There are five controllable behaviors that can send customers running. Sometimes they are so prevalent, and in many cases seemingly so minor, they go overlooked. Let's talk about each of the five and offer some thought points that will help you step back and objectively evaluate any gaps that may exist in your organization.
Regardless of the reasons people exhibit rudeness or are short with customers, when your customer-facing employees act unkind or impolite, customers are left with a sour taste about your company and your brand. This chips away at your relationship with them over time, and all it takes is one simple mistake, delay or minor incident that breaks that customer's trust, and then they're gone for good.
Consider these things to help support an environment for your team to exhibit the most polite behaviors to reflect your company's brand and commitment to the customer:
- Are there internal processes that interfere with or impact employees in such a way that frustrates them or creates an attitude of resignation?
- Are teams properly staffed and not overworked?
- Are teams being properly supported by management?
- Do your teams have the proper technology and/or equipment to do their job?
- Do your teams understand that being rude to customers (and to coworkers) is unacceptable and have you given them proper training (or performance management) to perform better?
Demonstrate Good Phone Etiquette
Many customers are never met in person but engaged with over the phone. Be it a call center handling customer orders, help desk or reservations, the bulk of customer impressions are formed over the phone. Everyone hates getting trapped in computerized response systems, and having to properly enunciate "customer service rep" so we are directed to a real human who can help us. Be that real human once you get a customer on the phone. Look at these avenues for improving your team's phone interactions with customers:
- Test your own interactive voice response system yourself. Experience what your customers experience when you call in to accomplish specific, yet simple, requests.
- Return calls to customers and to coworkers and staff. Being polite to your fellow team member has a direct impact on how he or she will treat a customer down the line.
- Assess your phone policies and make sure all of your team is following the same procedures to create a consistent experience for your customers.
Quickly Respond to Complaints and/or Inquiries
Customers hate to be ignored or even feel like they're being ignored, so don't ignore them. Often we get caught up in the process of getting an answer for a customer, and neglect to respond to them until we have the answer they seek. This is unacceptable, because the customer has no understanding of why you're not responsive. Don't leave them in a vacuum of not knowing what's going on. Be clear, manage expectations and partner with your customer by communicating clearly and often.
- Create systems and dedicated staff to respond to customers in a consistent, specified time frame.
- Make sure that all avenues for customer inquiry are being covered, from social media channels to help desk tickets.
- Have a process to handle inflammatory messages or deal with customers who have reached a critical level of irritation. Help that customer reach satisfaction and processes in place that empower your team to do so.
Listen Attentively and with Care
To some degree, we all can be blamed for poor listening skills, but when it comes to customer interactions, listening attentively and with care builds relationships. Customers expect organizations to listen, ask questions, and truly hear what they need. Here are a few tips to improve customer listening:
- Train your team to know how to listen at all customer touchpoints.
- Act on feedback you request from them, whether during an annual survey or post-purchase experience check-in.
- When listening, clarify, ask questions, manage expectations, tell them what you're going to do, do it, and then acknowledge them at every step.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up.
Provide One-Stop Solutions
With the incorporation of technology, more sophisticated systems and efficient operations, customers expect their problems to be solved in one step. They don't want to be shuffled around from one department to another, or to have to repeat their problem to a series of people until they get the right person who is equipped to solve it. They expect to have their issue dealt with in one step, quickly and completely. Consider these aspects to increase your one-step solutions for customers:
- How empowered is your organization to address and fix your customer's problems in one phone call or visit?
- Can you dedicate one staff member or one team of representatives to satisfy a customer's needs?
- Are you able to create a seamless experience for all customer inquiries or complaints?
- Are your teams empowered to facilitate solutions as they support other departments or teams?
- Is there an escalation process in place that empowers customer-facing people to aid in the solution process?
All in all, keeping these five common customer-facing behaviors in check will go a long way to building lasting loyalty and advocates of your company's brand.