Whether they’re checking out the latest fashion trend, looking for their next car or shopping for groceries, to have any chance of providing an amazing experience for your customers, you have to fulfill 3 main needs: To be heard, understood and cared for.

Being heard and understood are the basic fundamentals – get these right and you have a solid foundation for success. You need to listen and probe to understand what their needs are or else you won’t be able to resolve issues or provide solutions efficiently. The fundamentals are those critical, essential ingredients that you have to provide as a minimum, but don’t expect to get credit from your customer for using these.

For example: you’re ringing a call centre. You hate waiting in a queue and you’re expecting the call to get answered quickly (which it does). How many times have you found yourself saying something like…

“This company is awesome! How they answer calls so quickly is just incredible.”

Well, never. Or how about this?…

“Wow, the way that consultant didn’t interrupt me when I was talking was simply brilliant!”?

or this one…

“I just loved the way they asked me a question to find out what I actually needed!”

Right – it doesn’t happen. When you deliver on the fundamentals of service and communication, which are the first two needs: to be heard and to be understood; then you are just meeting the basic expectations that all customers have when they contact you for help. So executing the fundamentals consistently well is the minimum requirement to just ‘get in the game’ of customer service.

If you wish to truly stand out, to be better than merely average, then you need to satisfy a customer’s third need: To be cared for. This is a differentiator. It’s what you as an individual can bring to the table: your personality, your energy, your empathy, and the way you demonstrate hearing and understanding of your customer. How you do things is your signature.

One-way of integrating this thinking into your customer service is to think of it like this: The fundamentals are the what: What you have to do to satisfactorily service the basic needs and expectations of the customer. The differentiators are the how: Showing the care factor, empathy and some personality.

If you can utilise the limited time you have to not only tackle their needs but also show that you’re human and you care, then you can win the game rather than merely being another participant. Nobody likes talking to a robot. Nobody remembers a machine. Your customers are craving real conversations with real people, so bring it!

Here’s how they work together. Your fundamentals are your platform or foundation for success. Get these right and you have a chance. Get them wrong, then it’s instant negative customer experience despite how much you care. If you do manage to nail the fundamentals and then deliver the differentiator, then this triggers an emotional response which is the key to influencing consumer behaviour and thinking.

But hear is the catch. Customers will only remember and care about the fact you were friendly, ONLY if you delivered the basic service fundamentals that they expected first.

Another way I like to describe this in one eloquent sentence is this:

Customers want their issue or need resolved efficiently, the first time and by someone who gives a shit.

Pretty simple right? Well it’s definitely simple to understand but it’s much harder to actually execute when so many are caught up in the internal, operational thinking of an organisation. If it was easy, our collective experiences as consumers would be consistently great. Of course, they are not.

So in summary, if your end game is consistently amazing customer service, aim for more than the bare minimum. Solve their problems and give them what they came for without wasting their time, then go that extra mile by tapping into our very human need for connection. Get this right and you’ll have a steady stream of very satisfied customers raving about your effectiveness, efficiency and friendliness to anyone who asks.