Many companies say that they want to serve customers in the best way. Nonetheless, it is important to highlight that the word “customers” is just a general and abstract concept which never defines clearly the specific, particular, and concrete human beings who look for products and services according to their distinct preferences. Not all customers are alike, even when they share some characteristics with others.
When the company focuses excessively on the concept “customers,” it runs the risk of missing the unique human aspects of the individuals to be served. According to De Mello (1990), the concept of “customers” is not fixed and unchanged; instead, each customer is a living being and therefore dynamic. He added “words are pointers, they’re not descriptions.” Oftentimes, words hinder the real connection with reality. In relation to this, Watts (1955) observed that “in practice we are all bewitched by words,” and “we confuse them with the real world, as if it were a world of words …,” and “we are dismayed and dumbfounded when they do not fit.”
Companies must realise that each customer has unique tastes and preferences. Consequently, companies should discover and acknowledge these distinct customers’ needs in order to offer them products and services that are actually suitable for them. A company which adopts a loving attitude toward its customers tends to do its best to meet their distinct expectations.
Some questions a company’s employees should ask themselves are: “What are the specific needs and motivations of this customer?” or “What unmet needs do I perceive in this customer?” These questions create more awareness and understanding of what specific customers are looking for, which in turn helps a company serve them in a more loving manner.
According to Wellemin (1998), customers have needs related to the tangible aspects of the products or services (such as quality, design, reliability, etc.) and other needs which are more related to intangible aspects of the purchasing process. This second group of needs (intangible) are as important as the first group (tangible). Some examples of needs of customers related to intangible aspects of the purchasing process are:
- to be acknowledged regarding their unique needs and preferences;
- to be treated with care and respect all through the purchasing process and also after it;
- to be actively listened to regarding comments and objections about products and services;
- to be provided with accurate information about the product or service in order to make their best decision;
- to feel comfortable (physically, emotionally, and mentally) during the buying process;
- to be offered a relevant set of alternatives in order to choose the most appropriate one;
- to receive continuous support from the company in case of clarifications or claims;
- to be delivered what was promised by the company;
- to be offered the possibility of changing, replacing, or returning products or services when possible;
- to have the terms and conditions of the purchase respected by the company.
It is important to understand that customers do not only buy specific products and services from a company. At the same time, customers are “buying” how the company behaves with them and how they treat them over time, and this counts as much as the products and services themselves.
- De Mello, A. 1990. Awareness. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
- Watts, A. 1955. Wisdom of Insecurity. A Message for An Age of Anxiety. New York, NY: Vintage Books
- Wellemin, J. 1998. Successful Customer Care in a Week. London: Hodder and Stoughton
* This is an excerpt from the book “The Art of Compassionate Business: Main Principles for the Human-Oriented Enterprise” (2019, Routledge), link: www.bit.ly/2MAkr4k