My first job out of college was working customer service for a software company. My days were filled almost exclusively with phone and email conversations with customers. So it came as a bit of a shock when a customer knocked on the door of our office, cash in hand, ready to pay their bill. Not having a process in place to handle such encounters, I can recall us scrambling, not knowing what to do.
I know — for all of our customer service cousins out there working in customer-facing roles like retail and hospitality — this is well-deserving of a collective eye roll. At a very basic level, this is a customer, money-in-hand, offering to use our service. What’s there to be scared of? This is precisely why our business exists.
Amid this season of all things spooky and scary (Halloween), this got me thinking of those encounters with companies where there seems to be an impenetrable wall between the company and the customers on the other side. You as a customer are standing there, wallet open, and no one seems to want your business. Now that’s scary!
In this article, I’ll share five easy ways you can tear down that wall and treat your customers to better experiences.
1. Respond to a few channels well. Not all channels poorly
One of the scariest things about contacting a company is not knowing if or when they will contact you back. In the spirit of getting a response, what do customers do? They call, email, chat, text, and any number of other possible options they can find, all at once, to try reach a company. And many companies misinterpret this spike in volume as customer demand for the latest, new customer service channels.
The reality, however, is that the majority of customers are thrilled to contact your company one time on a single channel if they can reliably receive an answer within a reasonable amount of time. Make it your focus keep your customer support channel mix simple and do them all well.
2. Always pay attention to social media
Have you ever reached out to a company on social media and heard crickets? I can rattle off several brands that absolutely do not respond to genuine concerns I’ve raised. But in this day and age, our customers are on social media, and inevitably, they are talking about us. It’s our choice as to whether or not we will join the conversation.
Now, at your company, perhaps a person from marketing handles social media and they are unsure how to handle customer complaints and questions. This is where marketing and customer support need to work together to make sure these customers are supported. And while some business owners may wrestle with the fear of becoming the next company to go viral for the wrong reasons, not responding at all may just result in far greater damage to your brand.
3. Ask AND listen to customer feedback
Similar to social media, how many times has a company asked you for your feedback — possibly after an interaction with customer service — and after completing the survey you heard nothing from them? You might as well be speaking into a black hole. It happens all of the time and is the equivalent of asking someone a question and not listening to their answer.
At NumberBarn, we send our customers a survey any time a ticket is closed and ask them to rate their experience. Not only do we actively read every response, but our customer support team is empowered and expected to reach back out to customers to resolve any unresolved issues and learn how we can improve in the future.
4. Be refreshingly human
Is anyone afraid robots might overtake planet earth? Similar to virtual assistants like Siri (Apple) and Alexa (Amazon), companies are attempting to use chatbots to accomplish simple tasks previously completed by humans. I’m all for this if the bot can correctly and efficiently answer the customer’s questions. Where this can get a bit sticky is when a bot doesn’t properly transfer a customer who requires human assistance.
In an air of distrust, the customer asks, “Is John or Jane Contact Center Agent on the other end of the line in fact, human?” That’s why it’s so important when you are interacting with your customers that you flaunt the fact that you’re a person. Recognize that the customer has probably already attempted to solve their issue — perhaps even scouring your knowledge base for answers — so the last thing they want to do is interact with a computer.
That why it’s not so bad to ask the customer where they’re going on vacation or the name of the dog they’re posing within their profile picture. Make a meaningful connection with them. It shows that there’s a pulse on the other end of that email, who’s there to help, and can quite possibly empathize with what the customer is going through.
5. Take care of the people caring for customers
I have a quote on my wall from Jan Carlzon that says, “If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.” Truly, everyone at all levels in any organization is in the business of customer service. The work they produce and the way they treat their colleagues eventually has a downstream impact on customers.
As a rule of thumb, the more you listen to the people serving your customers, value their feedback, and empower and equip them to do their job well, the better they will care for your customers.
Each of these five tips I’ve covered, if not carefully followed, can indeed result in a downright scary time for your customers. On the flipside, incorporate these tips and treat your customers to terrific experiences.
And finally, we’re not all talk. We are truly passionate about our customers at NumberBarn. Our Help Center is packed with helpful information and our team of humans is ready and eager to connect with you. Reach out to us any time.