B2B Customer ServiceI was recently reminded how critical it is that each time we interact with a customer we should be conscious of the lasting impact of the interaction.  In a recent blog post for Beyond Philosophy, Colin Shaw discusses the psychology of experience vs. memory.  He pulls from Professor Daniel Kahneman, who says that “there is a big difference between an experience and the memory of an experience”.   This is an important distinction for us to contemplate.

In the world of B2B customer service, we have regular opportunities to interact with our clients.  Email and website marketing, social networking, proactive phone calls, meetings, account reviews, user groups, events, newsletters and technical support – all of these scenarios provide experiences that the customer has with individuals and the company as a whole.  Professor Kahneman would say that each of these interactions, in the moment, is encountered by the individual’s “experiencing self”, but he continues that the individual also has a “remembering self.”

So why is this important, or even interesting?  Let me start by employing the annoying technique of answering a question with a question.  Do we plan out our customer experiences with the objective of leaving the customer with a good memory?  Not very often, if ever, I would suggest.  But perhaps we should.  It is the accumulation of experiences that forms memory and memory that forms opinion.

We can all agree that everything will not always go perfectly all the time.  We can’t always control outcomes, we can’t always control technology, we can’t always control changes in market or policy or practice.  However, we can control how we behave and the attitude with which we engage our customers.

Most of us have had countless interactions with clients over the years and at times have been more – and at other times less – helpful to them.  Perhaps we may not have been able to solve a specific problem in an immediate time frame, or maybe we didn’t have an answer at our fingertips.  But what we always have is the ability to remember that this is a person with an important issue that is looking for help. We can always assure them that we will do everything in our power to get them what they need as quickly as we can get it for them.

It is the repetition of this experience that leads to the positive memory and when you have that, even when things go wrong, you have an opportunity to make it right.

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