Early yesterday morning, I used the time I had waiting for an inter-island flight to purge old documents from the hard drive of my laptop. I came across a lesson plan I had done with my retail team a few years back on customer service, detailing what we noticed to be the six basic needs of guests visiting our stores. I found the lesson plan was definitely worth keeping, a terrific review on service basics. It was also a reality check, that when it comes to customer service we tend to make things much more difficult than they have to be. Bells and whistles lose their sheen when the basics aren’t covered well first.

This list may read pretty basic to you too. However can you imagine how thrilled we’d all be if this was the customer service we always received?

The Six Basic Needs of Customers

1. Friendliness
Friendliness is the most basic of all customers needs, usually associated with being greeted graciously and with warmth. We all want to be acknowledged and welcomed by someone who sincerely is glad to see us. A customer shouldn’t feel they are an intrusion on the service provider’s work day!

2. Understanding and empathy
Customers need to feel that the service person understands and appreciates their circumstances and feelings without criticism or judgment. Customers have simple expectations that we who serve them can put ourselves in their shoes, understanding what it is they came to us for in the first place.

3. Fairness
We all need to feel we are being treated fairly. Customers get very annoyed and defensive when they feel they are subject to any class distinctions. No one wants to be treated as if they fall into a certain category, left wondering if “the grass is greener on the other side” and if they only received second best.

4. Control
Control represents the customers’ need to feel they have an impact on the way things turn out. Our ability to meet this need for them comes from our own willingness to say “yes” much more than we say “no.” Customers don’t care about policies and rules; they want to deal with us in all our reasonableness.

5. Options and alternatives
Customers need to feel that other avenues are available to getting what they want accomplished. They realize that they may be charting virgin territory, and they depend on us to be “in the know” and provide them with the “inside scoop.” They get pretty upset when they feel they have spun their wheels getting something done, and we knew all along a better way, but never made the suggestion.

6. Information
“Tell me, show me – everything!” Customers need to be educated and informed about our products and services, and they don’t want us leaving anything out! They don’t want to waste precious time doing homework on their own – they look to us to be their walking, talking, information central.

Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is also the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership.

Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: 7 Steps for Resolving Customer Complaints.

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