As mentioned previously in Part 1 of this series, It’s Business But It’s Also Personal, no matter how professional a business tries to be, we sometimes can’t help but be affected by the people we deal with because we are human. When a customer is nice to us, we are nice in return. In many ways, this goes back to the customer as monetary savings (stay tuned for Part 3 in which we give examples from our personal experiences).
So how to be a nice customer? It’s really very easy. It’s not much different from being a “nice person” and we all know how to do that already, don’t we?
- Be aware of the person you are dealing with. Remember that the person you are writing or speaking to is a 3-dimensional person whose actions and decisions are based on the way you make him/her feel with your words. When talking to customer service reps in person, look at them and talk to them as equals. Talk to them as you would want to be talked to. A friendly smile doesn’t hurt either.
- Be tactful when you approach a business to inquire about pricing or discounts. You should be polite when talking to anyone, but when you’re looking to gain from an exchange (i.e. receiving a discount on a purchase), you don’t want to come off sounding demanding and expectant. Say “hello,” give a little introduction – it doesn’t have to be long and elaborate – if you have the time or if the occasion warrants it, then politely ask your question. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort and the person helping you would be more inclined to help you because:
- By using a greeting, you are acknowledging the service rep as a person.
- Giving a short introduction to your situation/intent/etc. adds a personal touch, making yourself seem more human than just another nameless, faceless customer.
- By asking politely, i.e. using “please” and “thank you,” you again show that you consider them a person and worthy of basic human courtesy.
- Don’t expect. If you’re asking for a discount, do so without expectations. Remember that when you are asking for a discount, you are asking them to do you a favor, not the other way around.
- Don’t haggle. Discuss, suggest, ask, but don’t haggle. In some places such as the car lot or swap meet, haggling might be common and expected. In some instances, though, I find haggling rude and even offensive, especially if we (the business) have already offered a discount on a product and the customer keeps coming back with counter-offers that are so low that the sale would be a loss for us.Of course, this depends greatly on the type of business you’re dealing with. In our line of work, where we are a small business that hand-makes each product, our profit margin is quite low. Big businesses that have a bigger profit margin might not mind the haggling, but even then, be nice in your negotiation, and you’ll probably get a better deal.
- Remember the chain of command. The personal you’re dealing with in all likelihood is not a high-level employee that can grant your every wish. Most customer service agents are taught to deal with common customer issues and do not have the authority to authorize a big discount or erase fees from your account. This person is most likely another 9-5 worker not unlike yourself who is trying to earn a paycheck to pay their rent.
- Be sincere. Don’t act nice for the sole purpose of getting a discount or a freebie. Be friendly because you can and want to be, not because you think you have to in order to get something out of it.
For more tips, check out a post I wrote earlier this year: How 20 Minutes Can Save $180 & Tips for Receiving Better Customer Service.
In my business (and most others these days), most of my customer service is done through email. I have received many emails where the entire content consists of one terse sentence – un-capitalized, un-punctuated, no greeting, no please or thank you. Of course, one could say that well, we’re a business and we’re the ones wanting to earn the customers’ money, making the customer the boss and they can talk to us any way they want.
This may be true to a degree, but we are also providing a service or product that the customer wants or needs. We also determine the price at which we will sell the product or service to the customer. When a customer is nice to me, I feel like being nice back and sometimes do so by giving them a break on pricing because we like working with nice customers and a lower price encourages their business. When we are making our customers’ orders, we always do the best job we can, but when it’s a customer with whom we have an especially good relationship, we often add extra touches beyond what might be expected.
So customer relations really is a 2-way street; for an optimal end result, both parties – consumer and business – should be on their best behavior.