We learned pretty fast that hugging a customer doesn’t always result in great customer satisfaction. It really comes down to aligning your service with the specific expectations and aspirations of the people you serve.
-Rob Hibbard, VP with Enterprise Holdings [Enterprise Rent-a-Car]
So much of the customer service training you've seen in recent years (here in this very blog, too) has been centered around creating more personal, direct relationships with your customers. And while of course we still advocate that, there is another side to it. As Kirk Kazanjian describes in his book Driving Loyalty (where the above quotation appears), sometimes "high-touch" service can mean the opposite: hands off.
Mr. Kazanjian explains that Enterprise Holdings (Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a division of this company) learned an important lesson about this concept when they acquired the Alamo and National rental brands. Historically, the Enterprise Rent-A-Car customer service model was based on direct, close human interaction throughout every step of the car rental process. But when this same “high-touch” service was provided to customers who were used to dealing with National, they had negative reactions. A similar story was found with prior Alamo brand customers. Why the differing reactions?
The reason was the demographics of the people who selected each brand were different: National customers were typically business travelers who were very familiar with the process of renting cars. Alamo customers were similar, but did not rent as frequently. Both groups were more interested in the speed of the interaction than on personal service. Once they understood the situation, Enterprise found that the best way to achieve a level of “high-touch” service for these more hands off customers was to utilize technology to provide them a very efficient, effective rental car experience each and every time. That is how they found they could “hug” these customers and keep their satisfaction levels high.
So where in your own business might you actually be turning off customers by hugging them too tightly?