Recognising and meeting customer needs

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By Des Squire - AMSI (Pty) Ltd

In order to provide a quality experience for customers you need to recognise their specific and individual needs.

Recognise that different customers have different needs is vital in any business or public service institution. If these needs are identified and met your customer will want to deal with you again in the future.

Meeting customer needs doesn?t mean just matching them to the right product or service, it means addressing their total need during your encounter.

The need of the customer is not restricted to a particular service you offer it extends to a range of personal needs each of which is possibly unique to individual customers. This is where we often make the first mistake. We assume the customer just want the service we offer and neglect to identify with other needs.

Let?s consider some of these needs

* Give the customer a sense of value

The customer wants to feel you value them and that you're giving them your undivided attention. There is nothing more likely to turn a customer off than the feeling that you're in a hurry or have more important things to do.

They sense this because you?re looking over your shoulder at another customer they assume you see as being more important. Another example would be when you continue working with some admin papers and leave them waiting. They sense the admin work is more important than they are.

Whilst you're dealing with customer irrespective of who he or she is, irrespective of whether the business is worth R5 or R5 million they should have your undivided attention. Everyone wants recognition.

* Create a comfortable, non-pressured feeling

In a sales environment customers do not like the "hard sell: approach. The might end up buying from you but will they come back? In a service environment do not put the customer under any form of pressure.

Make sure the customer is on the same "wavelength' as you and understands what you are talking about. You may know your job and the intricacies of various situations very well but your customer may not have the same knowledge.

You need to think medium term and long term when dealing with customers, not just about completing the immediate sale or finalising the service offered.

Ask yourself "What is the value of this customer?" You might make a good sale or give a satisfactory service but you need to remember and always be aware of the fact - that person will spread their opinion of your business by word of mouth to others. Far more people will hear about you if the experience was bad than if it was good.

* Do not give the impression you are judging your customer

The way your customer dresses and looks, the position they hold or the job they do should not influence the quality of service and attention your give them. A mistake often made by some sales people is to be offhand with the receptionist not realising these people are often the 'gatekeepers' to the people you really want to see.

Similarly that shabbily dressed older person you can't imagine being able to afford your product or services might turn out to have a very important son or daughter. The poverty stricken, badly dressed person homeless person is still your customer if they have a need for your service.

* Show genuine interest

The customer wants to know you are genuinely interested in their needs. We normally make about seven value judgments in the first minute of any encounter. Most of these will be made on an emotional rather than a logical level.

Customers will "latch on' to this sub-conscious level whether your interest in them is genuine or fake and will respond appropriately. Many customers will show this by becoming irate and demanding a change of attitude. Based on perception the customer will remain loyal to your company or organisation or will abandon or "bad mouth' you.

* Show your customer that you're listening to them

Few people are good listeners, so most of us need to work on this aspect. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a very good reason - he expects us to use them proportionately.

The secret is to practise listening with total concentration and ignore outside distractions. Hear what it is the customer is actually saying and not what you want to hear or think they are saying.

A help here is to user their name when you talk to them and summarise what they tell you - Mr Jones, "If I understood you correctly, you need."

Your overall aim should be to give your customers and clients a "quality experience' when they visit you so that they are encouraged

You work in your current position because you chose to do so. No one forced you to take this position. If this position requires you to deal with people, whether in the public or private sector you have a responsibility to recognise who your customers are and what is expected and required of you.

Get contact details on for AMSI and Des Squire here

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