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Brand Hug



Never throw the rule book at an erring customer. Remember, he is a flesh and blood person who has come to you for help. Don’t treat him like a mannequin by reading the fine print in the policy book. Try to accommodate him as much humanely as possible, keeping a balance between the company’s interests and other customers’ interests. This does not mean that you should ‘hug’ a customer who has broken the rules. But don’t ‘shrug’ him away either, just because he has made a mistake. My Practical Customer Service Prescription, calls for a common sense in the pursuit of customer satisfaction.

It may be accidental. It may be innocent. Or it may even be deliberate. The fact of the matter is that customers sometimes break the rules. And this could affect the company’s interests as well as the interests of other customers. But it is important for the Customer Service Professional to deal with the situation in a common-sensical manner. Rather like a wayward family member who has strayed and needs to be brought back to the right path. Under no circumstances should the customer be hauled up as if he had committed a heinous crime and made an example of with a police-like attitude.

My practical Customer Service Prescription is a down-to-earth way of serving a customer, keeping in mind a realistic environment and understanding, even appreciating, the customer’s compulsions in behaving in an errant manner. Finally, the Customer Service Professional must help the customer amicably resolve the situation through a pleasant Brand Experience.

An exemplary instance of my Practical Customer Service Prescription was witnessed during a Jet Airways flight. It was in those days when everyone was wary of terrorism raising its ugly head and unidentified baggage was looked upon with suspicion. Security dictated that passengers identify their baggage before check-in. But a lady with two tiny tots forgot to do this and the flight had to be delayed so that she could comply with flying regulations.

It would have been easy for the airline’s ground staff to harangue her about her lapse. After all, the flight was delayed and both the company and the other passengers were affected! But keeping in mind that the passenger had accidentaly forgotten to identify her baggage, the airline staff was supportive and did not admonish her. As a result of the airline’s attitude, the other passengers too understood her problem. The result was one grateful passenger who will be loyal for life.

An instance of an innocent lapse occurred during a bus tour in Great Britain that wound its way through the Great Lake district of Wordsworth and through Shakespearian country at Stratford upon Avon before going on to Oxford, Cambridge and parts of Scotland and Wales. The system was quite simple. After the guide took the passengers through the tourist spots, they were allowed a little time to explore on their own before reassembling at the bus and recommencing their journey. During one of the stops, a couple fairly advanced in age, set off through the winding streets of the charming town only to discover that they were quite lost after a while. Meanwhile, at the bus, the guide and the driver were getting impatient to restart the journey because they were going to be off schedule. All efforts to trace the couple proved to be futile.

Finally it was decided to wait for an additional twenty minutes and make up for the lost time elsewhere on the journey. Here it must be said that the tour company stood to lose its impeccable on-time record and the other passengers would be short changed twenty minutes of their tour time. But they all understood the innocent nature of the innocuous incident, knowing fully well that the couple was always on time. When the couple finally arrived breathless from their sojourn, there was a sigh of relief all round. They were all relieved that the couple was safe and sound. And secondly they were happy that the tour could continue with, rather than without, the couple.

The bus driver and the guide were accommodating, adopting a common sense – as opposed to a ‘no nonsense’ – approach to customer behaviour. This helped defuse the situation and the tour recommenced on a happy note.

Contrast this innocent breaking of the rules with times when customers deliberately flout the norms. Like in the case of Universal Studios in Florida where customers have the option of a regular or an express pass to go for rides. Despite paying regular rates, there are several customers who try to jump the queue and avail of the rides before their turn. Here the Customer Service Professional must be firm. He should explain to the erring customer that if he is in a hurry, he could always avail of the express pass or opt for a ride which has a shorter queue. But with a regular pass, he must wait his turn. Both the company’s interests and the interests of the other customers must be explained to the erring customer in a polite but firm manner, using common sense to defuse the situation – but keeping in mind the need for imparting a pleasant Brand Experience.

As you can see, when confronted with a customer who through accident or design breaks the company’s rules or flouts the guidelines, the Customer Service Professional must first and foremost be practical in resolving the issue. Just throwing the rule book at the customer or shrugging your shoulders to indicate that there is nothing you can do in the situation, is wrong. The Customer Service Professional should bring the wayward customer back in line with kindness and understanding and help him work within the rules and regulations of the company.

The author is Brand Guru Jagdeep Kapoor, Managing Director of the successful Samsika Marketing Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.
Tel: 022-28597700/7701 Fax: 28597699 E-mail: jkapoor@samsika.com

Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved with Jagdeep Kapoor, Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants Pvt. Ltd.
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