The 4 Customer Types You Meet In Support (and how to talk to them)
One of the reasons why customer service is difficult to get right is due to the unpredictable nature of customers themselves.
I recently came across an article by Jeff Toister who described a situation he had with a faulty bottle of wine. It had a strong vinegar taste despite being purchased at a top winery. He was assisted by two employees, the first of which saw the problem of a defective wine bottle that needed replacing. The second employee saw a customer who was disappointed with their product.Not surprisingly, only the second employee was able to emphasize and help the customer properly.
So while it’s difficult enough to be a perfect customer service employee, customers are the ones going through the motions of purchasing and experiencing the product. So it’s only natural that when they’re confronted with a problem, they’ll have their own way of visualizing the solution.
A bit of assertiveness and decisiveness may help you in customer service, and in order to make decisions faster you’ll need to spend less time figuring out who you’re talking to.
Sometimes – in order to both work more effectively and offer a higher quality of support, you need to be able to split customers into profiles. This will help distinguish how the majority of certain people will behave in the a given situation. And good news for your support team – it’s also a main determinant of what behavior they’ll be receptive to, too.
Controllers are assertive personality types that tend to be goal-oriented and competitive. They are all about survival of the fittest and devote significant amounts of energy on getting ahead of everyone else. Customer service employees sometimes make the mistake of seeing them as dictatorial and demanding.How to spot them:
These people tend to be independent, decisive and sometimes even stubborn. In short, they are leaders who have budget goals and deadlines. They expect and value professionalism, self-improvement and generosity.How to talk to them:
These people are usually experts in their fields and know what they want. Try to appeal to their inner ego. In order to sell yourself, reference your competitive advantage and use numbers that illustrate your point.Customer service tip:
- don’t: be inefficient. Don’t waste their time or cover unimportant “fluff” or unrelated “features”
- do: compliment their leadership or decisiveness. Follow up when you don’t know or need to re-negotiate something.
Feelers value personal relationships and want to trust those that they do business with. They like to be reassured and care about the well-being of others. They tend to use intuition when taking on challenges.
Unlike controllers however, they rely more on their intuition instead of structure and predictability – they seek out reassurance, fairness and a sense of purpose.How to spot them:
A “feeler” can display a number of emotions – starting from how disappointed they are with the company or how important a certain outcome (such as a timely delivery) is to them. Try to understand where they’re coming from.How to talk to them:
While your first instinct could be to support them, you should offer your undivided attention and listen to their issues. Understand the situation past the scope of their dissatisfaction.Customer service tip:
- don’t: bore them with long walk-throughs or explain the solutions in detail.
- do: talk about their end gloals they’re after, connect with their emotional side & don’t be afraid to step outside your responsibilities to help.
Thinkers are all about pragmatism, sophistication and logical deductions. They appreciate having all the tools at hand when making a decision – they like facts, figures and are able to digest detailed information easily.How to spot them:
These are the ones that thrive on information and must do a lot of deliberation before making a decision. They may come across as aloof and indecisive because they’re asking you lots of questions – yet they may just be trying to make an informed decision.How to talk to them:
Try to be serious and always assume that they’re listening. Get into the details of the situation but at the same time give them enough time to absorb and analyze what you’re giving them.Customer service tip:
- don’t: rush them or sell them on buzz words or sales-y pitches.
- do: tell them the details, summarize the steps. If you do make a claim, back it up with facts and figures. Present the information in an understandable, legible way.
It may be difficult to understand how to approach an entertainer at first. They are quick to think on their feet, but change their mind often and need an optimistic, human ear (or helping hand).How to spot them:
Chances are, these individuals will be enthusiastic and expressive. They’re similar to Feelers and may come across as natural people pleasers. They want a challenge and demand engagement in their interactions.How to talk to them:
Find out what their beliefs are and stick to them. Use the philosophy of scarcity to nudge them in the right direction. Reassure them with social proof: share how others are using your products and who is satisfied with it.Customer service tip:
- don’t: ignore their desire to speak to humans. Avoid monotonous, detailed answers.
- do: build genuine relationships with entertainers. Catch their attention with videos, infographics or testimonials of other users.
The importance of adjusting your behavior
We receive and react to information differently depending on many biological, psychological and environmental factors. We also tend to have a vivid memory of our interactions between one another – especially if something didn’t go the way we wanted or expected.
Customers take it a step further: they are comparing brands and experiences all the time, even if they don’t realize it. As a result, many customers can be dissatisfied for arbitrary reasons, even after they report being happy and support experiences being great.
Why perspectives matter
As with the wine bottle situation mentioned at the beginning of the article, it pays to step back and think of a support problem from the customer’s perspective – and do it with lighting speed.
When customers ask you a question about feature x, you have no way of knowing that they just want to improve workflow y. It often helps to dig down beneath the surface and offer a solution through proposals, facts, outcomes or relationships.
Regardless of what your customer may want to do, knowing to pick up on the cues and frame the answer the right way is ultimately what separates an “ok” business from the one everyone can’t stop raving about.