"Not all customers deserve a company's best efforts." A shocking statement, right? Yet this is a quote from a leading marketing professional. He was talking about a secret system for scoring customers. This system is more widespread than you think and might even impact you the next time you call a company for help.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that companies are using data to determine the potential financial value of customers -- your "score." Scoring is not uncommon and has been used by financial institutions to gauge the risk of loaning us money for years.

But scoring has expanded and is even being used to determine what level of service to provide. For example, a company might deduct points from you if you exhibit "costly behaviors" such as calling often for help or cancelling/returning services in the past.

The lower your score goes, the more likely you are to be treated poorly. You might be denied certain perks, like a seat upgrade on a flight -- or worse, lower quality customer service like being put on hold for long periods of time.

I recently posted a question asking what people thought about the overall concept of customers scores on LinkedIn. The responses varied. Some folks stuck to the belief that every customer should be treated equally, no matter what. Others agreed with the idea behind the scoring system -- saying you should only give your best effort to customers who are most likely to bring an equal value exchange.

My belief? All people deserve respect. And customers are people too. Just as you are a customer in some scenarios, I am guessing that at work you are also delivering service to someone. There is really no job that does not involve serving others in some way. And this can sometimes be forgotten.

Maybe you have forgotten this yourself when serving others. No matter who the person is or what they want, the interruption may feel frustrating. The irritation only gets worse if they are being difficult or seem to create extra work for you. Yet there is a real need -- this person needs your help. You should honor that and serve them well, just as you would want someone to do for you.

This is something our team at Aha! tries to do every day. We do this through exceptional service, transparent communication, and responsiveness. We show respect for every one of our 250,000 users because it is simply the right thing to do. And also, happy customers drive more happy customers.  

Even if you do not work directly with external customers, you still have stakeholders who rely on you. To succeed, you need to nurture two-way relationships that deliver value. The best way to do this is through mutual respect -- not an artificial number computed by an algorithm. Here is how I suggest you get started:

Be responsive

When customers reach out to you, it is likely because they have a problem -- one that they need your help solving. Honor this by responding to each request as soon as possible. Our team at Aha! responds to customer inquiries within two hours. We know we can do the most good when the need is fresh.

Be empathetic
This is easy for our Customer Success team at Aha! -- every member has expertise in product management and marketing, just like the customers we serve. Our team can understand the pain of our customers because we have felt it too. Even if you have not done the same job as your customer (or are not able to use the product or services you are providing), you can still show empathy to your fellow human.

Be curious

Do you really understand your customer and what they need? Not just what they are asking for but the real motivation behind why they are contacting you. Ask lots of questions to get to the bottom of each request, idea, and complaint. You will gain a deeper understanding that will help you serve others better in the future. And your customers will feel valued and heard.

Be transparent

There is no way around it -- sometimes you need to say "no." But people deserve to know why. Explaining your reasoning makes the "no" easier to digest for customers. It also opens up the door to conversation, helping you spot any misassumptions on your end.

Be kind

At the end of the day, everyone is doing the best they can. This is important to remember as requests (or even complaints) pile up from customers. Acknowledge feedback with kindness -- seeing each piece of it as an opportunity to improve.

Be realistic

You cannot satisfy every customer. So when you encounter customers who are unreasonable or exceptionally demanding, the best thing you can do is walk away. This gives the customer the opportunity to find a better fit for their needs. And it frees you up to focus on customers who will bring you the most value.

After all, this is what being in business is all about -- a value exchange. You provide a product or service for your customers, and they provide you with value in return. But you need to hold up your end of the deal. If you spend your time scoring customers based on what they can do for you, it will only diminish trust. This is true whether customers are aware of a secret scoring system or not.

So, step away from the tally sheet and take a more people-focused approach. Be responsive, thoughtful, and kind.

How do you show respect to (all) customers?