How can someone equate good customer service with that of the dogs in our lives? Hopefully, if you will bear with me, I think you will find some great similarities.
Recently I gave a presentation to the Indiana Bankers Association MEGA Conference. While this discussion is “bank” focused, it could easily apply to almost any company. What follows are the general concepts and while you lose some of the fun of it (the presentation was part of an “Ignite” program that had 20 slides to go with it – in this case, 20 slides of some awesome dogs), the general concepts are true with or without some really fun dog pictures.
Dogs are our best friends.
They have been with us as long as we have walked the planet providing companionship, protection, and assistance. As such, I thought it would be appropriate to look at customer service from a slightly different angle, that of the dogs in our lives.
Many of us have had or still have dogs in our lives. And my guess is that most readers can relate somewhat to a dog in his/her life. For each there are unique stories about your dog; quirks, personality traits, characters, and of course the love and adoration that they provided you, frankly not all that dissimilar to our customers.
Imagine if our customers were as loyal to us as a dog is to its family.
Have you ever thought about your dog though from a customer service perspective? Well today I hope to change how you view our best friends. Dogs can provide great examples of how we should be providing customer service in our banks. And while I won’t be suggesting that we sniff each other, I do suggest that we think about the following traits:
Imagine if our customers were as loyal to us as a dog is to its family. Dogs have an undying loyalty that many of us wish our customers had to our banks. Why? Because, at the end of the day, dogs understand that this is a two-way street. They provide us with innumerable benefits and in return we provide them with food, water, safety, security, and the basic necessities of a comfortable life (my daughters would say more comfortable than their lives growing up in our house). What are we doing to help our customers see the same in us? How are we helping them understand that indeed this is a two-way street in which we provide them with the necessities of financial security, information security, knowledge, and advice, that ultimately provides them with the kinds of lives that they want for their family?
Dogs are our best friend because they understand that indeed there is a partnership between human and k-9. A study recently reported on in the New York Times measured the oxytocin level in dogs and humans after they looked into each other’s eyes. For those dogs that were intent on returning the adoring eye contact of the human owner, there was a marked increase in oxytocin levels. The human also received an increased level of oxytocin from that interaction. Recognizing that indeed, when our customer succeeds with his/her financial goals, the bank succeeds, we need to be more aware of how we can create the kind of bond that a dog has with his/her owner. While I’m not suggesting we stare into our customers’ eyes, I would suggest that we find ways to seek out that deeper connection that provides for rewarding feelings for customer and banker.
Most dogs, except those who have had a very negative experience with a human, enjoy a friendly pat on the head, an ear scratch, or the hind quarter scratch that can get them thumping a leg. They like to have that interaction that shows a level of appreciation from the owner. The human has stopped for a moment and taken time out of his/her day to let the dog know that it is cared for and appreciated. How are we doing this with our customers?
"We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. In return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made." ~Margery Facklam
When was the last time that you stopped, grabbed a thank you card, and let your customer know that he or she is appreciated? Some of us are really good at that. Some, however, get caught up in the here and now, the need of an employee, or the chaos of trying to please a regulator, auditor, or some other time pull, and we fail to stop, momentarily pay attention to our customer, and provide them with that figurative belly scratch (please don’t go rubbing your customers’ bellies) that makes them thump their leg or wag their tail in a way that lets us know that they feel valued at that very moment. Imagine if we did this more frequently . . . wouldn’t that generate greater loyalty?
I love the fact that when I tell my dogs we are going for a walk they begin to run around the house with a sense of joy that is overwhelming. A simple word . . . “walk” generates a sense of enthusiasm and excitement in them that is truly uplifting. I come home and if my wife has beat me home, the Scottish Terrier places her feet on the lowest window of the door leading in from the garage and makes the most incredible sounds and literally wiggles from head to tail. She is so excited to see me that it doesn’t matter what has happened during the whole day up to that point, she makes my day.
When was the last time that you stopped, grabbed a thank you card, and let your customer know that he or she is appreciated?
Imagine with me for a moment what that might look like at our office. A customer comes in the door and you are entrenched in files, paperwork, or embroiled in a phone call with someone that isn’t so much fun. Now, pretend that you are my Scottie and your customer is coming “home.” You rush out to see them, you greet them enthusiastically, and your figuratively wiggle from head to toe. Do you think that customer will know that you have been dealing with a variety of less than enjoyable tasks? No, at that moment, that customer will feel truly special and your excitement at their presence will be overwhelmingly appreciated. Do I always want to go for a walk when I get home, or feel like I can’t wallow in my frustration of a particularly bad day . . . NO. But does my dog allow me to do that . . . No, she doesn’t. She forces me to put aside everything else and focus on her for a while and bask in her excitement.
Is this all incredibly over-simplified? Certainly it is.
Customer service is not an easy feat. It is difficult, it is time-consuming, and it is extremely energy sapping. But, I contend that if we remember our best friend we can provide a sense of loyalty, partnership, appreciation, and excitement that will help us overcome many of the issues of customer service that we have and maybe even get some of the energy back!