There’s a customer service skill that I particularly like because of its power to impact customer satisfaction. It’s called “give to get." In essence “give to get’ suggests that rather than acting like the Grand Inquisitor, I should provide some information – like what’s in it for you or why I need whatever I’m asking about – before asking for it. I find it fosters cooperation, nets better results, and truly encourages collaboration if I do that rather than demanding information from customers without explanation.
It strikes me that the concept also applies to customer service, technical support, and sales situations in which you’re trying to promote a solution to a problem. Scott Anthony recently wrote about the “curse of knowledge” in a Harvard Review Publishing blog.
“Chip and Dan Heath described the curse of knowledge nicely in their 2007 book Made to Stick (highly recommended to all innovators). The basic problem: people who have deep knowledge about a topic sometimes assume other people have that same knowledge. That can lead to major missteps.”
Mr. Anthony writes mostly about product innovation but he gave an example in his blog post that illustrated my point — that you have to “give to get” when you’re working with customers.
"During my meeting at Gillette, one group member described how "of course" the last place you should shave is around your mouth. As I tend to shave my chin last, I asked him why."
"Well, that part of the face has the most nerve endings," he explained. "So you need to give more time for your shave prep [lotion or gel] to work."
Knowing a lot about your product can actually cause problems in technical support and customer service if you don’t know how to share that information. It’s dangerous to assume the customer has the same depth of knowledge or experience with the product or service that you do. For example, I don’t know all the pricing plans my phone company has to offer or how the feature packages change from one plan to another. What I do know is that I’m always asked for a lot of information.
As consumers we’re pretty used to being asked “for your security” questions. “For your security, I’ll need the last four digits of your social security number.” Like well-programmed customers we usually cooperate in the interest of forward progress on the call. Just once, wouldn’t it be nice if a company adopted a “give to get” philosophy and offered us a “no strings attached, just because you’re our customer” freebie piece of useful information or advice?