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By Michael Lopez
BY ROBIN PAGGI Contributing columnist
Twenty years ago, I was a waitress at a local restaurant. At a mandatory meeting one day, my co-workers and I watched a video about customer service that has stuck with me ever since. In fact, as a human resources consultant, I constantly pass on the advice that was given in the video in the customer service workshops that I now conduct: Treat people how they want to be treated, not how you want to be treated.
Thousands of years ago, the Greek physician Hippocrates and others who studied human behavior said that people tend to fall into one of four behavioral styles. Fast-forward to 1928 when psychologist William Moulton Marston defined the four behavioral styles as Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance in his book "Emotions of Normal People." In 1940, Walter Clark developed Marston's style definitions into the DISC personality profile, an instrument that is widely used in customer service training today.
While people don't usually fall distinctly into one behavioral style, they tend to have a predominant style that is recognizable and indicates how they want to be treated by others, including customer service representatives.
For example, customers with the Dominance style can be recognized by their direct, fast-paced communication. They like to get right down to business and tend to dislike small talk. In fact, they tend to become impatient with CSRs who are too chatty. They want fast results and don't want a lot of details. They make decisions quickly and don't like it when asked if they are sure about what they've decided. If you want to give good customer service to this type of person, speak quickly, get to the point, and provide concise summaries rather than lots of details.
Customers with the Influence style tend to be friendly, upbeat, joking and talkative. They want to be excited by the product or service that's being sold and want the CSR to be excited about it too. They like small talk and want to get to know the CSR before buying. Like the Dominance style, they don't want to hear a lot of details about the product or service, but they do want to discuss their feelings and opinions about it. Good customer service to them means that the CSR is enthusiastic and friendly, engages in small talk before getting down to business, and is a responsive listener.
Customers with the Steadiness style are also friendly but they tend to be more quiet and soft-spoken than the previous style. They have a calm, gentle demeanor and are also interested in building a relationship with the CSR before buying. They are cautious buyers and are mainly focused on the dependability of the product or service being sold. They want a CSR to be thoughtful, genuine, provide details about things such as warranties, and not push them into making a decision before they are ready.
Customers with the Compliance style can be recognized by their stoic demeanor and slow, methodical pace. Like the Dominance style, they tend to dislike small talk and personal questions. They rely on logic to make their decisions (rather than gut feelings) and are openly skeptical. They are very interested in the details about the product or service and tend to ask a lot of questions. They are also cautious decision makers and don't want to be pressured or pushed. They like it when CSRs give them well-researched data and solid facts in a calm, straightforward manner.
It might seem like you're being fake if you, for example, engage in small talk with a customer when that is not your normal way of behaving. And to that I say this -- making small changes to the way you communicate helps you connect and get along better with others in everything you do, which is a good thing.
So, treat people how they want to be treated, not how you want to be treated. Your customers will thank you for it.
-- Robin Paggi is the training coordinator at Worklogic HR Legal Solutions. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.