The human touch: How service starts with understanding people

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A business cannot survive without customers. While every organisation may think

they are customer-focused, very few demonstrate true customer-centricity. Here’s

how the human touch can transform your customer service.

What does doing the best possible job for the customer look like? Take this sales


A customer walks into an appliance store. A salesperson approaches them to ask,

“How can I help you today?” The customer has decided to buy a 14-kilogram washing

machine. The salesperson points out the different features of a few brands and the

customer chooses one. The salesperson arranges delivery with a contractor, adds the

delivery cost to the product cost and takes payment. The customer walks away happy

to have received attentive service and the item they wanted.

It reads like a very good textbook example of customer service in sales, but replay

this with customer-centricity in mind and there are plenty of areas for improvement.

Your product, their story

In our showrooms we don’t talk about product first, we talk about the customer’s

lifestyle because we understand that an appliance is a means to an end, it supports

how a customer lives. If you start with what the customer wants, it’s easy to

recommend things that are simply not appropriate, so we first find out why the

customer wants what they want. They might have read something, or a friend

might’ve recommended a product that doesn’t actually suit their lifestyle.

A few good questions might elicit key information: perhaps the customer believes

bigger is better but in reality they’ve never actually needed to wash more than six

kilograms of laundry at a time. A well-trained salesperson will know the difference

between the average weight of laundry for a family with four active children under

the age of 10 versus a family of two adults, for example.

A good salesperson will then suggest something more appropriate. Customercentricity

means selling an 8-kilogram model that meets the customer’s need

compared to a 14-kilogram washing machine that would have potentially cost them

more to buy.

None of our sales people sell on commission, so the customer is placed at the heart of

every product suggestion. For this reason, I recommend removing the commission

structure so sales staff focus on the customer, not sales figures.

The number you should focus on instead of sales figures and commission is the net

promoter score. This is given by the customer as feedback on their experience and

indicates whether they would recommend the salesperson to others. We celebrate

this number rather than the dollar figure attached to the sale.

All in the family

One advantage we have as a family business is that from very early on it was

important for all staff to act on behalf of the family. Every experience was a reflection

of the family’s values. Any business can take on this mentality, however.

We talk a lot about old-fashioned shopkeeping values and to us that means we’re part

of a community. We have many salespeople who’ve been with us for more than 10,

even over 20 years and that gives consumers the confidence to recommend specific

people to their friends and family. We also believe it is important that if we don’t

deliver a service to a customer’s expectations, the person who sold it will resolve it,

ensuring there is a personal touchpoint for issues, not some other department

unfamiliar to the customer which is not as invested in their needs.

For that reason, we hire delivery drivers who are part of the company and its values,

not contractors. A lot of companies see delivery as a cost and they charge the

customer for it. Because we don’t see an appliance as a product but a solution, we

also understand the appliance does not become a solution until it is in the customer’s

home, hence we include delivery in the overall price.

This also generates an opportunity. Every touchpoint should be a chance to enhance

the customer experience so we induct delivery drivers alongside the heads of

departments — they all have the same values instilled in them. The way the delivery

person represents our brand leaves just as much of an impression as the salesperson

in store.

So you see, even an example of a very good customer experience can be improved by

putting the customer at the centre of the story. The human touch is not just about

understanding customers but making sure every step of the way they are supported

and are foremost in the actions of your team.

David Woollcott is CEO of Winning Appliances

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