Forget Happiness, This Is the Top Emotion for Customer Support


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The webinar software picked the wrong time to get wonky.

My online training class started in less than 30 minutes. A client was paying good money for its employees to attend this session. Schedules had been rearranged to make it happen. There was a lot on the line.

Everything was locked and loaded just minutes earlier. Suddenly, I couldn’t log in. I placed a frantic call to technical support.

The technical support rep must have been super empowered. She skipped all of the usual items on the support checklist (“Yes, I’ve tried rebooting my computer.”) and quickly diagnosed the problem.

Now came the surprise.

The rep offered to stay on the line with me until my webinar started. She wanted to make sure everything was OK. 

I went from feeling frustrated and anxious to feeling relieved. For support teams, customer relief is much more important than happiness.

Why Relief Matters in Support

A survey of 1,345 consumers conducted by the Temkin Group discovered that relief was the most common emotion experienced after a technical support interaction.

Let’s break it down a bit.

Most technical support interactions start with some form of distress. Customers experience a problem that causes anxiety, frustration, or even anger and are counting on the technical support rep to help them fix it.

Now consider the definition of relief. My favorite comes from the Oxford Dictionary:

A feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.

It’s a big emotional swing to move from distress to reassurance. The peak-end rule in psychology tells us the emotional peak is often the most memorable part of an interaction. Ending on a big positive further cements good feelings in the customer’s memory.

So how can support teams bring more relief? Here are a few steps.

Improve the Pre-Call Experience

Many technical support teams, particularly start-ups, are guilty of intentionally making it difficult to reach a live agent.

The phone number is buried behind a wall of self-service options. Sometimes there’s no phone support at all. Even then, customers must wade through a series of questions and menus just to initiate a live chat or send an email.

This is all based on a calculation that self-support is cheaper than live support. It’s also a tactic that can backfire.

Customers are already experiencing negative emotions due to their technical issue. A struggle to get live support at a time of need only serves to amplify those feelings.

This puts relief even farther out of reach.

Now here’s the secret. Most customers don’t want to connect with live support! They too want to solve the problem on their own.

Customers look for live support when they try self-service and it fails or they believe their issue is too complicated for self-service. Smart companies get this and make it easy for customers to choose between self-service or contacting a live agent.

Quickly connecting with the help you need is a form of relief in itself.

You can still deflect unnecessary service contacts if you do it right. For example, customer service software provider Zendesk takes the live agent or self-service option to a whole new level of awesome.

Allow Agents to Build Rapport

Friendliness and empathy aren’t just nice-to-have elements of a support call.

Remember, customers contact support when they’re experiencing negative emotions. Research shows that people in that state of mind are more judgmental and less open to ideas.

That’s a toxic situation for effective support. So a support analyst who can build rapport can quickly set the stage for faster problem resolution. Which, in turn, makes it easier to bring relief.

Here are a few tactics to try:

  • Start the conversation with enthusiasm.
  • Learn the customer’s name and introduce yourself before asking for account info.
  • Listen to yourself and note times when your tone isn’t friendly.

Give Agents Space to Listen

Customers are notoriously bad at telling their story.

This causes two problems when it comes to listening. First, large support queues can make employees over-anxious to hop to a solution. That shuts down listening, which in turn can create friction.

The other problem is instinctive. Our brains naturally shut down listening when we start hearing a story we think we’ve heard before. 

Veteran agents have heard it all before, so your more experienced employees can have an even tougher time listening than your rookies.

Agents need coaching and feedback to develop effective listening skills. Try monitoring interactions to see obvious missed opportunities. Here’s an example from a written interaction.

Help get agents get listening right and you’ll speed up support resolutions and make customers feel better in the process.


The webinar software functioned normally during my client webinar.

I continued to experience other issues afterwards, issues that caused me to think about finding another provider. The only thing that kept me loyal was the memory of that outstanding support interaction.

All told, experiencing relief that day bought my webinar provider two more years worth of renewals it wouldn’t have gotten if my webinar wasn’t a success.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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