In a world where we seem to constantly interact with faceless corporations and cold, glaring screens, your customers are hungry for the personal touch. Personalized customer service is key to differentiating your business from the crowd, attracting customers and turning them into loyal buyers. But providing personal service in today’s busy world isn’t easy. A new book by Peter Psichogios, The Seven Personalization Principles: Learn the Principles to Thrive in These Disruptive Times, can help.
Personalization is vital, Psichogios contends, because businesses that create personalized experience will be able to charge a premium, while those that fail to do so will struggle to survive. In his book, he shares seven principles that your business must live by to provide personalized customer service. Here’s a look at the principles and how you can employ them in your business.
- Be Authentic: Personalization requires being real and genuine. Start by looking for authenticity when you interview customer service job candidates. Little touches such as having customer service reps provide their real names and email addresses in communication with customers (rather than something impersonal such as Customerservice@yourcompany.com) will also create authenticity and give the personal touch.
- Be Hospitable: Hospitable people are able to make others feel welcome; they always have a positive attitude. Educate customer-facing employees on the importance of welcoming each customer, whether on the phone or in your store, with an attitude of genuine caring. Factors such as the type of hold music you play on your customer service phone lines, the décor in your store, or the ambiance in your restaurant can also contribute to a feeling of hospitality.
- Be Empathetic: Empathy means being able to understand and share your customers’ feelings. As anyone in customer service knows, often all it takes to defuse an angry customer is to express empathy with his or her feelings. When a customer has a problem, have customer service reps start each interaction by apologizing for the problem and signifying their understanding (“I know how frustrating that must be for you, and I’m so sorry this occurred.”)
- Be Committed: Are your employees willing to do whatever it takes? Employees don’t always have to follow a strict “rulebook” when it comes to making customers happy. Empower your customer service team to make some executive decisions about how they will respond to challenging customer service situations. (Of course, be sure to provide some guidelines they can work within.) If you want employees to be committed to your business, you need to commit to them by trusting them.
- Be Competent: Personalized service cannot happen unless your employees have the skills and ability to excel at their jobs. When customer service employees are intimately familiar with your business and your processes, they’ll be able to suggest the perfect solution for the individual customer, rather than a cookie-cutter approach. Ongoing training and employee education are vital to creating competency.
- Be Friendly: This is an essential quality for personalized customer service, and one that really can’t be taught. Friendliness should be a required personality trait of anyone in a customer-facing role. However, don’t confuse friendliness with extroversion and enthusiasm; there is a role for quiet, subtle friendliness as well.
- Be Fun: Being able to lighten the mood with a customer can make or break a tense situation. You can bring fun into your customer service by providing fun experiences for your customer service reps. Lighthearted contests with silly prizes, games or activities to energize the team (such as a 10 minute “get up and dance” break every afternoon), and employee get-togethers or other bonding experiences can all contribute to a workplace where fun is part of every day.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.