User. Client. Customer.
If I called you one of these, how would that make you feel?
Now, what if I called you a friend instead? Would you feel any different?
You don’t have customers. You have friends. You do have customers. But I want people to stop using the term customers and users. Because it dehumanizes the people that you’re serving.
– Allan Branch, Co-founder of Less Accounting
Customers, users, and clients are all logical terms to call the people that use your product. The problem is people are not always logical. We’re all emotional.
As Dale Carnegie said over 75 years ago, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.”
It’s all about how you make people feel. Treating your customers like they’re your friends can result in a totally different emotion for the people who are using your product.
That’s great. But how can you make customers feel like they’re your friends?
Carnegie is here to help. He published his classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, in 1936. Ignore the cheesy title. The entire book is a lesson in how to be considerate.
In the book, Carnegie outlines 30 principles to help you become a friendlier person, win people to your way of thinking, and be a leader. It’s timeless advice that we can all learn from today.
Here are three principles that you can put into practice to start treating customers like they’re your friends.
1. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
No one likes being told what to do. Bossing people around is no way to get people to do what you want them to do. It just makes people want to do the opposite.
If you need a ride to the airport, you’re probably not going to order a friend to take you. Nope. You’re going to ask them, “Can you give me a lift to the airport tomorrow?”
The same is true for your customers. A month ago, a customer’s credit card was declined. I received the notification and started typing an email to follow up with her.
“Please update your billing information,” I began to type. And, then, I quickly deleted the entire sentence, and started to ask questions instead of telling her what to do.
“Are you able to update your billing information? Everything ok? Anything we can do to help?”
What if their credit card was stolen? Or suspended for some reason? There are tons of reasons for why the payment could have failed.
Handing out direct orders will not make you many friends. It will make other people feel annoyed or resent you. But asking questions is friendly.
2. Give honest, sincere appreciation.
Feature requests are one of the most common interactions you will have with customers. “Does your app do this?” “It would be awesome if your product did that.” “You should totally build this out.”
There’s been a movement on how to respond to feature requests. Just say “No.” This is the correct response for the majority of the time. But you should still be appreciative and acknowledge every feature request you receive.
If they have a feature request idea, it’s because they want to keep using our products.
– Sarah Hatter, CoSupport
It’s not because they want to make your job more difficult. It’s because they want to keep using it. Even when the request is something that’s impossible or improbable, you can say no without coming off as dismissive.
Hatter details exactly how to respond to feature requests in her book, The Customer Support Handbook. Acknowledge the request. Ask questions. And mean what you say and say what you feel.
If a friend asked you to meet them for dinner, would you just reply, “No”? You would probably say something more like, “Sorry, I can’t make it tonight. Bummer. You free this weekend?”
3. Remember that a person’s name is the sweetest sound in any language.
Just last week, as I was leaving the gym, the staff member said to me on the way out, “Have a good day, Chris.”
He could have just said, “Have a good day.” But after seeing me there over and over again he took the time to look up my name. He wanted me to feel important. And it worked.
The next time I went to the gym, we talked for a couple of minutes. His name is Ron. And you could say we’re friends now.
When interacting with your users or customers, it’s easy to forget that there is an actual human being on the other end. Don’t start an email with “Hi customer!” or “Hey there!”
Remember that every one has a name. Use it every chance you get, because it will make them feel good.
I’m not suggesting you stop calling the people that use your service users, customers, or clients. I’m saying that you should treat them as friends.
Because customers are not loyal. Friends are loyal.
Learn more about Snappy Customer Support.