Friday, March 12, 2010

To Be Authentic

Twice today I heard speakers talking about authenticity. The need for people, especially in the service industry, to eschew the traditional problem solving nature of customer service and develop a lasting positive connection with their customers. While Soledad O’Brien focused on authenticity in our interactions on a cultural and social level, Sandy Shugart spoke of authenticity within higher education institutions.

Shugart focused his talk of building authentic whole person relationships, specifically with students. To create this relationship, service leaders need to step back and think how the student thinks. “don’t make me feel stupid” says the student customer, and says this as they attempt to unravel the often cryptic and poorly explained textbook organization system in many college stores. “Anticipate what I need” and “make me feel that I have a friend inside” are other student customer demands, reinforcing the need for personalized systems and turning the customer into a person rather than a problem to be solved.

Shugart’s comments are reinforced when we consider that our core student customers are what Shubert refers to as the first Post Modern Generation. A terms that illustrates how this generation thinks and acts is remarkably different than that of the boomer generation.

As the boomer generation, we see ourselves as problem solvers. Problems must be investigated, analyzed and corrected. For the post modern student, there is an ingrained acceptance that “stuff happens”. Boomers look for movement forward, progress must be made. On the other side of the coin, post moderns see events as random. Movement is not always forward, progress is not guaranteed.

When applied to our attitudes of institutions, we see these institutions and big organizations as being fundamentally moral. For the post modern student, the focus is suspicion, and that institutions are manipulative. A scam. This applies throughout any educational institution , and the bookstore, often the public face of the campus, is viewed with a suspicious lens by the post modern student.

Yet, regardless of this new set of attitudes with today’s students, creating authentic relationships, building trust and delivering value are effective responses for the college bookstore in order to succeed now and in the future.


Charles Schmidt said...

So glad you wrote about this CAMEX session. I attended it and thought he had some wonderful insights on customer service and college students.

dkiser said...

Whether a boomer (which I am) or a post modern student (which my children are), I believe that every consumer looks for the same thing: kind hearted service and respect. I was on the campus of the University of Kentucky attending the Patterson School of Diplomacy Lecture Series just last evening. I was amazed that the students were dressed the same as they were when I attended 35 years ago. Strolling around outside the bookstore were the preppie, the hippie and and athlete. They looked the same and I suspect they still shop the same. Treat me with respect and common courtesy. Some things just don't change even though the broad cultural value system may react to geopolitical issues.