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Monday 31 October 2011

Building customer relationships #lianza11 #p07

Lucy Lang and Louise Mercer
Using influence and power to build a good customer relationship
Monday abstracts (pdf)

Power is a tool for good.

Define power
Audience suggestions: Authority, influence, control, imbalance, ability to make a decision
OED's definition includes effectiveness. Power is also the ability to make power, to empower people.
Short search has words: might, force, authority, potency, energy, motive, philosophical, managerial, political, actuate

Two forms of power: power over (which can be negative, reduces available options) and power to (not related to other people but our own intentions).

When you have power need we retain it, or can we share it?

Discuss customer expectations - audience brainstorm
As a provider:
  • a polite welcome
  • results, efficiency
  • knowledge - reliable information
  • developing relationship
  • empowerment
  • that we listen
  • respect

As a customer:
  • quick and timely service
  • helpful and friendly
  • welcome and listening
  • quality service/product
  • a good experience
  • consistency
  • an appropriate service - appropriate to your needs
  • efficient

Their research
Similar to what we said. Interviewed tertiary librarians (ran out of time to contact wider network.)

Expectations around communication, knowledge, attitude, service provision, service outcomes.

Communication - keep the customer informed even if you don't know the answer. A quick response can be as useful as a lengthy query. Communicate on an emotional level - understand their situation and emotions. Body language is important here!

Knowledge - If we don't know the answer find out. Context is important - understand what they need. Know the alternative solutions and pros and cons. Know our own limits - when to keep going and when to refer.

Attitude - Start by assuming that people are reasonable. They want personal connection, to feel like an individual. Someone has to be control - not always us, not always customer, but we need to read situation to decide where the power best sits. Giving up power empowers customer. Stay confident and consistent and let customer know they're not just a number in a queue.

Service provision - be clear about how long things will take and keep promises. No unnecessary referrals (hard to gauge). Interviews often didn't realise they're using strategies to manage eg listening. Be adaptable, cheerful, consistent, honest. Many customers think we're their only option - may become more needy, difficult, formal, guarded, have low expectations. We need to understand they're relying on us.

Service outcome - Not just the solution but relationship building - trust and rapport. Need to help customers help themselves. Not just about whether they get what they want. True outcome is about how we got there. People remember how they feel more than whether they got what they needed.

What's in the literature?
Tucker (2010): library needs to balance needs of one against all users.
Brewer (1995): empower frontline staff as representatives of library. Invest in training.

Product vs service - products can be machine-made; when provided a service people come away with a memory.

Beyond the library sector
Four strategies for influencing customers:
  • Assume leadership role
  • Humanise relationship
  • Advertise expertise
  • Unlock information vault - control of info is source of power
Minimise inequalities in the relationship.

What influences customers? It's what they see and especially what they feel. A single interaction can influence how they view your organisation. Look at what they experience. What messages are they getting? How services are provided can be more important than the outcome. End result is still important, but good emotional response is vital.

Practical tips
  • Listen - simple but key. Hear what people mean not just what they say
  • Create a connection
  • Keep your promises

Q: Cf Auckland work on customer experience
A: Yes, want to look into that, just haven't gone past tertiary yet. Asked librarians about their expectations as providers and then as customers - interesting to see differences even when it's the same person thinking in different roles.