I recently engaged in an online conversation with one of our subscribers, Per Sjofors, and he shared an observation regarding customer service. He noted that even if a company takes care of every request, if its response is lacking in personality, it may not be perceived as good service. I agreed, and we talked more about what I call Stepford Service.
A number of years ago I wrote about the idea of Stepford Service. It is a concept based on the 1972 novel by Ira Levin titled The Stepford Wives, which became a movie in 1975 (with a remake in 2004). The movie was set in the fictional town of Stepford, Conn., where the women were brainwashed into mindless, zombie-like “perfect” wives who lived to cook, clean and take care of their husbands. A new couple comes to town and the wife senses that something is seriously wrong. She is determined to find out what’s going on and make things right. You’ll have to watch the movie to see how it turns out; I mention the movie not because it’s a favorite of mine, but to make a point.
In the movie, the wives were subservient and mindlessly did whatever was asked of them. You might think that if this happened in business, it would be the perfect customer service. The answer would always be “yes,” and customers would be sure to hear, “I’ll take care of that for you right away.”
Yet if the “I’ll take care of you” response is void of personality, in other words, zombie-like and mindless – robotic even – you might appreciate that your request was fulfilled but still not be impressed with the customer service.
The point is that customer service is more than just saying “yes.” It’s more than doing what the customer expects. It’s taking care of the customer with some personality. The personality traits of a customer-focused individual would include caring, empathy, sincerity, cheerfulness, and more. And remember, this isn’t just about the front line – everyone has a customer, whether they are internal or external.
So, how much personality does it take? The customer needs to get some sense of enthusiasm and caring – even a slight demonstration of the customer-focused traits mentioned above can show the customer that you are not just going through the motions. And that may be all that you need.
Great customer service doesn’t mean saying “yes” to every request. It’s a little something more. It’s the personality you put into the experience.