MBTI & CUSTOMER SERVICE

What has personality got to do with customer service? Can a sound understanding of the customers’ personality really increase the quality of interactions with them as a service provider? The answer is a resounding yes.

According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychometric assessment tool developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers to expand on ideas about personality that were first proposed by Carl Jung, all of us have innate preferences attributing to personality types. Jung asserted in his research that up to age 14, we develop our preferences in how we want to interact with the outer world, how we take in information, how we make decisions and how we enjoy closure or options. There are four dichotomies in the MBTI. The first dichotomy is Extroversion and Introversion (E and I). The second dichotomy relates to Sensing and iNtuition (S and N). The third dichotomy is about Thinking and Feeling (T and F). The final dichotomy pertains to Judging and Perceiving (J and P).

Everybody has a tendency to be either extroverted or introverted in their preferences. They can either be sensing or intuitive in the way they take in information. At the same time, everybody leans towards either the preference of thinking in their decision-making or that of feeling, that is, making decisions based on how they or other people feel. And finally, one can also primarily experience the judging characteristic, meaning that one enjoys closure, structure and getting things done, or the perceiving characteristic, which relates to a person’s preference for exploring options. Hence, the first dichotomy is about energy, the second is about information taking, the third explains decision-making methods and the final dichotomy is about how we enjoy closure with the outer world.

Imagine an extroverted service provider engaging an introverted customer. If both parties interact based on their innate preferences, this can be quite a challenging situation. An extroverted service provider tends to draw energy from interaction and will thus speak more, compared to his introverted customer. This could result in the extroverted service provider intimidating an introverted customer.

It is important for service providers to understand that both E and I have different preferences in the way they relate and draw energy from others. Hence, service providers must learn to appreciate how the ‘E’s and ‘I’s tend to react during an interaction. An extroverted service provider, when meeting a customer with the introverted preference, must allow time for the customer to reflect and respond to the questions that might be raised. He/she should allow space for the customer to have privacy and to think. In a retail situation where a customer is approached by an extroverted service provider with a loud, “Hello, how can I help you?” the energy that is exuded by the service provider could frighten off the introverted customer; given a choice, the customer would prefer to be left alone to think and not to be “intruded upon” by the series of questions posed to them. So knowing how an introverted customer would prefer to be engaged is the key to effective engagement.

To find out more about how the other three dichotomies in the MBTI can impact customer interactions, pre-order your copy of Real Service here!

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Real Service, authored by Dr. Peter Cheng, is a comprehensive and practical guide to the various behaviours at an individual, team and organisational level that impact the quality of service, angled from the holistic point of view of organisation development. The book is available for sale via this webpage and will also be in all major bookstores by mid August.

Real Service retails for SGD $28. Price excludes postage.