Recognise needs – recognising what the customer really needs

As humans, we tend to assume that the ways we see things is the way they are. We make assumptions based on limited information because it helps us to make sense of the world around us. We draw on our past experiences to find patterns in how the world works and so, when we encounter new situations, we apply these patterns and assumptions to help us navigate them. You make have heard the statement, “Never assume, it makes an ass out of u and me.” Maybe, but actually we do have make assumptions otherwise we couldn’t possibly make our way through our days without over-analysing every decision.

The problem lies when we rely too heavily on assumptions. We lose curiosity. If you have kids, you’ll probably roll your eyes at the insatiable questioning-asking – ‘Why? Why? Why?”. Yet as adults, we lose this curiosity and fall back on our own lens of the world.

So, what does this mean in delivering great customer service and understanding what our customers really need?

Many organisations categorise customers by ‘type’ or ‘query’, for example: customers who want to make a complaint, customers who want to resubscribe, customers who want to make a payment, customers who want to cancel an order. This is helpful because it means that have the correct processes in place to help customers, however it can also mean that we are tempted to jump straight into process without taking the time to stay curious and uncover what the customer really needs. Every customer is unique – everyone’s story, personal situation and emotional response is individual. Jumping straight to process means that we fall back onto our assumptions and respond in the same way to every customer who has that same issue, question or query. This leads to a robotic, emotionless, disconnected customer experience. Not great.

Dan Pink is a best-selling author and leading business thinker. In his book, ‘To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others’ (which isn’t all about selling, it’s about influencing and persuading others with empathy and authenticity), Pink talks about being a problem-finder rather than a problem-solver. Pink explains that as a provider of expertise in your role (competence is a trust-builder), you can offer a new perspective on the customer’s situation by asking some curious questions and getting to know a little more about your customer. Perhaps you might unearth another layer of complexity to their issue, or a need that you can fulfil, or a potential problem that might creep up further down the line for the customer – unearthing and resolving these now saves the customer effort in the future which helps to inspire their trust in your organisation.

Being a problem-finder is using your expertise, or your competence, to help your customer. It’s digging beyond the superficial facts that lead us to jump to conclusions. It’s being able to dig deeper into the impact of the customer’s issue and uncover problems that the customer perhaps didn’t even know they had so that you can provide a strong solution that truly meets your customer’s unique needs. It’s also learning about how the situation or issue is impacting them and how this is making them feel, focusing on both facts and feelings.

Here are some top tips to help you to recognise what your customer really needs from you:

  1. Check your assumptions. Before you dive into process, tune into what is really going for your customer. What clues do you notice that tell you how your customer is feeling? How might your customer be seeing things? How might this change how you respond?
  2. Get curious. Asking well-considered and meaningful questions helps you genuinely understand the customer, see their perspective and understand their motivations or what they need from you. So, ask at least one more question in your next customer interaction. This might be: How is this situation impacting you? How are you feeling about that?
  3. Listen, listen, listen – avoid hearing just the customer’s question or query then going into auto-pilot. Stop and listen to the unsaid as well as the said.


Take a look at our GREAT Customer Service programme and if you’d like to explore this topic further give us a call on 01582 463464. We’re always here to help.

Categories: Customer service

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