over right now. Chewing signposts, sorry.

Caring is the product of a chain reaction. We care when we feel cared for. Or at least it's much harder to continue to make the extra effort when we aren't getting that from somewhere, in some form and its much easier when the general ‘way of being’ around us is one of caring.

Customer service is train-able… When the customer asks for x you give them these three options based on the following criteria etc. etc. 

...customer care is not. We can't train a sense of caring in our staff, we can just try to wake it up, to get people to bring little bits of home into work with them. The nice bits of how they look after their parents, of how parents look after their children, how couples look after each other, how we support neighbours and so on. 

Customer service is about skills. Customer care is about the human capacity for caring.

The job of every leader, absolutely from the top, is to stoke any spark of caring, within each staff member, into a flame. To achieve that, they too must care from the heart, about what happens to the customer. Customers will not now fall for novelty or the dry version of care which is service.

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