Rod Loader in Lifestyle, Customer service, Business Writer • Loader Writing Mar 21, 2017 · 2 min read · 1.7K

What Teens Taught Me About Customer Service

What Teens Taught Me About Customer ServiceSince my early 20's I have spent many years involved with church based Youth groups, in a variety of locations and churches. Spending time with young people aged from 13 to 18 can be both challenging and rewarding.

Customer service is not the first thing we consider when dealing with teens but, looking back, I can see many things I have learnt. Personally I believe I learnt a lot more from them than they learnt from me. 

We can't choose our customers

When we opened our doors to let people in, we never stood at the door and turned teens away. If someone had suggested the idea, we would have been horrified.

So, did that mean we only had sweet and innocent Christian teens. Absolutely not. We had them of course, but they were the minority.

We found 25% really wanted to be there. They talked to others about the group, they brought friends, they were enthusiastic and involved.

Half of those attending were present about two-thirds of the time. Their interest (or attendance) varied, depending on our activities. More often than not they came because friends were present.

The last quarter did not want to be there. The reasons varied but, more often than not, it was because we were cheap babysitting. A few in this category attended because they had been removed from their parents, and their carers wanted them to be in a positive environment.

Our customers are the same. Their reasons for walking through our front door, or clicking on our site, are widley varied. We can't choose who becomes a customer.

We can't choose how we treat customers

It would be natural to focus our attention on the first quarter. After all, they would return our effort, they would promote our group. They were the best "return on investment."

The second group... well, they were also worth time and effort, because we could turn them into 'fans' of the group. But the third group, well, from an investment perspective, why would we waste time and effort on people who really don't want to be there.

Because we didn't choose we also didn't favor. Because we didn't favor, we positively affected all of them. It didn't matter if the teen jumped to be included, or sat at the back with anger in their eyes, they were all treated the same.

Yes, some 'challenged' us a lot more, but the results were very rewarding. Those wanting to be there were unchanged, those in the middle grew to like it more and the final group became involved and, over time, many invited others along.

Was it our 'product', the activities, which won them over? No. It was the level of customer service, which we called care, attention and understanding. It was making ourselves available to listen. It was playing games with them. It was becoming friends.

In our businesses we can't choose who becomes a customer and we can't choose to give them more than they expected. All are customers, all need and deserve a high level of customer service, also known as care, attention and understanding.

We can't choose if customers return.

Youth groups don't suit everyone, and that's okay. At first I would be disappointed that particular teens did not return, until I learnt I could not control that. All I could control was how I interacted with those who came. For a while I even tried to predict which teens would stay or not return. After being wrong several times, I gave up on that idea and got involved as if every teen would stay forever.

It was after that decision, I started noticing how many teens were actually returning, how many teens were enjoying themselves and how much I was gaining. Youth group became about creating a special place, for the teens who were present at the time.

In business we need to focus on the people we are dealing with at each moment in time. We can't predict the future, we can't change the past and we can't choose if our customers will return. We can choose to make their time special while they are with us, so they leave with good memories.

Stay Awesome.

Here are my previous posts on Customer Service

3 Things Customer Service Is Not

Lemons and Customer Service

Why Disney Wins At Customer Service 


Rod Loader Mar 22, 2017 · #6

Thanks for sharing your thoughts @Harvey Lloyd. The best thing I did was to stop being controlling and start being interested. Like you 99% of the time I never saw the harvest and yes, many times the seeds were cast in the thorns. It has definately been a huge influence on how I treat all people now.

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Rod Loader Mar 22, 2017 · #5

Thanks @Aleta Curry. I did change the second heading twice but always came back to what I have. I think I liked the fact that people could read it with a different meaning. It makes people stop and think about what I'm writing. #3

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Harvey Lloyd Mar 22, 2017 · #4

The word control was a big part of my life in the early stages of our business. I thought that with the right matrix you could make anything happen. I soon learned through the university of hard-knox's that influence was all i had. The customer has control. Certainly had control of whether to do business with the customer, but that was purely a no deal situation. Not really good for business.

I am in a business where, like your youth groups, we influence students daily. We accept them as they are and our hope is that we planted a seed. 99% of the time we never are at the harvest of that seed. Sometimes we hear that the seed was cast within the thorns. We know our job is to cast regardless of the harvest. That seed might hit one that grows to be what was intended.

Customers are not much different. We have influence in the moment we have with the customer. Plant the seed. I believe in our efforts to control rather than influence we don't prepare the ground for the planting. We find many customers looking for something that doesn't exist, or are coming to us because a failure at another agency and many reasons that tell us the ground is not fertile for us to plant either.

We influence the goals, objectives and the customers specific needs first, then we plant the seed of sales. Don't plant before its time.

Great post. If i may, Your youth group engagement was/is preparing the soil for what will come later as a great seed of growth in each you cross paths.

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Aleta Curry Mar 22, 2017 · #3

Love it, @Rod Loader. Very forthright article.

If I may: I'd change the second sub-heading to something that means 'we can't discriminate'. When I first read the paragraph's title, I thought you meant something quite different.

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Rod Loader Mar 21, 2017 · #2

@Lisa 🐝 Gallagher, being involved with Youth groups is definitely one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. As you say, we can only do our best and hope we have a positive influence. #1

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Lisa Gallagher Mar 21, 2017 · #1

Hi @Rod Loader, how cool that you have been involved with youth based groups! I have to say, there may be many you made an impact on but they weren't aware of the impact until they entered their adult years. What a great philsophy you use when you gauge youth groups with customers while doing business. It's true, we can't please everyone, all we can do is try and do our best.

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