If You Want To Understand Great Customer Service, Ask Your Grandma!

Recently, I was watching a video from a web developer conference featuring the keynote speaker Gary Vaynerchuk. In this speech, Gary outlined a multitude of important points regarding how to leverage social media to market your products and services, how to view small business growth and more importantly, how to create and sustain a successful customer service model. I should begin by saying that if you never heard of Gary Vaynerchuk, look him up! He is an extremely successful business guy who leveraged new media to catapult his family’s business from annual revenues of $3 million to $60 million. Anyway, with regards to his discussion on creating a “smart” customer service, I think he brought up some interesting points. His thesis on this portion of the speech is that we should strive to get a fundamental basis of customer service from our grandparents, and people of that generation. Let me explain…

Startups today often create scalable products that can be very raw when releasing version 1.0, 2.0, etc. The goal is typically get the product to the market now, fix the problems, and grow from there. This model works. However, to accurately learn the product’s problems, you must engage your customers, get feedback, and provide exceptional customer service. As he outlines in his speech, if you are under the age of 40, your perception of customer service is vastly different from someone in their mid-50s. Why? Because “back in the day,” most businesses were small businesses and all businesses were run with a “community feel.” All business initiatives were customer-driven and all interactions were sincere, polite and authentic. The fact that someone spent their hard-earned money to buy your product was a big deal back in the day. Today, it appears that we expect potential customers to pay for our products with minimal customer service and interaction.

To clearly exemplify this point, let me pose a hypothetical: If you were to go into Best Buy and purchase an iPad today, what type of service would you receive? Maybe someone would greet you at the entrance, maybe someone would ask, “Can I help you find something?” and maybe someone would say “sir” or “ma’am” and “thank you.” Ask your grandmother what customer service she received if she purchased an item from a local store. Seriously, ask her. It is very likely that she would say: the employees knew her name or knew something about her, she engaged in real genuine conversation with the employees, the store was more focused on making the customer happy than selling products, and she often left the store with a positive feeling.

All things considered, you may be asking yourself, why does any of this matter? Well, I think it matters because commerce trends and customer sentiment appear to be transitioning back to the days of our grandparents. How do we know this? Look at the more successful NEW companies and what characteristics of their product/service make it successful. The most prevalent characteristic is towards actively engaging your customers on a regular basis. Clear example: new companies that use Twitter and Facebook to find out how to improve their product. This allows the company to learn more about you, what you like and what you don’t, as well as constantly learning what your feelings are towards your product. Another clear prevalent characteristic is the lack of concern towards profits. Clear example: a trend towards open source (free) products and freemium-model services/subscriptions, such as Pandora. Companies are building scaling quickly without having definitive business models. A third characteristic that newer companies tend to possess is increased transparency. Today’s startups expose more information than companies ever have, and this is partially due to media overload. Back in the day, companies were not concerned with corporate secrets, closed-door policies, etc. Today, we are seeing the same trends occurring.

When you step back and consider these three distinctive business characteristics, you must acknowledge that these changes favor customer service trends of our grandparents’ time. Now, you are probably asking: What can grandma teach me about using new media for customer service? I’m not saying that grandma knows how to Tweet better than you, or build a better fan page; however, she will be able to tell you what principles to focus on, what matters to people, and how dialog and personality shaped the customer experience.

As extreme as this comparison may appear, I hope that you can grasp the similarities that I am trying to communicate. I truly believe that by analyzing the reason and tactics that existed during grandma’s time, you will be able to stay ahead of the game and this social change towards customer service. They had it right 60 years ago. Somewhere in between now and then we lost it, and now we definitely have it back. Learn it. Believe it. Live it. Good luck finding your company’s customer service strategy. Let me know what works out for you and what doesn’t. Leave any ideas, comments or questions in the comment section below. Thanks.

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