If you were online during the late 2000s, chances are you encountered individuals who proudly showcased strings of all-caps abbreviations like ENTF or INFP within their social media bios. For those unfamiliar, these seemingly cryptic letter combinations were the outcomes of what's known as a Myers-Briggs personality test.
Each letter represented your preference in that area of personality, and the combined total represented something of a quick guide to the type of person you were. Though they lacked some amount of nuance, they were useful in the sense that they could give someone a good baseline understanding about who someone was and the types of things they responded to.
Interestingly, this notion of quick categorization extends beyond personal profiles and into the realm of customer service. Unlike the immediate insights of a Myers-Briggs label, customer service interactions rarely grant us such upfront clarity. Yet, akin to deciphering personality types, once we discern a customer's underlying style, navigating the interaction usually becomes a lot easier.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to engaging with customers and no one person ever fits into a neat little box, generally speaking, there are four different types of customers: analytical, expressive, amiable, and direct.
Similar to Myers-Briggs personality types, each have unique qualities in regard to what they respond to and ways they prefer to communicate. Though we strongly caution against making any type of assumption about a customer without taking the proper time to get to know them, or pigeonholing anyone into a certain type, these archetypes can be a helpful lens through which to navigate conversations with different customer personalities.
Below, we cover the four types in more detail and offer some examples of traits that may signal the type of customer someone is, as well as suggestions on how to make interactions with each type go as smoothly as possible.
We all have that one friend who has a spreadsheet for everything. They are very thorough, detail-oriented, natural problem solvers. In the world of customer types, this is the analytical customer. They’re the ones that have done their homework in advance prior to contacting support and in general have high standards for accuracy.
When interacting with an analytical customer, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Make sure information is accurate - These customers will fact-check you. If they find you're off, they'll let you know, and they’ll then be less likely to have confidence in anything else you’ve provided, which could make it more difficult to help them. They want to know they're working with an expert. Step one to that is providing accurate information.
2. Acknowledge their input - As mentioned above, analytical customers tend to do their own research prior to reaching out and will also let you know exactly what they looked through. Be sure you acknowledge that effort in your conversation to ensure them that you understand where they're coming from and speed up interactions.
3. Forgo casual conversation - Analytical customers usually aren't interested in small talk. They have something they're trying to solve and want to do so as quickly and efficiently as possible. So, cut down on the small talk and focus on the solution.
Analytical types can be a little intimidating, but as long as you're prompt, accurate, and keep the conversation focused on the task at hand, this type of customer will be satisfied.
Have you ever been in line to order food and the person in front of you is sparking up a conversation while talking through the menu options with the worker behind the counter? We call this the expressive customer. They fall somewhat on the other side of the spectrum from the analytical customer, as they come off more relaxed and spontaneous, even playful. Because of their more gregarious nature, interactions can run a little on the long side.
There are a few things to keep in mind when interacting with expressive customers:
1. Try to get to know them - Expressive customers like meeting new people and sharing about themselves. Asking questions about who they are and their lives outside of the issue you're talking about makes them feel valued and contributes to an overall better experience for them.
2. Acknowledge and appreciate their efforts to connect - When you're interacting with an expressive customer, it's good practice to let them know when you’re enjoying the conversation or when you’re thankful for their input to help them feel seen and valued.
3. Don't make things strictly business - Making sure customers issues are handled in a timely manner is an important part of customer support. However, you should be cautious about making expressive customers feel like you're trying to rush through the interaction. You certainly need to drive toward a resolution, but doing so in a purely pragmatic way may cause the expressive customer to feel alienated.
Even though expressive customers can be a little chatty – and you might have to reel them in from time to time – they're also often a bright spot for many agent's days. Embrace and celebrate who they are, and it'll be a positive interaction for everyone involved.
If you’ve been lucky enough, you’ve probably worked with someone who is all about team-first and who likes to form bonds with others while seeing them succeed. This is your amiable customer. They’re similar to the expressive customer, as they’re a bit more on the social side. They appreciate your opinions and input and often won't make a decision until they get it.
As with the other types, there are a few things to keep in mind when working with amiable customers:
1. Get personal - Since amiable customers are team-first, when you're working with them you're part of their team so they want to get to know you. Offer information about who you are and ask about them. Doing so helps them feel like they're including everyone, which is a huge bonus for this customer type.
2. Avoid conflict - Though no agent ever sets out to create a contentious interaction, sometimes things don't align and conflicts arise. Amiable customers are very conflict averse. So, try to make sure all interactions go as smoothly as possible. In the cases where it looks like there's conflict on the horizon, do your best to change course and avoid it altogether.
3. Embrace collaboration - Even though you may not work directly together, amiable customers want to feel like you're a team. Bring them into the process and show them that you're working together toward a resolution. Having a team environment is important to them, so figuring out a way to engender the feeling should be a top priority.
Working with amiable customers can sometimes go a little long, but they'll always be on your side. Having a little extra support from those you're serving is almost never a bad thing.
Lastly, let’s talk about that friend that comes off as very confident, knows what they want and can be a bit blunt. As a customer they’d be considered direct, which can be a bit jarring sometimes when you’re on the receiving end. They value speed and want things done quickly. They also like to feel like they're in control.
Working with direct customers can be a bit tricky, but we have a few tips to help you navigate the waters:
1. Don't waste time - The number one thing direct customers don't like is wasting time. They have things to do and don't want to wait around. They expect a lot of themselves and for that same reason expect a lot from you. Your best bet to make these interactions go well is to avoid small talk and respond promptly.
2. Be transparent - When working with a direct customer, it's good to let them know when something will be done and what it is you're doing. By giving them all the details, they’ll feel more in control. Be as detailed as you can on timelines and steps to processes.
3. Offer options - Following along with the control theme, offering options puts direct customers in the driver's seat. Having the agency to make the choice they think is best instead of simply being told is a good move.
Similar to analytical customers, direct customers can be a little bit intimidating. However, if you focus on speed and keep them in the loop, they'll be happy with their interaction.
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, customers are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. Navigating different personalities and customer expectations is a big part of any support job, and one made easier when you have something of a starting point.
But remember that they’re just that — a starting point. Above all, take the time to get to know who you're talking with and adjust your approach to fit their style, and you'll be well on your way to great customer service.