This article originally appeared on the ICMI Blog on February 14, 2017. Yes it’s a Valentine’s Day post but you can put these into practice all year long. Click here to read the original.
I’m a little ashamed to admit that my first Valentine’s Day with my wife, Alicia some 19 years ago, looked a bit different than it does today. For example, I wrote her a song that first year and sadly don’t have a 19-song greatest hits album to show for it. That being said, we love and appreciate each other today more than ever.
I can remember as a contact center leader speaking with a customer once who had serious concerns about our company. My response was to offer him a credit along a whole lot of empathy for the inconvenience we had caused him. His response was, “Keep your money. I really just want to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
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I’ve reflected on that encounter many times and wondered if truly showing our customers that we love them looks a bit more practical than the WOW we so often hear about across the interwebs. I’d like to propose six rather unromantic ways to love customers that I’ve learned from 15 or so years of serving customers and 19 years with my Valentine.
1. Listen Attentively
If I had to pick one key to a lasting relationship, I’d choose listening. It’s one thing to “listen” to my wife while staring at my smart phone. It’s another thing entirely to set aside all distractions, lean forward, and really process what she’s saying.
Here are a few ways to show your customers that you’re really listening:
Understand the Issue– Teach your contact center agents to really listen. They should be able to quickly diagnose issues and efficiently connect customers with the right solutions.
Share Customer Pain Points– Help your agents look and listen for pain points in the customer experience. Have clear ways in place for them to share those insights with leadership so action can be taken to improve those issues.
Respond to Dissatisfied Customers– If you have a customer feedback survey, demonstrate that you’re listening by actually reading the feedback, consistently responding to customers, and taking action. Here are some tips that can help you get started.
2. Admit to and Learn from Your Mistakes
I’d love to say that my relationship with my wife has always been smooth sailing. I’ve said and done plenty over the years to get myself into trouble. Even worse, I’ve compounded issues by making excuses or getting defensive.
Here are a few things to remember when mistakes happen:
Compensate– Be prepared to offer compensation for the inconvenience that was caused. You should equip your agents with a handful of tools at their disposal to make things right with customers when something goes wrong.
Restore Trust– Be aware that the real question in the customer’s mind is whether this is going to be a regular occurrence or not. They want to know whether or not your product or service can be trusted for the long term.
Improve your Service– Show your customers that you love them by admitting to issues and proving to them with your actions that you’re working to fix and prevent those issues in the future.
3. Do the Chores
No one likes doing chores, but my wife and I both do our fair share of laundry, dishes, cooking, and a variety of other things that make our household run smoothly.
Here are a few chores that will really tell customers you love them:
Be Responsive– It goes without saying that consistently responding to customers on the channel that they contact you on is essential to a lasting relationship. This means it’s important to staff properly and find ways to be more and more efficient.
Take Notes– There’s some due diligence that’s essential in any customer interaction. One important step is making sure that your agents keep good records in your CRM so if customers must contact you again, the next agent knows about the previous interaction.
Take Security Seriously– Things like PCI compliance and HIPAA aren’t necessarily fun, but they are a reality in many contact centers. Security exists for the protection of our customers and therefore it’s essential that we’re informed and that we don’t compromise.
4. Spend Quality Time Together
Quality time in any relationship doesn’t simply mean spending time together. It also means not wasting each other’s time. Time is extremely valuable and we must never take that for granted.
Here are a few ways to spend quality time with customers and not waste their time:
Prioritize Self-help– Remember that your customers don’t actually want to contact you in most cases. If you dig deep enough into the reasons they contact you, you’ll likely find that the contact could have been prevented by improving your user interface or adding more information to your knowledge base.
Value First Contact Resolution– Quit prioritizing metrics like average handle time above first contact resolution (FCR). Whether you track FCR or not, your overarching value should be to equip your agents with the resources, training, and time to be able to resolve customer issues on the first interaction. Check out this rich discussion on FCR.
Connect with customers– When you do interact with customers, make it a pleasant experience. I’m not necessarily saying you need to WOW them, but a friendly, human to human interaction that’s tailored to the customer’s situation can make a real difference.
5. Invest in Improvements
I cringe to think about what my relationship with my wife would be like had I not worked on becoming a better husband, father, and human over the past 19 years. I have countless books, mentors, and life experiences to thank for this improvement.
Applied to customers, you can really demonstrate your love for them by learning and evolving as well. Here are a few areas to place your focus:
Artificial Intelligence– There are so many new technologies hitting the customer service marketplace designed to make customer service more accurate and efficient. Here are some I’ve written about recently.
Omni-channel– If you offer customer service on multiple channels like phone, email, chat, and social media, and each of those systems requires a separate login for your agents, it’s time to invest in technology that integrates all of these into a central system (Like Zendesk or Salesforce). The goal should be one conversation with the customer even if they move to more than one channel during its course.
Customer Feedback– Seth Godin famously says, “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” Simply put, if you’re listening to your customers and understanding their priorities and needs, you’ll naturally evolve with them.
6. Love Your Kids
My relationship with my wife has only grown as we’ve raised our kids together — and feel free to lump your furry family members in here if you’d like. Applied to the contact center, I would never actually refer to my agents as my kids or pets, but for the sake of analogy, here’s what I mean.
Quite possibly the best and most important way to love your customers is to love your agents first. Take a look at the first five points in this article and apply them to your customer service team. Contact center leaders should always aim to treat their agents exactly the way they want their customers to be treated.
While you’re at it, go ahead and add some Valentine’s Day stuff like notes of appreciation, flowers, balloons, fun activities, and free food to the mix and you have a perfect recipe for lasting relationships — first with your agents, then with your customers.