How can somebody who knows everything be customer-centric?

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Some people claim they know everything. And they believe it! I find it hard to believe that when you believe you know everything that you can be truly customer-centric. Let me give you an example I ran into.

 I once was part of a conversation between three other guys. One worked for some mechanical-type company and the other had hired him to install something. The customer told the hired help that whatever was installed was running into problems and he needed his help.

The hired help (the apparent expert) got into this big monologue over how it couldn’t have been the specific installation and how they’d have to do something completely different because there was just no way that this could be any other way.

Of course, the customer looked like he was just put in his place. “Ummm, OK.” He knows for sure that he doesn’t know, but that he does know that whatever was done isn’t working.

The third guy chimes in, directing his comment at the hired help: “This is the 21st century, you know. There are likely options.”

“Impossible.”

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The hired help could not be convinced. He just knew it – without even looking at what was going on.

Now, he might be right. I don’t know. (See, I don’t know everything either.) At the very least it was not a good customer experience.

The customer-centric and customer service minded way of handling a situation like this would have been:

  • Acknowledging the customer’s frustration and problem


  • Asking some clarifying questions
  • It’s OK to offer some expert opinion in the form of: “In the past, here’s what has happened…” but don’t present it so strongly that it shuts the door for any further discussion. Plus, it doesn’t feel good to the customer
  • Extend an offer to fix whatever is wrong, which in this case likely would include visiting the customer’s home again.
  • Explain all the options and associated costs

Customer-centric doesn’t mean that we can’t have opinions or aren’t the experts in our areas. We can and should be. In fact, people hire other people because they are the experts, but we do have to make it feel good and be a positive experience – even when it’s a negative reason that prompted the current situation.

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