This is one of the funny things about customers. We’ve all been one at some point in time, yet it seems like it’s way too easy to forget what life is like once we walk around the desk, counter, or login screen. Far too often the things I’m looking for when I’m in the customer role get all turned around in my head when I’m trying to anticipate what my customers are looking for. So, let’s start a running list of things customers are looking for. I’ll start with the following 4 customer needs. These are not in a hierarchical order; please feel free to add your own items in the comment section below.
This isn’t as simplistic as someone being nice - it’s bigger and deeper than that. I think of this as the need to be treated with a genuine sense of regard from another human. Customers don’t want to feel like they are an intrusion. This includes their questions, expressions of fear, requests for assistance, or complaints. It’s not hard to find examples of poor customer service stories or experiences. It sticks with us when someone who was supposed to be attending to us made us feel like we were impinging on their very important tasks. Yes, we know there are times at work when we need to get things done that may not include interacting with our clientele, but we should always be friendly and respectful, even when saying no, or not right now.
While the concept of our favorite barista giving us an extra shot of espresso or an extra pump of syrup is exciting, think of how this looks to the customer right behind us. The thought of someone else getting a better deal than us is maddening. Customers expect to be treated fairly and equally. Poor treatment is often grounds for finding a new vendor or taking our business elsewhere. And, in the U.S. where the specter of lawsuits lurks everywhere, unfair treatment can quickly turn legal.
This is the updated version of “the customer is always right,” but it’s more nuanced than that. Customers need to feel like they have some kind of input in what happens to them, in their buying experience. Changes that are handed down or decisions that remove options for customers are disheartening and can quickly cause backlashing anger. This may have grown out of the notions that competition = good and monopolies = bad. Perhaps it's reality for no other reason that customers don’t want to be stuck with no options. Keep this in mind when reviewing return or exchange policies as it is often in complaint or return situations that customers will want to express their agency with the most vehemence.
This is pretty simple. Customers expect us to know what we’re talking about. They expect us to be good at what we do. They expect us to give them all the information they need to make an informed decision. OR, if they don’t want to have to understand our product or service, they expect us to recommend something fitting to their needs and budget. Sure, upselling is great, but this is often where trust can be fractured if it seems that we either a) don’t know our business, or b) have taken advantage of their ignorance by selling them on something bigger, more expensive, or otherwise unnecessary for their needs.
It is crucial for us offering products or services to keep our customer needs in mind when we do anything. Sometimes seemingly simple changes can have larger repercussions. This is why work spent identifying customer needs is always time well spent.