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3 Steps to Get Inside the Mind of Your Customer

April 19th, 2018 -- Hannah Michelle...
Through the lens of consumer psychology and behavioral economics, customer service professionals can deliver high-quality experiences.
Story by Joel Mathis

It’s not hard to make a commitment to customer service, Lee Stuart says. But making that commitment smart — well, that takes a little more effort.

Stuart, the leadership programs manager at the KU Edwards Campus, delivers training on a variety of leadership, management and communications topics for working professionals. Among the seminars he regularly leads: “The Mind of the Customer.”

“It’s best described as ‘advanced customer service training for managers,” Stuart said.

Stuart’s approach to customer service is “more about consumer psychology and behavioral economics,” he said. “Because that's when you can really deliver differentiated, memorable customer service.”

Stuart suggests three steps for getting into the mind of your customer:

1. Listen. Really listen. “People rarely have a sequential linear desire to get what they need or want,” Stuart said.

The right approach, then, is to approach a customer with open-ended questions — “Something as simple as, ‘What brings you to us today?”

“I have now asked an abstract question,” Stuart said. “That brings more depth in the responses. And then it is on me to listen carefully — very, very carefully — and assess what's really going on.”

2. Always offer a solution. Perhaps, Stuart said, the customer says he is looking for a necktie — and your store doesn’t stock them. That doesn’t mean you can’t offer a solution.

One possible solution: Send them to a business that carries what they need. “For most customers, you'll make an impression in their mind — ‘I didn't buy from you, however you provided a service for me that I really appreciate.’ So, you've created goodwill.”

Before making that recommendation, though, make sure you’ve heard what a customer really needs — and be prepared to fill it. Why, after all, does the customer need a necktie?

“That might be, ‘I need a necktie to wear to my daughter’s wedding,’” Stuart said. “So your stated need is for a necktie. But the need really is: ‘I need to look nice at my daughter's wedding.’”

That’s when alternatives come into play. “Maybe you have a designer handkerchief that goes in the pocket of the suit,” Stuart said. “Understanding the higher-order calling there might get you to a different solution.”

3. Be ready to follow up. It’s not difficult to have a system in place, Stuart said, that allows you to identify a repeat customer when they walk in the door.”

“Maybe on Dec. 22, he bought a sweater for his daughter,” Stuart said. “I’m going to ask, ‘Hey how did that sweater work for your daughter? Does she love it?’ Even before I even ask you why you’re in the store today.”

The point of such interactions? “So I can bring you back to a previous satisfactory experience that you've had,” Stuart said.

The point of this process? “Getting to why the customers come to you in the first place,” Stuart said. “You're trying to provide a solution to their need.”

Learn more about customer service and other trainings, conferences and programs from KU Professional & Continuing Education, including the new KU Professional Leadership Certificate