Customer Service About Showing The Possible, Not Just What’s Wanted

Giving Customers “What They Want” Isn’t The Ultimate Path To Winning The Customer Service Wars

Customer Service: Show Them What’s Possible┬áBy Paul du Toit

Editor’s Comment: I really like this article, which goes beyond the usual “mom and apple pie” stuff that promoters pass off as customer service wisdom.

I like it because it’s insightful. I like it because it resonates with my own experience of memorable customer service. It’s about customers learning that there is much more that’s possible (yet related), than they thought, whether it’s finding out one can get the job done for half the price, or there’s a better way to do something.

The best customer service educates as well as serves.

One of the ways to describe great customer service is to give people what they want, when they want in a manner that makes them feel good. That definition takes care of both delivery and emotion in one fell swoop. They’ve got what they want on time, they feel great and therefore one hopes they like you and your outfit, and will continue to do business with you. Maybe they’ll sprout forth enthusiastically to others about your great service too.

But what about the stuff they didn’t necessarily want because they either weren’t focused on it or didn’t know they could get it?

Take this scenario: Male customer walks in to clothing shop looking for a belt. Finds belt, pays and leaves. Well, if that were my shop, the assistant who served him would be fired. Why? The customer actually walked into my shop. The customer wasn’t forced, bribed or cajoled, he just walked in, but with intent: to buy one belt of a specific color, shape and size. However, is it not possible that this customer needs underwear? A few more pair of socks? A shirt or pair of trousers or two, perhaps? Maybe even a suit or 3? How much more delighted would that customer have been had he left the shop with a few great fitting new outfits? This certainly wasn’t what he was looking for initially. But could it be that he needed the additional clothes? Quite possibly, he just wasn’t thinking about that at the time. But since you invited him, you created the possibility that his mind may change. That’s your job as the shop assistant to make him think about it while he is in your shop, and to create a climate conducive to taking action – action that he may never have taken had he simply purchased his belt and disappeared. You may have facilitated a sale for your shop, but you have also delivered exceptional service.

When the late Steve Jobs conceptualized the smartphone now known as the Apple iPhone he wasn’t creating a mobile phone. He was creating a pocket computer that makes and receives calls. Did his research show that people wanted it? No – people didn’t know that they wanted it because it was inconceivable to many that it was possible to own such a computer. Even the engineers and technicians working on the project complained that what Jobs was asking for was impossible. He insisted that they should make it possible. Once his vision was matched by engineering persistence and brilliance the iPhone was completed and ready for market. People had not been clamoring for it because they did not know it was possible. But when it was available, people bought it in their droves. This extraordinary little computer is still the trend setter in smartphones and people are still buying it several versions and improvements later.

My contention is a simple one.

“Great customer service goes so much further than giving people what they think they want. It extends to showing them what’s possible. It’s about creating opportunity.”

If you have something worthwhile to offer, you’re serving no-one by sitting meekly hoping they’ll pass by and notice you. I’m not advocating that you should be in people’s faces and disturb their privacy. But if someone walks in with an invisible sign on their forehead which says “I came here on purpose with the intent to buy” and you let them walk out with just one item or nothing at all, then you have practiced indifference – and that is tantamount to pathetic service.

More than half of all employed people are in sales in one way or another, even if it’s just a support role. That probably means you. Without constantly selling the value of your services you risk going out of business or losing your job. Promotion can be done subtly or more purposefully. You choose how you’d like to make the difference. But rather than living in hope, isn’t it a far better to stand up and show them what’s possible?

You may be doing them a massive favor. And you could just benefit a little too.

Paul du Toit is a Certified Speaking Professional, Published Author and established authority on sales, service and presentation having delivered Mindset Shifting talks, seminars and in-depth programmes in Southern Africa and abroad, including to the Academy for Chief Executives in Great Britain. He is MD of the Congruence Group which focuses on developing human capital.

Find about Paul du Toit, CSP at his website,

Author: Guest Contributor

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