What You Call Your Customers Is Important
Since writing an article a little more than three months ago about questions to ask when designing a quality program, I’ve come to realize that I missed one. It started out as a footnote at the end of my quality discussions with new clients, but having facilitated this discussion at least half a dozen times since that article, I quickly moved it up to the beginning. Are you ready for the question?
What do you call your customers? Do you refer to them as customers or something else?
It’s a rather simple question, I know, but allow me to run through some of the names I’ve heard recently in these conversations.
Members and Subscribers
Membership implies that customers are on the inside — part of a club or an exclusive group of people. They aren’t just anyone browsing in a store. They either paid money or donated a significant amount of their time in order to join and are proud to have done so. There’s also a recognition that this membership began somewhere and a celebration of loyalty as it continues year after year.
Customers that are users are using a product or service. Whether they’re an organization or an individual, they very likely depend on it. It’s essential with users to avoid issues that prevent them from using the product, or at least set their expectations ahead of time whenever possible.
Customers that are patients are typically seeing some sort of a medical professional. Perhaps they’re working through a health issue. In the contact center, a word that flashes brightly in our minds when someone says “patients” is HIPAA and the importance of privacy and security of patient information.
Buyers and Sellers
Some businesses split their customers into multiple groups. In the case of a company with a marketplace, the issues buyers and sellers deal with are often different. A seller might be a small business owner or an entrepreneur and we’re partners in their success. We also make sure buyers receive the products they order and have a great experience. Where buyers and sellers exist, the customer service team also plays a role in making sure the two groups get along.
If customers are merchants, they’re running businesses — restaurants, retail stores, etc. There are always customers to be served which means they don’t have time to spend talking to customer service. If there ever was a group that didn’t need a whole lot of fluff and feeling on an interaction, it’s this group. They need a solution quickly so they don’t lose time, money, and customers.
Being a student means that these customers are in the process of working toward a multi-year goal. Perhaps they’re putting themselves through school, working during the day while burning the midnight oil to complete papers and prepare for tests. Being a student has its own set of stressors for sure. Perhaps the customer was a student and is now a borrower. This means they’ve achieved their goal and are now working to pay it off.
Customers that are drivers could mean a number of things. A driver might work with their insurance company to file a claim after a bad car accident. They could be someone working a side job in the sharing economy transporting passengers. Either way, it’s important to get these people back on the road.
If customers are parents, things go to a different level. It means there are children involved and we’re working with parents who would sacrifice just about anything for the wellbeing of their kids. This is a good time to mention pet owners. After all, their pets are members of the family too.
What do you call your customers?
At the outset this might have seemed like a silly topic for an article. After all, whether you call them members, patients, merchants, or something else, they’re ultimately still customers, right? The profound lesson I see here is that we can learn a lot about a company by what they call their customers. We gain insight into their unique needs and wants when we exchange a generic term like customers for something more descriptive. Furthermore, we communicate their importance to the success of our business.
Now I ask you, What do you call your customers and why? If you refer to them as customers, is it time for something a bit more descriptive? Share your comments with us or leave us a note on Twitter or Facebook.
Director of Customer Experience
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience for FCR. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.