10 customer characteristics to be aware of in service jobs

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 December 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Working in customer service requires you to interact with lots of different customers, many of whom have very different personalities, preferences and styles of communication. Being able to identify what type of customer you're serving and what style of customer service might suit their personality may make you a better customer service representative. Identifying the traits of the customers you serve helps you communicate more smoothly and understand what drives their purchasing decisions. In this article, we define customer characteristics and look at 10 characteristics to be aware of in customer service work.

What are customer characteristics?

Customer characteristics are traits and personality markers that affect the behaviours, experiences and purchasing decisions of customers. For example, some customers may be happy to accept your advice without much discussion, while others want to feel more in control of their purchasing decisions. Customer service representatives who are able to identify the characteristics of the customers they're serving and adapt their communication style to suit individual users are more able to build positive rapport with customers and offer a superior customer service experience.

It's possible to identify the characteristics of a customer by assessing their behaviour, communication style and mannerisms when you meet them. Assess whether they're confident and knowledgeable or whether they're asking you a lot of questions. Consider whether they approach you for help or seem open to instigation. Paying attention to small signals and cues in your customers' body language and adapting your style of customer service to suit their preferences may help you cooperate effectively with more customers.

Related: Customer service job description (with duties and skills)

10 important customer traits

If you work in customer service and you're trying to become more aware of the different types of customers you might serve, familiarising yourself with common customer traits is a good way to start. When you know what types of characteristics to look out for and how to serve customers displaying these characteristics, it's possible to adapt your serving style to suit their needs. Below is a list of 10 characteristics that may impact the behaviour, needs and motivations of customers:

1. Informed customers

Informed or knowledgeable customers know a lot about your organisation, products or the field in which you operate. Some consumers may have technical knowledge because they study or work in a related field, while others may have done a lot of research before their purchase. Informed customers know a lot about the products they're buying and may not need a 'hard sell', instead preferring to make their own decisions in their own time.

If you identify an informed customer, try not to condescend by telling them things about your products or service that they already know. Practise active listening skills and let the customer lead the way if they already know what type of product or service they want to buy. Many informed customers may not require much help with their purchase. Instead, you may offer assistance and let them come to you if they require help.

Related: How to improve your active listening skills (with steps)

2. Indecisive customers

Indecisive customers are usually perfectionists looking for an ideal solution. They want to ensure they've made the right decision before committing to a purchase, which often leads to indecision. You may be able to help indecisive customers by showing them that you respect their decision-making process and offer advice and information that may enable them to make a more informed decision. If you respect the decisions that indecisive customers make, you show them that you value their satisfaction and want them to feel good about their choices when working with you.

Related: 11 essential customer-facing role traits and why they matter

3. Eager customers

Customers eager for a solution to their problems may pose particular challenges. They're often keen to find a solution, which makes them more likely to make a purchase or come to an agreement, but this also means that if you can't solve their problems, they may be more unhappy or likely to complain than more relaxed customers. When you're working with a customer eager to find a solution, spending more time making sure that you've helped them get closer to their goal may significantly impact their experience.

Related: Customer care vs. customer service differences explained

4. Opinionated customers

Opinionated customers have very strong opinions that they want to share with you, your colleagues or even other customers. Communicating with opinionated customers takes patience and humility, and they may respond more positively if you're able to admit mistakes that your organisation has made. Opinionated customers are more likely to share their opinions of your brand with their friends, so offering them a positive customer service experience is a high priority.

Related: How to write customer service emails (with examples)

5. Social customers

Some customers are naturally social, which means they're more likely to communicate with other customers in a physical retail space or online. Looking out for social customers may help you identify those who benefit your organisation's brand and image more by sharing their positive experiences with others. Reflect a customer's social attributes back at them by being chatty and conversational to build rapport and create positive interactions for social customers.

6. Connected customers

Connected customers spend a lot of their time online, talking to friends and using social media sites to share their experiences and opinions. Like social customers and opinionated customers, connected customers have a significant impact on your brand's image. Younger customers are more likely to be heavy social media users. As a result of their connectedness, these customers may have in-depth knowledge of your brand and its customer service record. Be open and transparent with these customers and ensure that the service you offer them is in line with brand guidelines.

Related: 10 social media tools to manage your social media presence

7. International customers

International customers include customers from other cultures and countries. They may not speak English well, which may pose additional challenges to customer service representatives. Try not to make any assumptions about the cultural background of international customers, and be patient if they don't always understand what you're explaining to them. Use simple English and repeat or reiterate important points as and when needed, but be careful not to patronise international customers who don't require any extra assistance.

8. Self-sufficient customers

Self-sufficient customers don't require a lot of help or assistance when they're shopping. They may prefer to shop by themselves than with the help of a customer service representative. If you're working in a restaurant, they may find too much attention off-putting. Try to be mindful of which customers want your assistance and which ones don't, and take a step back from those customers who are self-sufficient. Offer your assistance when they ask for it, but you might not necessarily check in on them regularly.

9. Critical customers

Critical customers may be the most challenging to deal with. They're typically perfectionists and expect your service to be just as good as it was with their previous organisation. They also spend their free time researching organisations and shopping around to find those that offer the best customer service, which means they may contact you with high expectations. To work effectively with critical customers, customer service agents accept criticism gracefully and offer potential solutions to customer complaints. The advantage of serving critical customers is that they're honest when providing feedback on your organisation.

Related: How to improve online customer service (with steps)

10. Expectant customers

Some customers expect more proactive customer service than others. This may be especially true for younger, tech-savvy customers who understand the lengths that contemporary organisations go through to attract and retain new customers. Many customers expect more personalisation and a greater effort than in the past, which may mean reaching out to customers via phone or email to check in with them after a purchase. Increase your appeal to expectant customers by keeping in touch and ensuring you meet their expectations for fast, polite and efficient customer service.

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