Scott Stratten: Tread This Fine Line for Better Customer Service

Aug 1, 2014
5 Min Read

Good customer service is all about the happy medium, and the right interpersonal skills will help you determine where that is.

Along with his partner Alison Kramer, president of UnMarketing Scott Stratten recently hosted a podcast on too-good customer service. Apparently, it is possible to go overboard, and this can leave an impression just as bad as poor service. The discussion got me thinking about the rarely discussed nuances of an effective customer service interaction, such as being complimentary without being too ingratiating, and developing rapport without TMI. Here’s what Scott had to say when I asked him how to manage this issue.

Alex: Do you believe there's such a thing as "too-good" customer service in the B2B world? 

Scott: Overservicing is not as much of a problem in B2B as it can be in B2C, but you do have to worry about meeting sky high expectations. If you return a client email at 11PM on a Saturday, it's impressive initially but then becomes the expectation. And when you drop the ball, you’re in trouble.

Alex: That’s a great point. In the podcast, you guys also talk about attitude. In a customer interaction, can overt happiness or bubbliness be annoying?

Scott: There is a fine line between enthusiasm and annoyance for sure. I think sometimes overly bubbly people can come across cocky too. But really, a lot of this is subjective. I would personally rather deal with people who are too happy than those who are miserable.

Alex: Most experts recommend that salespeople try to establish personal relationships with customers. Do you agree?

Scott: Largely thanks to social media, our personal opinions about non-business things can be seen by customers, and this can be a problem. Politics, religion, even sport team allegiances that never came up previously can now have an impact on that relationship. A lot of people let their guard down on social platforms, which makes them great and authentic, but if you're authentically a jerk, you have to accept the fallout.

Alex: Sharing things on social media provides so many more opportunities to get to know customers on a personal level and establish rapport, but there’s also the dangerous potential of TMI. You should still always go above and beyond the call of duty for a customer though, right?

Scott: That’s usually the right answer. But if it's not consistent across all employees, you create an experience gap that is the difference between the best and worst service from the organization. That’s why the most important marketing a company can do is in convincing the best people to come and work there. If there’s a mistake made and one employee apologizes profusely for something and makes amends, while another says "sorry" and brushes it off, you’ve created an inconsistent experience.

Alex: And that inconsistent experience could, in a way, be worse than a universally negative experience because expectations haven’t been met. So going back to attitude for a second, how should people manage the line between being too ingratiating and not ingratiating enough?

Scott: I think when it’s fake, when it’s a script, you’ve gone too far. You can't rehearse caring about your customer!

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