Is Your Customer Service More Like a Butterfly, a Bee...or a Cockroach?

By Ron Rosenberg

orange butterfly on white background

It’s a nice spring day, and you’re at the lake enjoying a lazy after­noon picnic. A beautiful yellow and black monarch butterfly floats by and actually stops to rest on your table for a minute. You stop eating and admire its colorful markings.

Suddenly, from out of no­where, a huge bee starts buzzing around your head, getting closer and closer each time around. In a panic, you shoo away the bee, and it finally goes off in search of a flower.

You begin eating again, just a little bit shaken, when you notice a small brown cockroach walking across your plate. I guess lunch is over...

Three different experiences with three different insects elicited three very different emotions. The butterfly probably made you feel calm and peaceful, the bee brought fear; and, if you’re like most people, the cockroach thoroughly disgusted you.

But these reactions weren’t con­scious responses to the situations, they were your immediate “gut” reaction to the circumstances, based upon your past experiences in similar situations.

Well, your customers are mak­ing the same kind of associations about doing business with you whether they know it or not! The truth is that when people are in a heightened emotional state, they form a physiological impression of how they’re feeling at that moment and link it subconsciously with whatever caused them to feel that way.

If you’re wondering about this in any way, think about two res­taurants—one you go to frequently, and one you wouldn’t set foot in again if they paid you to eat there. How do you feel about the good restaurant? How do you feel about the bad one? You’ll find that your body responds to its memory of these restaurants long before your brain provides the details about the exact experiences that justify these feelings.

How does this apply to your business? In most cases, your cus­tomers are already in a heightened emotional state when they call you or visit you. For example:

• A client calling a lawyer is nervous about an upcoming case

• An ad agency calling a printer is unsure of a delivery date—or calling to discuss a missed com­mitment

• An exhibitor is concerned about the configuration of a tradeshow booth

The way you treat these custom­ers—the first impression, the com­munication style, the delivery of the product or service, and the follow up—will all shape the impression they carry with them long after the experience is over.

Here are some things you can do to help create a favorable memory of your business.

First Impressions

Look around you—people form an immediate impression about a place as soon as they walk in the door. You probably like your house to be relatively clean and neat. Why not apply the same standards in your business?

Take a new look at your business office or store as if you were a cus­tomer walking in for the first time. How does it make you feel?

Next, examine the materials you send to current and prospective customers. Do they convey the feel­ing of quality that you want your customers to perceive or do they somehow “betray” your company’s capabilities?

If you interact with your cus­tomers mainly over the phone, a cheerful, upbeat, and friendly greeting can disarm even the most frustrated and angry customer. And smiling—even though the customer can’t actually see you—changes your voice in ways that can defi­nitely be heard on the other end of the line. And besides, it makes you feel better!

Communication Style

If smiling works over the phone, imagine what it will do in person! People like to do business with peo­ple they like. What kind of people do you like to be around—moody, sulking, or depressed people who look like they’d rather be do­ing something else? Or cheerful, upbeat people who look like they enjoy what they’re doing—even if they really don’t?

And make a sincere effort to listen to your customers. There are quite a few people who have only two modes of communication: speaking and waiting to speak. By listening carefully, you’ll be in a much better position to serve your customers. And serving customers is why you’re in business to begin with.

Product and Service Delivery

Plus, it’s critically important to actually deliver what your business provides. In fact, it’s important to over-deliver. Get the product out sooner than promised. Make the quality of the service better than they expect. Send or do something extra when taking care of your cus­tomers. This is how you create the positive impressions that will keep your customers coming back.

Follow Up

Now, think about your experi­ences as a customer. When was the last time you made a purchase and the vendor called you afterwards to make sure that you were satisfied? Yesterday? Last week? Never?

To make a lasting impression, try contacting some of the custom­ers you’ve served in the last week to see if they’re pleased with your product or service. If they are, you’ll stand out from your competi­tion for taking the time to call. If there’s a problem, you’ll get points for being proactive and calling them before they had to call you.

Cockroaches, Bees, or Butterflies!

In the final analysis, it comes back to how people feel about doing business with you. Is your business like the cockroach—where people become disgusted at the very thought of you? Are you like the bee—where people avoid you to keep from getting stung?

Or are you like the butterfly where customers not only enjoy hearing from you, but they also actually look forward to doing business with you? The choice is yours...