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Brand Understanding
PERCEPTUAL CUSTOMER SERVICE PERCEPTION UNDERSTAND CUSTOMER NEEDS QUICKLY

BY JAGDEEP KAPOOR

If you do not understand the needs of the customer, how can you satisfy it? If you donít meet the need, how is it possible to make the sale? You have got to be quick to get an insight into a customerís specific requirements. To do that I recommend Perceptual Customer Service.

Perceptual Customer Service is a prescription wherein a customerís needs are assessed, understood and then catered to.

When practicing this prescription, a Customer Service Professional notices a customerís need even before he verbalises. This requires keen listening and an acute sense of observation. He is aware of every movement of the customer and can read his body language. Good marketeers are able to get an insight into the customerís specific requirements so as to provide an excellent Brand Experience.

Marketing begins with understanding the specific needs of the customer. The Perceptual Customer Service Prescription, thus, is practiced before the sale is made.

Walk into the Taj Mahalís Sea Lounge restaurant in Mumbai and you will see Perceptual Customer Service Prescription practiced at its best. Even as you enter, the waiter, who is the Customer Service Professional, has sized you up. The welcoming twinkle in his eyes and the smile on his lips make you feel at home. While you are luxuriating in the warmth of his greeting, he is putting Perceptual Customer Service Prescription to work. He is sizing you and your family up, noting the number of children and their ages, whether you would prefer a window or an aisle table. Once he decides on a table and you agree with his choice, he escorts you there and makes sure that you and your family are comfortably seated so that you can go through the menu at leisure and decide on your order.

Notice that all this is done even before the order is taken. There is no commitment to the eventual sale, yet the customer is so much at ease that he is pre-sold because he has already tasted the heady Perceptual Customer Service. In this case the actual consumption becomes just a formality.

The climate that the Perceptual Customer Service Professional creates is as relishing as the actual lunch or dinner.

In another case, a satisfying eating out experience is completely marred because of complete ignorance of Perceptual Customer Service.

Itís a five-star restaurant in Mumbaiís upmarket suburb of Juhu. Here the waiter stationed at the entrance had seemingly no idea of my Perceptual Customer Service. He screened walk-in customers much like the security personnel do at sensitive entry points like airports. When a couple who wanted to while away half-an-hour with an espresso coffee before doctorís appointment, walked into the coffee shop, the waiter blocked their entrance and demanded to know where they were going, why they were going there and even what they intended to order.

On being quizzed about his behaviour, he said quite matter of factly that it was restaurant policy to ascertain a customerís needs before allowing him into the restaurant. He was like an adamant security guard at the airport of a hostile banana republic who could be persuaded to change his mind. If one visited only for one coffee or tea, the entry was prohibited, even though the restaurant was a coffee shop and that too an empty one.

Disgusted with his behaviour, the couple stormed out, their desire for coffee unfulfilled and with a definite bad taste in their mouth at this lack of Perceptual Customer Service.

While walking out, the security guard was perceptual enough to realise that something was drastically wrong. He offered to register a complaint which, the couple was assured, would reach the General Manager.

The next day the General manager called up the couple to apologise. He even sent a box of chocolates to make amends and offered a free dinner for the whole family. Needless to say, the damage could not be undone. The offer was declined and even the chocolates could not erase the bitter taste that the encounter left in the mouths of the couple.

Since this incident, strong initiatives were reported on the part of the five-star restaurant to amend their ways and improve the Customer Service. Whether the efforts are of the perceptual kind the anticipate the requirements of the customer and enhance the Brand Experience, is not yet clear.

The Perceptual Customer Service Prescription should be used in abundance even before the sales process begins. Customer looks for value and benefits when they buy a product or service. Assessing their needs, therefore, is an essential prerequisite to satisfying them by eventually making the sale and ensuring customer satisfaction.

The effectiveness of Perceptual Customer Service can be gauged from the example of an air-conditioner sale drawn from the Customer Durables segment.

A 35-year-old executive, flush with the bounty of success, sent out two enquiries for an air-conditioner.

The first yielded a salesman who came over and did a superficial need assessment. Split or window air-conditioner, he asked. One-ton or one-and-a-half? The prospect answered the questions, but was left with an incomplete feeling. Obviously, the salesman who had called on him was unaware of my Perceptual Customer Service Prescription.Contrast this, then, with the second salesman who proved to be much more perception. He happened to be from Carrier, world leaders in air-conditioners, and he wanted to know if the air-conditioner was needed for the executiveís office or home.

Home, he was told. ďIs it for the living room or the bedroom?Ē Bedroom, said the executive. ďYour own bedroom or the childrenís bedroom?Ē The Carrier salesperson asked.

Parentsí bedroom, he was told.

At this point the salesperson requested to visit the executiveís home so that he could make a proper assessment and thereafter an appropriate recommendation.

On the way home, the salesperson, following the Perceptual Customer Service Prescription, continued his probing in a sensitive manner, careful to phrase his questions so that they did not offend his customer. When he asked the executive why he wanted an air-conditioner for his parentís bedroom, he was told that the parents had been through a lot of hardship to bring him up, even sacrificing meals to provide for his education in his younger days. He learnt that the executive wanted his parents to share his success. Hence the air-conditioner before the onset of the intense Indian summer.

At his home, the Perceptual Customer Service Professional asked the parents where they put their heads while sleeping. This was because in India, due to certain beliefs people sleep facing a particular direction, as it is auspicious. On learning their preference for a particular direction, the salesperson decided that the air-conditioner should be placed in such a way that the draft of air did not hit them too strongly.

The entire Perceptual Customer Service exercise was conducted to understand the real need of the customer. As can be expected, the salesperson left behind one satisfied customer and two delighted parents. He earned the gratitude of the customer and the blessings of the parents for all his attention to detail and the perceptive way in which the entire pre-sales process was conducted, leading up to a very comfortable conclusion.

When the Perceptual Customer Service Prescription is practiced as per my recommendation, you can be sure that the path of success will be smooth, ensuring a strong relationship with satisfied customers.

Copyright © 2005, All rights reserved with Jagdeep Kapoor Ė Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants Pvt. Ltd.
No part of this document may be modified, reproduced, stored, deleted or introduced in any retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (Electronic, Mechanical, Photocopying, Recording or Otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of the document.
The author is Jagdeep Kapoor, Brand Guru and Managing Director of the successful Samsika Marketing Consultancy.
Tel: (022) 28477700/7701 (022) 28470214/15 Fax:022 28477699
E-mail : jkapoor@samsika.com