How to adjust your customer service based on personality types
At Artesian, we believe everything works better when it’s personalised. We focus mainly on social selling, but there is a good argument to say that marketing, product development and customer service are all vastly improved when communications are personalised.
We don’t just mean adding their first name to an email (although that’s always a good start), we mean really finding out about the person you are contacting, their likes and dislikes, their business and its needs and any other accessible information.
With this information to hand, you can tailor your communication to speak directly to the customer, as if they are an acquaintance.
This approach is becoming the standard in sales – giving rise to the term ‘social selling’ – but what about post sale?
You have a wealth of information on your customers sitting in your CRM system (or other customer management tool), but can it be used to more effectively deliver customer service?
The short answer is yes. How is the bigger question. But we’ll come to that in a bit. First, let’s explore some stats around customer experience:
12 thought-provoking stats around customer experience:
- 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however 91% of those will simply leave and never come back. (1st Financial Training services)
- 95% of customers share bad experiences with others. (Zendesk)
- A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. (White House Office of Consumer Affairs)
- 88% are influenced by online customer service reviews when making buying decisions. (Zendesk)
- 44% of US consumers switch to a competitor following a poor customer service experience. (NewVoice)
- 72% blame their bad customer service experience on having to explain their problem to multiple people. (Zendesk)
- 66% of B2B customers stopped buying after a bad customer service interaction. (Zendesk)
- 62% of B2B customers purchased more after a good customer service experience. (Zendesk)
- 86% are willing to pay up to 25% more for a better customer experience. (RightNow)
- 73% of consumers say friendly customer service reps can make them fall in love with a brand. (RightNow)
- 72% see an opportunity to improve customer experience by leveraging reporting and analytics. (Deloitte)
- Assessing the personality type of a customer at the beginning of a call can reduce repeat calls by 40%. (Harvard Business Review)
What do these stats tell us?
- Customers are more likely to simply switch to a competitor than to tell you about the problem…but they will tell everyone else…and people will listen.
- Good customer service increases upsell, reduces churn and creates brand advocates.
- Analytics and an understanding of customers’ personality type will give greater insight and improve customer service.
How to improve your customer service
Looking at these stats, the most obvious place to start is with your customer retention strategy. Customer retention is something we covered in our previous blog – check it out now.
The next step is to look at ways of reducing churn and improving customer service.
One way of achieving this is to assess a customers’ personality type before and during your communication with them in order to tailor your customer service approach.
This is the same process as social sellers would go through when approaching prospects, and is still incredibly important post-sale.
Discovering personality types
To gain a truly meaningful understanding of the personality that you’re dealing with it may be necessary to apply some psychological theory to help you define the personality type of your customer.
Although this may sound somewhat daunting, the commonly used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is surprisingly easy to get your head around.
More information, in our opinion, is better than less. On that basis we’ll look at the four indicators of the MBTI to allow you to build a detailed picture of your customer’s personality type and closely tailor your communication.
The MBTI consists of four pairs of personality indicators which, taken together, form one of sixteen personality types. The four indicators are:
- Psychological attitude –Introversion/Extraversion
- Perceiving function – Sensing/Intuition
- Decision-making function – Thinking/Feeling
- Lifestyle preferences – Perceiving/Judging
Psychological attitude – Introversion vs. Extraversion
Most people are comfortable using the terms introversion and extraversion in everyday conversation to refer to someone who is shy and reserved versus someone who is loud and outgoing.
In psychology speak, the terms specifically refer to peoples’ general attitude toward the world – an introvert being someone who draws energy from quiet reflection and expends it on action, while an extravert is someone who draws energy from action and expends it on quiet reflection.
- Reflect before taking action
- Are relatively passive
- Often prefer more substantial interaction
- Tend to avoid confrontation
- Seek depth of knowledge and influence
Associated terms: Compliant, Steady, Solid, Analytical
- Take action before reflecting
- Are relatively active
- Often prefer more frequent interaction
- Tend not to shy away from confrontation
- Seek breadth of knowledge and influence
Associated terms: Dominant, Expressive, Influential, Controller
Dealing with introverted/extraverted customers
As you can probably guess, introverts prefer to gather knowledge before making a customer service request and want their problem looking at in great deal until both sides understand what is wrong and how to fix it.
Extraverts, on the other hand, are more likely to jump on the phone immediately, explain their problem briefly, and pressure you to get it sorted.
How to spot an introverted/extraverted customer
Spotting whether a customer is an introvert or extravert should be fairly easy. Ask yourself:
- How did they contact us, via website form submission or directly on the phone?
- Is their manner of speech loud and energetic or quieter and more restrained?
- When did the issue happen – a while ago or just now? (a while ago may indicate time spent researching the issue)
- Do they want action or information?
According to research by Ashridge, the executive training experts, most people working at a managerial level are extraverts. This makes sense as they prefer to take action than reflect, helping them to get ahead. The distribution in the wider population is much closer to 50/50, however.
Perceiving function – Sensing vs. Intuition
The perceiving function is either sensing or intuition, and relates to how people interpret new information.
- Prefer information they can see and understand
- Want information to be tangible and concrete
- Distrust ‘gut feeling’
- Look for details and facts
- Like to see data
Associated terms: Risk Averse, Grounded, Head for figures
- Place more trust in data not coming through the senses (e.g. wider patterns, previous knowledge)
- Prefer broader, more abstract information to granular detail
- Rely on ‘gut feeling’
- Meaning comes from theory and is manifested in the data
Associated terms: Risk Taker, Impulsive, Abstract thinking
Dealing with sensing/intuitive customers
Sensing-based customers want the granular detail and data that backs up what you are saying and helps them understand the issue.
