Article | 4 min read

Understanding the art of customer satisfaction

Last updated June 1, 2014

Last week in London, leaders and innovators from the world of customer service gathered at a Zendesk conference to discuss a single issue: The art of customer satisfaction. And it is an art: Art tells us something about ourselves; art makes us think about what being human really means.

From the discussions of the day, one idea rose to the top: Humanity is at the core of true customer satisfaction. It is empathy, personality, and relationships that elevate “making consumers happy” to an art form.

Customers are more than just customers—they’re people
As Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane explained in the event keynote, brands need to build lasting customer relationships in a democratized world. The voice of the customer can be as loud as the voice of the brand, especially on social media. This can be a good thing if brands put effort into building lasting and mutually fulfilling customer relationships. But they have to be real relationships.

As a brand, you have to constantly justify being part of your customer’s world. Customers choose to be in the relationship; they are not ‘your’ customers. “You can’t get away with only being a good friend 90% of the time,” said Mikkel.

A recurring theme of the conference was the fact that customers are not commodities or statistics, they’re people. Your customer has a face and a life and a personality. But then, so do your support representatives. Empower them to harness their authentic voice and do what’s best for the customer—your business will reap the benefits. As Jacqueline de Rojas from Home Retail Group put it, “Give your people space to be amazing.”

Do you trust your computer?
One of the big points addressed in many of the panels was how we can replace the intrinsic value of face-to-face interaction in the new economy.

Inara Mukhamedova of Lamoda outlined how they established a new ecommerce model in order to establish trust with their customers. Rather than relying on up-front online payment, then delivery, then returns, Lamoda first establishes human-to-human contact through a phone call, then delivers, then takes payment for the products the customer wants to keep. Again, it comes back to that central issue: People trust people.

More than that, as Alex King from and Rachel Percival from Farfetch discussed, people trust people who listen to them, are honest, and deliver on promises. “A solution is always better than a good conversation,” explained Edmund Read from Just-Eat, and—especially when dealing with ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry) customers—will engender more trust in the brand for the future.

Just like Mom said: tell the truth
Honesty was another theme of the day: preempting issues by being transparent about problems and resolution times. If there is a known issue, a proactive note to customers, including details of what’s being done to fix it, can go a long way to stopping a potential storm. Similarly if something isn’t running on time, if a customer gets the information quickly and up front, they are more likely to be satisfied than if they had to work hard to get the information. It’s about managing human emotions and reactions, not about managing processes.

Data with a face
Even during discussions of metrics and social channels, it all came down to people, context, and personality. Data can only tell us so much without anecdotes, and social media is overwhelmingly more about socializing than publishing. So much of satisfying customers is about understanding them, their situations, and their problems. Jo-Anne Leason from SSE made this point clearly when talking about people complaining about high charges. It wasn’t always about resolving an issue with their bill, sometimes it was digging deeper and finding out if they were struggling financially and putting in place processes to help them.

Satisfying customers is about delivering the results they need, even if it’s just an apology. Joe Rice from Conversocial described the opportunity to “allow brands to show passion, compassion, and sometimes even humility.”

While the stated purpose of the conference was to discuss customers, we all left talking about people. That’s why we ended the day by introducing our people—our Zendesk advocates who look after our customers—to the audience. It’s people talking to people that is the true art of customer service, and we are extremely proud of the artists who help Zendesk support millions of customers around the world.

Join us at a future Zendesk event