Rockstar Syndrome And Customer Service

Apr 11 2014, 7:14am CDT | by

Rockstar Syndrome And Customer Service
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

A secret of customer service success: treat your customers like decadent, entitled rockstars. And get them hooked on the rockstarrish feeling your customer experience provides. But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me go back a few decades and describe an alternative approach.

My grandfather, a dentist with a thriving solo practice, was known to refuse to work on patients with offensive body odors. He’d have his receptionist send them home, inviting them to reschedule after their next bath.

Grandpa’s (Zaydie’s) reasoning? He’d paid his way through dental school working all night at the post office; he’d suffered through the lean years when he “didn’t have a pot to pish in,” as he put it in his mixture of Yiddish and English.

Working in an odor-free environment, he figured, was one of the perks of success.

Such a not-taking-nothing-from-nodody approach is limiting, of course. While it can (if you’re incredibly lucky) create a cultish buzz, the odds are long on that.

A more likely strategy for success is to treat your customer like a rockstar, indulging their entitlements and decadence, getting them hooked on that feeling so they never want to go anywhere else.

What’s the essence of a rock star lifestyle? It’s not the palatial surroundings so much as it’s the following:

• Not only does nobody call you on having body odor, nobody tells you anything bad.  Nobody calls you on anything.  Nobody makes you come around to seeing things from someone else’s point of view. Nobody ever says “you’re not the only customer I have” or “I’ll get your order to you when I can–I only have two hands.”

• You’re the center of attention. Everyone, whether rockstar or not, is to some extent the center of attention in their own mind anyway, but for a rockstar, this “reality” is manifested and exaggerated through everyone they meet.  As a customer, you can experience this in microcosm strolling the grounds of the glorious Broadmoor hotel, where every gracious employee—every—stops her or his work to say hello when you pass by.

• People step up to do everything for you that you could possibly want done. Elton John, the epitome, in his day, of the decadent rockstar, says that the first time he was required to do basic chores for himself such as cooking and laundry (at Betty Ford), that experience finally brought him down to earth. (When it comes to customers, I’d suggest you almost never want them coming down to earth on your watch.)

Yes, encouraging rockstar syndrome is no way to raise a child.  No way to run a school.  Not a realistic way to run a hospital. And maybe not ultimately good for the world. (As my grandfather the dentist clearly thought, in some ways it can stink.)

But it’s a powerful way to treat a customer in many (not all) business contexts. Because the rockstar syndrome is addictive to customers, just as it is to bona fide rockstars.  And you want to get customers addicted to your service, before they get addicted to someone else’s.

Micah Solomon is a customer experience consultant, keynote speaker and author.
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