John Wanamaker wasn’t only an advertising legend he also had profound thoughts on customer service. “When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king” is probably the most known one. It is one I find difficult to take in the exclusivity it describes. It might have been true during his lifetime (1838-1922) but today’s context is different.
We have learned to serve customers and aim at creating our best work for them.
Instead of criticism by speech, to show someone a better way to do a thing would be of much greater value. – John Wanamaker
The ability to do our best work for others is based on our knowledge of the work itself, on our professionalism. If we would forget ourselves when the customer enters our store, we would also forget our knowledge about our work and how to do it well. That is a strange idea when we know, that one reason they hire us is our ability to solve a problem they have or our experience of how to solve it.
As we shift more and more away from selling a product to selling a service, it is the knowledge linked to the service and the way we handle it that is being sold.
Our doing is based on our experience and knowledge. It is very probable that we know more about it than our customers. We use this knowledge to decide how to do our work.
Doing our best work isn’t enough. We want to delight our customers with the work we do and strive to serve them in this sense.
Almost everyone loves to hear his own voice. It is so easy, too! Yet if we could say less and do more for each other’s good, not alone would every home be happier, but communities would be enriched thereby. – John Wanamaker
There is at least one thing our customers know better than us: their own context, the environment for which they want our work, may it be a product or a service.
Delighting with our service means to do our best to understand where the customer will use our service, what they want to use it for and what they want to achieve with it. We have to engage with our customer to learn as much as possible about these aspects of our service. It means to ask questions, to observe their context. It also means to verify how well it matches with the work we have been creating.
If they don’t match we might end up saying that it isn’t for them. That’s ok.