Welcome back to my ‘The Modern Customer Service Culture’ series. Today, I will be following on from last weeks post to discuss customers feelings further and why customer service departments should get back to basics and accept that emotion is key to maintaining quality relationships, encouraging return business and enhancing overall satisfaction.
It’s a long held understanding amongst brand strategists that emotions are in fact the foundations of the decision making process. People are for the most part, NOT logical when making their choices. This doesn’t mean that logic doesn’t come into it, of course people (myself included) will consider their options but, pros and cons taken into consideration the way the feel will guide the way. Brand strategists utilise this knowledge in order to market the company that they represent
A perfect example of this is the impulse buy shelves at the tills in supermarkets. That’s right, strategists know there is absolutely no reason anyone NEEDS these items in their lives so they specifically target the ‘want’ nature of the impulsive, emotional purchase crowd.
In my experience one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to customer service is that it doesn’t start until AFTER the purchase.
I personally disagree. Customer service runs through every single aspect of a company from concept of idea (oooh this has potential, who will want it, why will they want it, what will make them want it more than x,y & z etc.) to commercial purchasing (will this material work, will it mean we can keep our costs down and provide value to consumers, how long will it last) to sales (how do we show the customer it’s right for them, how do we make this deal appealing, how can we ensure satisfaction to close the sale)
We endeavour to tap into the customers emotions from the very start of a project, before there are even real life customers at all. As businesses we do this in order to ensure a profitable and satisfying outcome. We consider how we can produce for customers to buy, how to sell for them to buy and how to keep them happy for good reviews, recommendations and repeat business.
So, why am I yakking on at you about what appear to be sales and marketing?
When you engage a customer in the process of buying whatever it is you’re selling you begin the process of building trust.
According to it’s definition trust is having a sense of reliability, truth, or ability in/of someone or something. It’s a feeling and it is something that too often appears* to be forgotten once money has changed hands.
So lets break it down, if you trust a person or a company and associate an experience with them with a positive feeling. One of trust and consideration, you are more likely to return to that same experience. You are also more likely to unintentionally advertise by simply advocating it when the conversation turns to that subject.
Equally, if you associate an experience with a negative feeling you will avoid doing it again. It’s also commonly believed that the reach of a customers dissatisfaction is twice that of a happy customer and that people are more likely to seek out vocalising their disappointment in ways that reach as many people as possible. Think Facebook/Trust Pilot/Twitter/Instagram etc. (Social media and its affect on customer service will be a topic later in the series)
There are so many tools out there that analyse the modern customer experience. Being UK based I felt I wanted to share a statistic from the UKCSI report issued in January 2018. I believe this not only validates my points above in small part but sadly I think any consumer, if giving it sustained thought, will not find at all surprising:
“For the first time, the number of organisations whose customer satisfaction has dropped by at least two points has overtaken the number of those that have improved by two points. Hardly any organisations that featured amongst the most improved for customer satisfaction a year ago have maintained their performance.”
Considering the emotional impact of the reason they are contacting you is the first step to stopping this trust wobble from becoming a downward slope. Most people appreciate that things don’t always go to plan, they do however, expect to be treated fairly, with respect and that any actions taken thereafter are prompt, in line with the issue in hand and clearly communicated.
I will only ever use my own experiences to reflect my opinions and below is an example of one that I believe represents this point.
Years ago I worked in the customer service department of a global online retailer specialising in swimwear and lingerie. There was a customer that had called many a time and seemed to be, for want of a better phrase, a time waster. She would ask you to help her look up bras, her sizing was never the same, the styles were extremely different and she would never quite nail anything down. She would call on weekends and would take you through a 40 minute call before ending it and not purchasing anything.
Nobody wanted to take a call from her.
One Saturday I picked up the phone, I was in a great mood and I answered the call with a smile on my face and an upbeat demeanour. I answered with the company spiel and let the customer talk for a minute or so. I’ll be honest, I had been laughing at a joke by a colleague and needed a moment. I unintentionally gave the customer time to talk and in doing this I picked up on 2 things. 1, she was nervous as all get out and 2, she really didn’t know what she wanted and this was stressful to her.
I decided to take my time and find out why. I tried to appreciate what may make someone feel those things and so I offered up that I used to find it difficult to shop for underwear – I was embarrassed. That I had always been uncomfortable looking in real life shops and yet found online shopping so confusing because back then I just didn’t understand the sizes well.
As I said this I actually heard a sigh of relief, she said everyone was always polite when she called but she just felt like they couldn’t be bothered, that she was a nuisance. I was the first person that appreciated how hard this was for her.
As it turns out she was housebound as she was extremely large following medical treatment. She was no longer able to fasten a bra at the rear and felt unattractive and judged. She hadn’t been in a clothes shop, let alone a lingerie shop in years and had no confidence. She had persisted with our company because (at the time) we were the only online retailer that did such a large selection of bras in the size she thought she required.
Within 25 minutes she had placed her first order with us and around 4 weeks later I received a rose and a lovely thank you note. Not because I’d suddenly given her a new lease of life or the bras were perfect (some didn’t fit and she had to return them) but because I had listened and treated her like a human being. I had understood the impact this issue had on her and I had adjusted my tone and responses accordingly.
I tell you this not because I have a perfect history in terms of providing customer service. I certainly haven’t always gotten it right. I tell you this because often emotional responses are actually a result of many emotional experiences your customer is having in their wider life, things you are not able to account for nor control.
Therefore, the key is to accept that and to allow your customer to feel these things without being undermined by your company policy or process. They will speak to you about how this issue has impacted on them, and by simply creating a safe space for open dialogue you will take the first step to supporting your customers in a human and connective way, allowing them to share their feelings of the experience goes a long way to maintaining the trust they had delicately started to build and also to ensuring that the outcome is informed, considered and well communicated.
Can you think of a time when you didn’t get the result you wanted but you felt appreciated none the less? This is the kind of service that you should always aim for.
Thanks for reading,