Offering to send them a report, providing a link to a help page describing their issue in detail, or even explaining the coding problem that resulted in their issue are great ways of assuring sensors. Even if they don’t understand the detail, they will be impressed and reassured by the level of information provided.
Intuitive customers, on the other hand, are better dealt with by explaining the broad strokes of the problem.
A good analogy for the issue will go a lot further than bombarding them with information.
For example, explaining that the wrong report was generated ‘because data took the wrong track, like a signal failure on the train’ will be more effective than explaining that the API had been updated leading to a terminal node crash at port 1138.
How to spot a sensing/intuitive customer
- Are they presenting/demanding data or speaking in broad terms?
- What function do they fulfil in their business – data analyst or marketing, for example?
- Do they make guesses as to what is wrong or refer to specific data?
- Have they used an analogy to explain the problem or summarise what you are saying?
Interestingly, the Ashridge research shows that at managerial level the split between sensing and intuiting is around 50/50, whereas in the general population only 23% of people favour intuition. Modern businesses run on analytics, data, and testing, so it makes sense that people who understand the details are hugely valuable.
Decision-making function – Thinking vs. Feeling
Thinking and feeling are the decision-making functions, relating to how people make rational decisions.
- Use logic and rationality to make a decision
- Tend to be more detached and objective
- Match options against rules or list of requirements
Associated adjectives: Task Focused, Analytical, Solid, Logical
- Use empathy to make decisions
- Tend to be appear subjectively involved in the outcome
- Aim to achieve harmony, consensus and a ‘good fit’
Associated adjectives: People Focused, Expressive, Conscientious, Considerate
Dealing with thinking/feeling customers
The thinking and feeling indicator is perhaps the most important difference between customers. Thinkers need a good logical argument, they want to understand the issue and the steps being taken to resolve it. They deal in objective facts, so your feelings have little relevance.
Feelers want to know they are in good hands, that you understand their problem, point of view, and the impact it has on their team. They prefer that you empathise with them and provide reassurance rather than give them the cold, hard steps to resolution.
Spotting a thinker/feeler
- Have they presented facts or shown signs of emotional distress?
- Do they refer more to the brief/contract or to what people said or implied?
- Is their voice full of emotion or fairly emotionless?
- Are they asking for information or telling you how the issue has affected them?
The differences between managers and the general population in the Ashridge research couldn’t be more different. While in the general population only 46% of people identified as thinkers, this figure rose to 86% when it came to managers. Business often requires objective decision making that will improve the product, service, or operational functions, which thinkers should excel in.
Lifestyle preferences – Judging vs. Perception
The final pair of personality indicators are based around interactions with the outside world (lifestyle) and can be split into judging and perceiving. This dimension is slightly different as it relates to people’s preferred psychological function, i.e. thinking or feeling, sensing or intuiting. People who prefer judging show their personality through their thinking/feeling function, whereas perceivers show more of their sensing/intuiting side.
- Come to conclusions
- Feel they have things ‘sorted’
- Make hard and fast judgements about the world
- Are less open to new experiences
- Leave things open-ended
- Prefer to ‘keep doors open’
- Take the world as it comes
- Are more open to new experiences
How to deal with judging/perceiving customers
People who judge like to have a resolution to their issue, a definitive answer and understanding of how things will get solved. They will also be primarily either thinkers or feelers, so play to those qualities more.
People who prefer to perceive are more likely to be content with an open-ended solution, a ‘let’s check back on this next week to see how you’re getting on’. They’ll primarily favour either intuition or sensing, so make sure your solution plays up to those aspects of their personality.
Spotting a judger/perceiver
- Do they deal in absolutes or possibilities?
- Do they express themselves in a clearly thinking/feeling or sensing/intuiting way?
- Are they the type of person who tries new things or sticks to what they know?
- Reading their blogs, do they come to concrete conclusions or open-ended suggestions?
According to the research, there is a small skew towards judging over perceiving, with ‘J’s representing three of the four most prevalent managerial personality types. This is similar to the wider population, showing that most people prefer definite, closed conclusions to leaving things open-ended.
Common personality types in Management
There has been some interesting research into MBTI configurations in business by Ashridge revealing that an individual in a management position is most likely to be an ESTJ (22.5%). That is extraverted, sensing, thinking, judging individuals. The next most common types were ENTJ (extraversion, intuition, thinking, judgment) & ISTJ (introversion, sensing, thinking, judgment). The least frequent type found in managers is ISFP (introversion, sensing, feeling, perception).
Knowing your own type
You may by now have a good idea of your own personality type based on these four pairs of personality indicators. It’s wise to know your own so you can monitor and adjust your communication style accordingly. For example, if you are usually an extraverted, sensing, thinking, judger (ESTJ) then you will have to be far more gentle, broad, and flexible when dealing with an INFP customer.
There are plenty of free MBTI tests available online which is a great place to start.
Tracking the results
It can be difficult to accurately guess a customer’s MBTI configuration in the heat of the moment, which is why data can be so useful. Many of the personality indicators will be expressed through the customer’s behaviour from the sales funnel right back to the initial contact, and perhaps even before.
Thoroughly researching potential customers is always a good idea. Keep hold of that research and use it to develop an understanding of their MBTI.
You can then use and refine this understanding during customer service interactions to provide a personalised service that turns customers into advocates.
Get an instant demo of Artesian and see how you can help you communicate to different personality types and transform customer service experience.