Here is a parable. True to life (or reality TV).
Fashion designers are their brand. Designer names go on tags and runway marquees. Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Versace. Personal actions are branded statements. So, if there is a customer service and branding lesson in last week’s episode of Project Runway it's: don’t be a Ven Budhu.
Which is to say: don’t let your convictions blind you.
Passion, drive and commitment to your brand are all fantastic… except when all of that internal rabble-rousing drowns out valuable feedback from customers.
We won’t recap the episode for you in any great detail, but here is a quick synopsis:
- The “Fix My Friend” episode involved a design challenge where contestants were required to make clothes for average, everyday people who needed a new style and fresh perspective on life.
- Successful contestants hit it off with their clients. They did all the right things: they listened, responded accordingly, offered expertise and warmly asked for feedback so everyone was happy with the overall direction. These designers found that intersection between their personal design aesthetic (brand) and their clients’ wants & needs.
- And then there was Ven. Ven is a front-runner with impeccable skills and elegant style. However, things went south when he had to process another point-of-view. Ven's client in this particular episode was Terri - an overweight, but averagely proportioned, working mom.
- Ven proceeded to: make her try on belts that were meant to fit fashion models, complain to other designers about her proportions and then lavish her with backhanded complements about how pretty she is, considering...
The response from Ven's fellow contestants was negative (with a hint of glee as they witnessed the competition's meltdown). The response from the judges was negative. The response from Terri was – shocking to no one – negative. She cried. And then the Twittersphere and bloggers had their go:
Bad word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire. The moral here is pretty obvious.
- Does your enterprise approach customer service in a way that is focused on making them happy (as opposed to conveying your services and general awesomeness)?
- When your enterprise is faced with a challenging customer, do you have a positive and reinforcing response prepared?
- Can your viewpoint of your customers actually change the way customers view your enterprise?
The last question is the big one. Do you even like your customers? Do you care about them, truly?!
Get social, get to know your customers and be there with a quick, encouraging reply when they need you. When that effort is genuine and backed by an enterprise-wide commitment to them, good customer service is really that simple.