Saturday, June 29, 2013

Treat The Customer As A King Or As A Child?

What is common to dealing with a king and a child? Both need to be made to feel special. However, that’s where the similarity ends. The difference lies in the feelings we carry towards a king or a child. For the king, the reason for making them feel special could be anyone of reverence, deep respect, convenient political correctness, vested motives or plain fear. In the first two cases, the drivers are positive feelings while the in last two the drivers are negative feelings. Quite clearly, we do not always treat someone like a king for the right reasons. In contrast, the reason why we want to make a child feel special is sheer love, compassion and goodness.

Pampering is essential to customer delight. But blind pampering is detrimental both to the parent and the child. The parent stretches without commensurate value creation, while the child gets spoilt. Therefore when parents deal with children the focus is the child and his/her best interest. When subjects deal with kings, the king is the façade but focus is the self as the objective is to get the best out of the interaction.

To extrapolate this analogy to treating customers, the customer is king philosophy is transactional and zero-sum; and hence inherently unviable (either for customer or for service provider). While customer is a child philosophy is based on character and compassion; and it has a potential to lay the foundation of longer term win-win partnerships.

As I see, Customer is the King is passé, instead Customer is a Child is apt. Which implies, the customer, like a child, needs to be made to feel special (listened to, made to feel special, given the space to take critical decisions) – but also needs to be cautioned wherein we judiciously disagree and take tough unpleasant calls which are in the interest of the customer. One-tracked pampering (giving in all and sundry customer requests) can lead to fragile quick-fixes that boomerang badly both for the customer and the vendor.

In the long run, adding to value to a client is the only sustainable strategy – not making them happy every moment. Like in a game of chess, we have to sacrifice short term goals in the interest of broader objectives. As an example, in the case of a project, the overall success of the project is more crucial than being in agreement with the client in all meetings. At the end, the client will evaluate the service based on project success and not based on how many times we were together in the same side of a discussion.

True, treating customers like a child certainly needs more knowledge, better skills, greater patience and a deeper understanding of client needs to make it work. There lies the opportunity. The most valuable reason, why we need to use our discretion as to whether we need to pamper a client or whether we need to educate, is that in such situations we stand out. Stand out in terms of both domain knowledge and professional commitment. Those are the moments when (or after moments) when we earn lasting trust, credibility, respect, relationships and business.

Jun 29, 2013

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