Are you serving your customers or smothering them?


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The customer/company relationship is just that, a relationship. It’s one that is difficult to maintain and carries high expectations. On one hand, customers want to feel that they have a close, unique, real relationship with your brand. While on the other, they want to hold onto their independence and avoid feeling smothered.

When a customer calls, they’re most often looking for help and want the quickest resolution to their problem with as little friction as possible. They want to leave the call with answers, and feel better about spending their time and effort contacting the company.

Question is, do you have a positive relationship with your customers or are you smothering them?

Four reasons customers may want to dump your clingy business:

1) You keep asking what’s wrong

Confidence is sexy. Any issue of Seventeen magazine will tell you that. For businesses, it’s the same. A company that keeps asking “What’s wrong?” or “How can I help you?” reeks of insecurity and will fast track to the breakup list.

Know what your customers need. They tell you every day. Their actions on your website, the emails they sent, their previous purchase habits – all paint a clear picture of what they like, what they dislike and the problems they’re facing.

When they call, you should anticipate their wants and have a solution ready.

“Customer service reps need to understand their customers’ ‘baggage,’” says Jonathan Gale, NewVoiceMedia CEO. “Baggage is the preconception that a caller brings to a customer service inquiry. Acknowledge that baggage immediately and be aware of it without asking a million questions. Only then can you begin to fix your relationship.”

2) You never listen

It is exhausting to tell the same story over and over again; no one likes to repeat themselves. Customers are attracted to good listeners that hear the problem the first time.

If you are a company that runs on redundancy, you can wave goodbye to your customers. When “Let me transfer you” turns into “Can I have your account number?” for the 3rd or 4th time you’ve failed to achieve good communication in your relationship.

If you want to avoid the heartbreak of low customer retention, implement a system that logs customer issues across all channels and shares the details with all relevant agents. Track the progress of customer cases and allow your company to collaborate on solutions.

“At any given time, customers are talking to multiple departments across sales, services and accounting, but if you don’t have one system of record, customer data ends up disconnected and that’s when miscommunications, invoicing errors and those annoying department call transfers happen,” says Jeremy Roche, CEO of FinancialForce. “With the emphasis on customer service (and retention!) higher than ever, the need for business-wide data integration cannot be ignored. When teams have a 360-degree view of a customer, they in turn have the ability to provide better attention to their customers’ needs.”

Bob Furniss, Bluewolf customer care practice director, adds: “Visibility and accessibility are key to establishing omni-channel service, as are utilizing emerging customer contact channels — video, SMS, self-service portals, and mobile apps — rather than traditional phone and email channels.”

3) You want too much quality time

Customers don’t need a lot of face time with your company. In fact, most would prefer a minimalist approach to the relationship. When you ask for too much quality time, your customers feel suffocated. Not to be mean, but they do have a life outside of their occasional phone calls with your business.

Don’t keep them on the phone. Customers like a practical relationship, meaning that they generally call only if they need something. If you can’t offer an immediate solution, offer to call them back. Don’t put them on a long hold and don’t force them to mash their way through a long-winded dial directory to get a real person. Time is the most important aspect of the customer/company rapport. Save the customer time and you may save the relationship.

Shep Hyken, Customer service and experience expert and NY Times bestselling author, says: “While there is always going to be a place for direct communication, such as phone and video chat, the best brands are offering quick solutions to their customers’ most common questions and issues through self-service support. While the personal connection is great, sometimes all a customer wants is a quick answer.”

4) You say you’ll change but never do

If it’s broken, fix it. A company that over promises and under delivers isn’t good relationship material. If your customers call with the same problem, over and over, there may be a chink in your customer service’s shining armor. If you want to be your customer’s hero and ride off into the sunset with higher profits, don’t let repeating problems go unnoticed. Log all issues, and correct your processes for a smoother customer experience.

“What are you waiting for?” says Hyken. “If customers keep calling with the same issues, well maybe it’s time to do something about it. Eliminate, or at least mitigate, your most common problems. Customers calling in with the same problems lose confidence in you, which in the end will cost your business.”

Want a better way to get closer to your customers? Visit NewVoiceMedia at Dreamforce 2016. Schedule a meeting with our team and follow our conversations on Twitter with #GetCloser.

Ben Noble
Ben Noble is a Five9 futurist and thought leader. He specializes in contact center technology and has a deep understanding of inside sales and customer service markets. Topics of interest include: AI, IoT, CRM, SaaS, PaaS, UCaaS, cyber security, cloud technology and CX.


  1. The opening line of this article sums it up so well: The customer/company relationship is just that, a relationship. Love the parallels between business and personal relationships. Easy to understand. And, thanks for including my quote in the article. Much appreciated!

  2. “It is exhausting to tell the same story over and over again; no one likes to repeat themselves. Customers are attracted to good listeners that hear the problem the first time”. I agree. But what in the case when you have to repeat yourself severally to the customer. I work in a telecom call centre in Nigeria and that has only been the reason a customer calls get transffered.

  3. Hi Michael! It’s a good point. Often we do need to repeat ourselves to customers, and if they don’t clearly state their issue, it is likely they will be transferred to the wrong person. However, we can avoid a lot of routing issues by collecting more information passively in our computer system, storing that data and accessing it at the appropriate time. Modern contact centers can link to their CRM so that customers are routed, without an IVR, to either an agent who has addressed their concerns in the past, or an agent best suited for their product enquiry. Specific needs do vary from business to business. But the fact is, the more data we collect and the more efficiently we use that data, the more satisfied our customers will be.


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