Why Talking About “Respecting The Customer” A BAD Idea

A poor premise on which to base customer service strategies

Why Is “Respecting The Customer” A BAD Idea

Over and over, I hear customer service “experts” tell people that it’s necessary to “respect your customers” or suffer the consequences. This advice is not only useless, it’s worse than useless. How is that possible?

“Respect” is one of those words that we can bandy about while nodding our heads in agreement. After all, what business would deliberately set out to disrespect customers? None. It’s one of those Mom and apple pie things.

The problem is that it contains no actionable information. Knowing we should respect our customers, how will we transform that into action, since action is what impacts the world? It’s the ACTIONS we need to alter to improve since it’s only the actions that impact customer perception and satisfaction.

It Gets Worse

That there is no actionable information related to respect is one thing, but the situation is worse. When someone says “Respect your customers” it implies that we all share similar understandings of what that means. We don’t. Each of us will have somewhat different notions of what actions that suggests.

Clearly, culture affects what constitutes respect. It’s different from country to country, culture to culture, and subculture to subculture. It varies by things like age, gender, and a lot of other variables. There is no universal meaning for “respect” in terms of actionable information.

That leads to the belief that all customers will recognize they are being “respected” if we treat all our individual customers in the same way. It simply doesn’t work that way.

The bottom line: We cannot apply OUR notions of respect to our customers, and neither can we rely on “consultants” to tell us the universally accepted reason meaning of respect. Some customers will want to be dealt with formally, for example, while others will be offended if you talk to them like they come from Grandpa’s generation.

In customer service we need to move away from empty and misleading truisms like this, and there are probably a dozen other admonitions out of the mouths of customer service experts” that are similar. We need to focus on actions, and knowing which actions fit with our different and very individual customers.

Author: Robert Bacal

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