A Science Lesson For Better Customer Service

A Science Lesson For Better Customer Service

Whenever anyone talks about delivering better customer service, the word “relationship” is tossed around.

Any type of educational class or seminar will pound into your head the importance of developing a relationship with your clients. Okay, we get that.

But what exactly is a relationship?

3 Types of Relationships

Dig way back in the depths of your brain when you were in science class. You probably learned about three of the basic relationships in nature.

  1. Commensalism
  2. Parasitism
  3. Mutualism

These same three relationships also apply to interactions between a business and a customer.

So let’s look at each of these three as a reminder of the type of relationships we want to avoid and the one for which we strive.

Commensalism

Definition: Commensalism is a type of relationship between two individuals in which one benefits and the other is neither harmed or helped.

I’d like to contend this is the most common relationship seen in business.

If I buy something I see from a website, let’s say they were custom coolers for an upcoming giveaway to prepare for a company picnic, I read the description and they sound great. However, I still have a question about the quality, so I call for assistance. I ask the customer service representative about the quality of the cooler. She tells me the same basic information from the boilerplate description on the site. She comforts me by telling me they sell a ton of these coolers with no complaints, so they must be a good quality. So I order and receive the products a few weeks later. The coolers are okay. I’m content, but not blown away by the quality of the product for my needs.

However, was I really helped? Or was I simply pacified?

Could my experience have been better?

Could the customer service rep have suggested better quality options?

Should it have been suggested I order a sample to inspect quality before I ordered?

Technically, I wasn’t “harmed” in this scenario, but I certainly wasn’t “benefited.” The company benefited by gaining a sale.

This is a common example of commensalism that occurs between businesses and consumers. Doesn’t sound too good to help devlo, right?

Parasitism

Definition: Parasitism is the type of relationship between two individuals in which one is benefitted and one is harmed.

The harm is usually due to paying for a product or service they don’t need or overpaying for items that don’t function as advertised. Luckily, this is not the most common type of business relationship, but it does happen often. Parasitic relationships are typically terminated pretty quickly after the consumer realizes they were on the wrong end of the deal. But, more often than not, the damage has been done. The hundreds or thousands of dollars of wasted money can’t be recovered.

A common scenario is a company selling digital advertising will sell services to a company promising loads of new traffic to their website. Once the contract the locked in, it’s true they may be sending a lot of visitors to their website, but the traffic does not consist of targeted visitors who are actually interested in those particular services. It’s wasted traffic that doesn’t convert. The advertising company made a lot of money from a client who is locked into a year-long contract, but the client gets no benefit. They are financially harmed with no recourse to stop the financial bleeding.

Another example would be if a promotional products company focused on selling low-quality, cheap promotional products. They know a low price point is a great attention grabber for consumers. Buyers are seduced with a price that on the surface appears to be much lower than competitors, yet these products are much lower quality than the products compared. A common product which is often inadvertently compared to each other is a single-walled tumbler to a double-walled tumbler. Single-walled tumblers will always be cheaper in price (and quality) than double-walled tumblers because they don’t have the same cold or heat retention as double-walled tumblers. Double-walled tumblers are superior in performance, yet too often you’ll see single-walled tumblers sold on websites with misleading descriptions which don’t specifically point out they are single-walled. For instance, you’ll see them advertised as stainless steel tumblers, and while they are made of stainless steel, there’s a vast difference when compared to a vacuum insulated stainless steel tumbler which will have a higher price point. The singled-walled option will not retain temperature for nearly as long and they will condensate on the outside leaving behind a puddle of water everywhere you set it down.

First-time consumers are often not aware of this major difference between single-walled and double-walled tumblers, so they make the purchase based solely on price point from a comparison of two completely different products. Once they receive their products, they are often disappointed. A good promotional products agency would ensure the buyer was educated between the two types of tumblers. Their descriptions should indicate single-walled to avoid confusion. In this scenario, the client may receive an inferior product which will not be used as often or for as long as a more superior product. This is parasitic because the buyer made a purchase and didn’t get a good return on their investment.

Mutualism

Definition: Mutualism is the type of relationship in which both parties are benefited.

You should always strive for this type of relationship. In fact, you should turn down all other types of relationships that aren’t a Win-Win. That’s a win for your customer and a win for your company. Unless both parties end with a win, the deal is bad. If the company wins and the consumer does not, the consumer will not want to do business with that company again. And worse than that, they will tell their friends about their experience. If a company sells items for too low a price and doesn’t profit, they won’t be able to offer great customer service to their customers.

The Win-Win scenario is a chain reaction and goes much further than simply a transaction between the end-buyer and the seller. The seller buys from suppliers, therefore, they must have a mutualistic relationship with their suppliers. The suppliers buy raw goods to produce their products, therefore, mutualism must be present for a continued thriving relationship. Without good supplier relationships, a seller can NOT continue to offer winning relationships with their customers. We always strive for the win-win-win scenarios, so not only do our customers and our company benfit, but also our suppliers.

An example of a mutualistic relationship is if a school buys stadium seat cushions to sell at their football games, the cushions must a high enough quality to easily sell the fans. With this transaction, the school receives high-quality, branded cushions at a fair price which will be great to sell to their fans for their fundraiser. This benefits both the seller and the buyer.

Every time there is a transaction between two people, it should always be a win-win. Period.

Transparency and Honesty are Key

In order for the consumers to be on the winning side, the companies selling merchandise must be transparent. They should not build up a product beyond its capabilities. All product descriptions should be realistic and not be deceptive. Product photos should not be enhanced to look better than they are. If products have natural flaws, those flaws should be pointed out. Product reviews which are both positive and negative should be shown, if available. What’s negative to some, may not be a concern for others. The truth is what is important.

When customer service representatives are talking to customers, they should be honest. If asked about the quality of a product, the representative should point out they have never seen that product in person, rather than sugar-coat the conversation to talk up the product. If selling products in bulk, such as promotional items, ordering a sample should be encouraged so customers can inspect the quality before buying in large quantities. Managing expectations is paramount.

The Perfect Imprints Promise To You

At Perfect Imprints, we want you to know exactly what you are getting before you get it. If quality is a concern, as it should be, we highly encourage you to order a sample. Use the product. Test it in different scenarios. We want you to be happy with that product representing your brand?

We promise we will NEVER intentionally deceive you. Our company core values don’t allow it. We will be honest with all of our feedback. We will take responsibility if we make a mistake and do whatever we can to correct that mistake.

We only want mutualistic relationships with our clients. We will turn down other opportunities if we believe we will benefit and our customers will not. Our tremendous growth over the years rests on the shoulders of mutualism. We reject all parasitic and commensalistic relationships. If we win and our customers do not win, that’s a scenario we will not partake in. Our primary relationship goal is mutualistic. We both win, which means we both benefit. No other relationships will be tolerated.

Patrick Black
patrick@perfectimprints.com

Patrick Black, MAS, is the founder of Perfectimprints.com and has been in the promotional products industry helping businesses and organizations since 1999. When not geeking out over the newest and greatest promotional items, you can find him paddleboarding at the beach or hanging out by the pool with his wife, three kids, and his basset hound in Fort Walton Beach, FL.