I feel that you do need to bond with a customer to a certain extent to understand their needs. For example, at the car dealership I work at, it is helpful to know if a person has kids, because then you can help them select a vehicle large enough to accomdate car seats. It is certainly not out of line to ask a parent how many kids they have and how old each of them are. Then, as you find out more about them, and drop a few comments about how school is starting soon, they start to trust you and feel like your interests are aligned with theirs.
I find that customers love to hear my personal stories of cars I liked and didn`t like. They also like to hear about my personal experience of paying off my car loan or waiting in line at the DMV. They want to know that I understand what they are going through and that yes, I`m a real human too. If I only stuck to the paperwork and just gave them their monthly payment and due date, they`d think I`m a loan shark, or that I was cold, evil and somehow judging them based on their credit. I think it is funny when a customer says, "I`m signing my life away" and then they laugh when I say, "No, it is only a few years." They know that I realize it is hard to make a car payment, and it is a lot of money. It is a real commitment to own a vehicle, and it is nice to know that the dealer sees the customer as more than a dollar sign.
As far as my business, I feel it is a real gain to know where my customers are coming from. If I know about a customer`s personal life, I know how to suggest gifts for their friends and family, clothes that fit them but they can still appropriately wear to parties... and what day they need it by. If they are really comfortable with me, then they might even suggest ways to improve my work and they`ll tell me what they`d like to see in the future. My favorite customer is the one that says, "You need to make more stuff for men, because I want to buy some shirts for my boyfriend." and "I`ll call you in the winter, because I want to see what you can make me in velvet." She doesn`t feel awkward to tell me that she doesn`t see what she needs. She feels comfortable enough to just ask for it. I would much rather a person tell me what they like or expect out of me rather than quietly moving on to the next merchant.
You don`t need to take a customer out to dinner or golfing to bond with them. You just need to make some converation, and ask questions so that you can adequately help them. It also helps if they are comfortable around you, so that they can return the favor with honest feedback.
How do you set up your customer service policies? Do you make them up as you go, or do you clearly post them and follow accordingly? If you do have posted policies, what are they, and how did you come up with them?
For example, what do you do when a customer is dissatisfied with a product? Do you allow them to return it? If so, how long of a timeline do you have on returns? Do you have a money back guarantee, or can a customer only exchange items within the same price range? Will you give discounts to a customer that was dissatisfied?
Or, if you make it up as you go based on the situation, how will you know if your desicions are fair?
Well, I have appreciated the fact that my insurance company has an easy to remember phone number... although I could just as easily look it up off my insurance card, which I keep in my purse.
It is nice when I go out to my car, and find some mystery damage, or if I get into an accident on the road, I can pull out my phone and dial 1-800-PROGRESSIVE without thinking too much or having to go look it up.
That`s really the only vanity phone number I use though. Most phone numbers that I need freqently are already programmed into my cell phone. There are only a few numbers that I actually need to memorize.
I agree that there are plenty of people out there with personal problems! I was working with a customer the other day at my "day job" and the sales consultant apologized later for his customer`s behavior. She started yelling when I asked if her father could come in to sign paperwork or if he had any ID. I told the sales consultant that she wasn`t yelling at me, she was just yelling. She is mad at her situation, not us.
Anytime someone brings up "power of attorney" or "Can so and so come in to the store to sign in person" emotions get involved. The lady was upset because she threw away her dad`s ID when he could no longer drive, and he can`t act nicely in public due to his condition... so not only was he unable to come in and sign, but he was unable to go to the DMV to get a new ID. Well, I must say, I`m sorry to hear that, but I`m not sorry to respond with our policy!
This was definately not the first time I had listened to a customer rant and rave. It certainly won`t be the last either. I just try to make sure that whatever it is that they are mad about, it isn`t my fault! In those very rare occaisions in which it IS my fault, I apologize profusely.