Are your customer service people adding value to interactions?

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The night before a workshop I delivered last week in Charleston, SC I called the Mellow Mushroom for delivery. I removed cheese and meat from my appetizer, salad, and entree. (It sounds like I ate a lot! I did.) The man on the phone asked, “Are you vegan?” To that, I said, “Yes, I am.” “Me too,” he said. He then went on to explain that my Quinoa burger included a little egg as a binding and he wanted to know if that was okay. I was fine with that. From there we chatted about us both being “flexible vegans.”

The simple inquiry, “Are you vegan?” led to rapport-building conversation and such a friendly and unique experience for me. The man was friendly. He was genuine. He made me feel completely comfortable with my many customizations. And he gave me an engaging and genuine interaction.

Are your people adding value to your company through their interactions with customers?

Your employees can add value to the customer experience by doing 3 things: Making personal connection, Acknowledging concern, and Empathy

1. Making Personal Connection

This is what the man at Mellow Mushroom did, and it’s so easy to do. In my workshops, I tell people to look for something they can comment on, something perhaps that they have in common with the customer. For example, a customer service agent could say, “I ordered that exact same duffle for my daughter. She’s in cheer as well and she loves that she can throw all of her outfits and makeup in it and easily carry the bag over her shoulder.” This sharing helps create rapport because it’s genuine – and it just might lead to a sell or up-sell.

2. Acknowledge Concern

One of my clients is a government agency and this agency can only accept complaints in written format. “Customers” can call the toll-free number to start the complaint process, but a lengthy form must be completed in order to file a complaint. You can imagine how upset customers can become upon hearing this. I instructed my client to acknowledge customer concern when delivering this news. I suggested they say something like, “I realize this is frustrating – an extra step you don’t want to take.” and then go on to give instructions on how to file the complaint. This acknowledgment shows customers that the agency can relate to the frustration and inconvenience. Not only that, we are finding that these acknowledgment phrases are helping to soften customers.

How to Talk to Customers: Friendliness, Tone & Connection – Live webinar I’m hosting on April 5, 2017. Attend live or get the recording, which my office sends out within 4 hours of the event.

3. Empathy

Have you heard of Blue Apron? It’s a grocery delivery service, basically. You get recipes and perfectly proportioned ingredients sent to you and all you have to do is whip up gourmet meals in your kitchen.

The first time I tried Blue Apron, my food box came with a little problem. My bag of lentils had a small hole in it and the lentils spilled.

I emailed Blue Apron that morning, and two hours later this is the response I got:

Thanks for reaching out about this issue, Myra.

I’m so disappointed to hear that your lentils spilled during transit. I hate to think that you won’t be able to fully enjoy your meals, and had this mess to clean.

I’ve sent your feedback over to my Quality team -and this feedback will help us ensure that this won’t happen in the future.

I wish I could help clean this up myself, however, as an apology, I’ve applied a credit for $19.98 toward a future order. To see this credit reflected on your account, you can click on the calendar date for your upcoming order in the “Delivery Schedule” section of the “My Account” page on our website.

I know this isn’t the same as receiving a perfect shipment in the first place. However, I hope it can still give us the chance to show you a better experience.

Thanks for cooking with us,


Blue Apron Customer Experience Team

Tori’s reply to me is the perfect example of empathy. Her expression of empathy overshadowed the problem of spilled lentils and I eagerly returned as a customer, based in no small part, on my empathic experience from Tori.

Work with your employees on personal connection, acknowledgment, and empathy. These 3 things are game-changers in your customer experience.

And if you’re ever stuck on how to help your employees with empathy, connection or acknowledgment, I designed a 10-course customer service eLearning suite based on these 3 pillars. Here’s a quick video where I talk about the customer service eLearning training.

I also teach these 3 pillars in my onsite training. In fact, as soon as I hit publish on this blog post, I’m going to do a run-through of an onsite workshop I’ll be delivering in Toronto on Friday.