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New Approaches to Customer Service

By David Dann

We are learning from psychology that if we want to retain customers, then merely good or even excellent service is not enough. Because of the ways in which the brain remembers we must create 'moments of difference' which differentiate the customers' experience.

The psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains that the brain tends to remember specific moments rather than the total experience. Kahneman discusses the relationship between the 'experiencing self' and the 'remembering self' and these concepts have a direct impact on the ways in which we offer customer service and how we retain customers.

He explains that we do not remember the totality of any interactive experience, whether that be a 5 minute phone call or a one week holiday, we only remember moments from that experience. And, the remembering self mostly recalls the different, unusual, unexpected and exceptional rather than the mundane and ordinary.

For instance, if we stay in a hotel and the reception is good, the room is clean and the food is fine; there is nothing different, nothing in particular for the guest to remember. So, the remembering self recalls the experience as ordinary. For this reason, if we want our customer service to be regarded as exceptional, then staff need to create 'moments of difference'.

Moments & Memories
Customers turn 'moments' into 'memories' from which they create their remembered 'stories' which they pass on to others and retain in the remembered self. The more of these 'moments' we can create for customers, the stronger the memories, the more vivid the stories and the more likely they are to return.

For instance, when asked about a recent visit to a resort hotel, a guest replied 'yes, one day a member of staff told us there were both seals and dolphins in the nearby bay, it was something we shall never forget'.

So, instead of remembering the whole one week experience of their stay, they remembered a few specific moments, which they turned into stories for their remembered self and it is these stories which they use for their future buying decisions and which they relate to others.

Unsurprisingly, remembered stories tend to be those when emotions are raised. Of course, these can be either good or bad. The secret of exceptional customer service is to allow staff the freedom to create these moment of difference. When staff are unduly restricted by policies and procedures it becomes more difficult to create the moments of difference which will be collected in the remembered self.

'Moments' can occur throughout the service experience, but the crucial times are first impressions, staff interactions and endings.

First Impressions – Short Contacts – Lasting Impressions
First impressions are important because a lack of familiarity raises anxieties and in turn emotions are heightened. Hence the experiencing self is sensitive at this stage of the interaction and a warm greeting is often transferred into a lasting memory within the remembered self. Where customer service occurs over an extended period of time, short contacts are important as they increase the perception of friendliness. Short contacts are any brief exchange between a member of staff and a customer and should occur whenever a member of staff is close to a customer. Lasting impressions come from staff doing something or giving information which creates a memorable 'moment of difference' which significantly improves the stay. Staff who are 'looking to help' and taking proactive action to assist or give information will create the moments which customers remember. The last impression is the goodbye and unsurprisingly the remembered self seems to recall interactions later in the experience more readily than those earlier.

Creating Moments of Difference

  • Allow staff to be inspirational – staff who help, give information and make recommendations.
  • Create at least one special moment and memory. If they are repeat guests, help to build on their memories.
  • Make the experience more personal. Remember and use names.
  • Do something or give something which is unexpected.
  • Give staff enough freedom to be able to do the exceptional.
  • Have fantastic, friendly and easy receptions and great goodbye's

About David Dann

Dr David Dann is a trainer and consultant who works with a wide variety of companies in the international hospitality industry in the provision of exceptional customer service. He can be contacted at dannassociates@blueyonder.co.uk

Contact: David Dann

dannassociates@blueyonder.co.uk / 44 7989 749667

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