One thing I know about customers in the 21st century is that their intelligence level has never been higher.

I want you to think about all the different things we have access to that give us all this information on the things we buy. Not only do I know what the hot shoes are for that season, but I also know how the sole tends to wear out quickly, how the stiletto is weaker than the industry standard and how the color is a slightly different shade of red from anything they’ve released before. Information is power.

Customers have so much research at their fingertips about the products and services they care about, but does customer service always adjust to the intelligence our customers actually possess? Do we acknowledge that intelligence and weave it into the way we deal with our customers on a daily basis?

This was the central theme of our exciting 2018 kickoff webinar, titled Customer Intelligence (be sure to watch the replay here). Alongside FPG Human Performance Strategist Jamey Lutz and customer service expert Chip Bell, we talked about all things customer intelligence. I had such a great time, and I’d love to share with you my three biggest takeaways.


Jamey Lutz, who came to us from Ritz-Carlton, taught me a great acronym: WIIFM. It stands for What’s In It For Me, and it’s a guiding principle our customers live by. Companies large and small use things like surveys as launch pads for improvement, but so often they’re sterile and too long. So they just get tossed into the trash folder and never completed.

That means we have to filter everything we give our customers through one simple filter: WIIFM. If you think about what the customer feels is in it for them, you’ll apply it to yourself. Would you want to fill it out if someone sent it to you? If not, why not? And how can you improve it?

It’s all about the preframe. I was recently at a large builder show, and I preframed them by asking, “Would you like to have the most, interesting, exciting sales call of your life?” Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Preframing your leaner, more fun survey with something that gives the customer a tangible benefit will get them in the right frame of mind to fill it out. Tell the customer, it’s all about making the experience better for you. Always remember: WIIFM.


I loved this example on customer loyalty from Chip. If you asked an airline passenger what their number one feature in an airline would be, what do you think they’d say? Almost everyone would say safety, right? But if you followed that up by asking them, “So was safety the reason you chose this airline over that one for your most recent flight?” how many times would you hear, “Because it’s safe?” Almost never.

Your head might tell you customer loyalty comes from keeping your passengers safe. But your heart tells you it comes from things like courteous stewards, more leg room and free food.

Loyalty also comes from allowing people to have their dignity when they’re in the wrong. I recently went in for a scheduled hair appointment thinking I was getting Nicole, who always does my hair. But when I arrived, they told me I’d be seeing Miranda. I was confused and thought for sure they’d messed up my appointment, but they were courteous with me and said, “I’m sorry this wasn’t conveyed to you, but Miranda is doing your hair today.” That’s when I looked at my phone, and sure enough, there was a note that said, “Hair with Miranda – don’t yell at him.” I apologized profusely, and now he has my undying loyalty because he knew I was wrong and he didn’t shame me. We create loyalty when we allow people to have their dignity even when they’re wrong – and especially when they’re wrong.


Jamey told the story of how, at a recent trip to a restaurant, the manager dropped by his table as they were finishing. He asked the table, “Everything was great, right?” The table got the message, even if it was coded: he didn’t really want feedback. By embedding the suggestion that everything was great in his question, all he was doing was asking the table to tell him what he wanted to hear.

That’s when Jamey’s BS detector went off. And make no mistake, your customers have highly attuned BS detectors.

Feedback is such a gift that companies can use to better themselves and their approach to customer service, but how many couch their messaging this way? Customers know immediately if we’re being honest and genuine in asking for feedback. They can tell whether you really want to know how their experience was, or if you’re just ticking off a box so you can move down the checklist.

Making sure customers see our authenticity should be a top priority. When customers hear questions like, “How was everything?” it’s almost like a greeting. How many times have you heard that question and just shrugged it off and said “fine,” even if your experience wasn’t? Instead, we need to ask questions like, “What’s one thing we can do to improve your experience?” That way, you’re always striving toward having the knowledge you need in order to remove your leashes.

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