Essential Principles of Customer Engagement

BY: Daniel M. Savage

For some relationship managers, customer service is nothing more than “lip” service. For others, it involves a deep commitment to delivering “legendary” customer experiences. 

Extraordinary relationship managers understand that:

  • Human interaction is the basic element of any customer experience. 
  • These interactions with customers create an experience they remember…and feel.
  • These experiences are both the foundation for long-term relationships and the glue that binds them.
  • Deep, long-term relationships are far more important than products, services, and price.
  • Customers don’t love companies, they love you!
  • You serve people, not companies.
In other words, serving customers and delivering legendary customer experiences is an emotional endeavor. That means it’s personal, complex, often illogical, and never perfect.

Still, certain principles will make the process of customer service more successful and rewarding. Here are six for your consideration.

Principle 1: You need your customers more than they need you. Don’t believe it? Consider two simple truths: 1.) the number-one reason businesses fail is a lack of customers, and 2.) there are dozens of alternative providers. Ineffective relationship managers see themselves as more important, indispensable, and smarter; moreover, they view customers as objects to be exploited rather than people to be served.

In contrast, top relationship managers put customers first, are driven to deliver, enjoy serving, and constantly search for better ways to solve customers’ problems. They believe their mission is to help customers win and reach their goals, hence achieving their own in the process.

Principle 2: Customers are people. Humans are emotional and irrational, and feel fear and stress. They are overworked and underpaid; they are time-starved. They have ambitions and goals, as well as an insatiable need to feel important and appreciated. 

Top relationship managers understand this reality. Empathy is king!

Principle 3: You are always on stage. Imagine standing on a stage. Your customers and prospects are the audience. Your behaviors are being analyzed and observed to see if they align with your promises. This leads to judgment about your dependability and trustworthiness. So you must exercise self-discipline and manage every behavior, promise, and action while in front of your audience. “This is where emotion collides with logic…where customer experience is born.”

Principle 4: Customers act on emotion, then justify with logic. People act first (i.e., buy) on emotion and then justify their actions with logic. It’s true that evidence and supporting data are critical to the buying decision, but emotion ultimately drives people to act.

Principle 5: Customers do things for their reasons, not ours. We’ve all experienced this principle. Sometimes a customer leaves despite a great return on investment. Perhaps a prospect rejects a superb proposal. 

Effective relationship managers take the time to connect emotionally with their customers, thereby allowing them to better understand a customer’s perspective, motivations, fears, desires, and needs. 

Principle 6: Always give more than is required. “Exceeding customer expectations” is an overused and useless cliché. Although it sounds great, it’s both delusional and an ineffective way to manage a customer’s overall experience.

Here’s why: In reality, customer expectations are individual and fluid. It’s difficult to know and impossible to control what our customers expect, even if they tell us up front, because expectations have a way of changing over time.

Instead, focus on what you can control: your actions. For example, your customer purchases a product or service. Your choice in that exchange is to give back one of the following:

  1. Less value than the customer paid for
  2. Exactly the value paid for
  3. More value than the customer paid for
When giving more, our efforts do not go unnoticed. It’s human nature to recognize people who go out of their way to help us. It makes the experience of spending money or conducting business with someone more pleasurable. Said differently, customers focus more on how good they feel and less on expectations.

Follow these six core principles, and you’ll be well on your way to delivering legendary service experiences.

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