What Teens Taught Me About Customer Service
Since 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.
Here are my previous posts on Customer Service