By Richard Sprott
How your customers feel makes the difference between lost business and loyal returning. If a customer has persistently negative emotions when they’re dealing with you, it’s unlikely they will want to continue having a professional relationship with you.
When someone decides to call customer support, it’s generally because something’s gone wrong with a product or service. They are already at a heightened level of emotion, and probably experiencing a great degree of frustration. They want to be listened to, taken seriously and assured that the problem they’re facing is understood and will be resolved as quickly as possible. They don’t want to be told that they’re wrong, or made to feel stupid.
Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and customer services people don’t always behave with the level of accountability that customers are expecting. Getting to understand how customers feel on the phone to you is a vital technique in customer service, and developing strong listening skills is the first step.
Customer Service is Marketing
Customer service is marketing, and marketing is entirely based on emotions. You must be highly aware of the impact your interactions have on a customer’s emotions. No matter what impression your marketing team may be working hard to cultivate, a customer’s experience with your people has far more of an impact and if it’s a bad experience, no number of discounts, adverts or ‘deals’ will convince them.
However, the key difference between customer service and marketing is that marketing works in a company-led manner, where your company speaks directly to customers without expecting a response. Customer service works the other way: customers guide the interaction and expect to be completely listened to. However, they also expect an efficient and appropriate response.
Making the customer feel valued, important and cared for is integral to good customer service (as well as good brand representation).
Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply
As Stephen Covey, author of ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ says: “Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply”. This means that you don’t interrupt or patronise a customer, and you give them space to vent how they are feeling. If they have been waiting a while to speak to a representative, it’s best to give people the space to cool down before jumping in.
Although interrupting is bad, listening isn’t about just staying silent either. When you’re on the phone to someone, the only assurance they have that you are acknowledging them is when you provide audible sounds that you heard what they said. Think about it: when was the last time you found yourself tuning out of what someone was saying because you were already busy figuring out what you wanted to say in response?
The second your brain derails into thoughts about what you will say, you cease to listen properly. The only reason to guarantee that you’re not doing this, and that you are focused on them, is to provide small verbal responses.
A problem shared is a problem halved
Although you may be nowhere near resolving a customer complaint, accepting that you are taking responsibility for it and doing what you can is reassuring. In this sense, you must make sure to accurately convey the customer’s issues to any other members of staff or departments that the customer is transferred to. Forcing them to go over it all again with a new person will only cause the initial feelings of frustration to arise as they remember the problem, and will also make them feel like you weren’t listening in the first place. It makes a big difference if you take notes of a customer’s problem and pass them on for them.
If you’re going to work in partnership with the customer, and want to show that you are keen to develop a relationship with them, tell them your name. Don’t be anonymous. It gives a human face to the organisation and empowers the customer to get back in touch with you at a later date if they face further problems. Everyone likes a familiar face.
Customer support is the backbone of all businesses and strong listening techniques are vital to ensuring your customers are happy with you. Don’t waste business opportunities by neglecting how your customers may be feeling, failing to listen to them properly or not doing your best for them.
Customer service is marketing and it’s vital to get the right message out about how your company treats people – after all, they’re the ones paying you!
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