5 Ideas to Improve The Way You to Talk to Customers

woman working in call center

The biggest problem with the customer experience in most companies is how employees talk to customers. All too often, employees come across as indifferent, cold, uncaring, rushed or rude. This employee “attitude problem” can be the tipping point that sends customers to the competition. This attitude problem is what drives customers to tweet and blog about a poor customer experience.

The great news is, with the right training and strategy, employees can learn how to soften tones, truly convey empathy, make customers feel taken care of and even make memorable personal emotional connections with customers. Here are 5 tips to get you started on the right track for how to talk to your customers.

1. Acknowledge customer concern, when appropriate 

This helps you convey empathy and compassion and it helps you make an emotional connection

▪       “I can understand how frustrating it is when _________”

▪       “I realize how complicated it is to …..”

▪       “I cannot imagine how upsetting it is to …..”

▪       “I know how confusing it must be when….”

2. Yield to customers

Be careful not to over talk or interrupt customers. Interrupting is perceived as rude. Three pointers for yielding to customers:

  • Allow customers to finish sentences

  • If you accidentally interrupt a caller, apologize

  • Even when you know within a second or two that the call will need to be transferred, allow the caller to finish their statement before making the transfer

Here’s a 2-minute video that you can show your employees if you notice a problem with interrupting or over talking customers

3. Try not to correct customers 

Even when customers are wrong, it’s best not to correct them. Telling customers they are wrong can put them on the defensive and make interactions tense. If the matter over which the customer is wrong is not critical, try to let the little wrong slide.

4. Speak in complete sentences

When you speak in complete sentences you sound friendlier and “warmer”. Always speak in complete sentences with customers. Instead of saying, “Last name?” say “Can I please have your last name?”

Here’s a short video on the what and why of speaking in complete sentences

5. Pace your customer 

Try to meet your customer where she is and pace her needs. If your customer is asking lots of questions, sounding confused or frustrated, or continues to ask for clarification, you have an opportunity to pace. You can pace this customer by taking the time to slowly cover every detail and by checking to ensure you are clear and understood. When speaking with a customer who sounds busy or savvy, you can pace this customer by getting right to the point and giving them what they need quickly and efficiently.

Now you can give your employees even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience. Sign up for my newsletter if you don’t get it already – and learn specific tips, approaches and phrases to help your employees deliver a delightful and friendly customer experience.

My Parting Thoughts About DoubleTree’s Customer Experience

I happen to be staying at a DoubleTree Hotel and on my desk I saw this wonderful comment card. This is really a great example of how to ask customers for feedback and I’m sharing the comment card with you because I think it’s so good.

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DoubleTree warmly asks guests for “Parting Thoughts.” Guests are asked such questions as, “Did you receive a warm chocolate chip cookie at check-in?” and “Did we make you feel welcome and comfortable?” One of the 3 open-ended questions ask, “Did any of our staff go to extra effort to make your visit a good one?” It’s really clear from DoubleTree’s comment card that their focus is on creating a warm and welcoming customer experience.  

I can’t wait to give DoubleTree my feedback. Here’s why.

When I checked in, the famous DoubleTree cookies were in the oven. A few minutes after I got settled into my room, a member of the staff walked up with 3 hot chocolate chip cookies and 2 bottles of water. Last night my husband and I ordered Italian from an outside restaurant and delivery did not include utensils or napkins. I called DoubleTree room service and explained my dilemma and they immediately sent up napkins and utensils. That was a WOW, as we hadn’t even ordered from the hotel. I’d say that their staff definitely took extra effort to make my visit a good one. I’m looking forward to completing the DoubleTree comment card to let the hotel know they met and exceeded my every expectation.

How to Establish Rapport with Callers in 6 Seconds Flat

 

Female customer service representative using headset and laughing

I just got off the phone with a call center agent who is in fear of losing her job because her supervisor says her tone, attitude and approach with customers is unacceptable. she has exactly 90 days to improve — or she will be fired.

She said she found my blog when she googled how to improve your customer service skills. I wished I could be there sitting across from this young woman, who I imagine is in her early 20s, and coach her. But she’s in Los Angeles and I have a plane to catch this afternoon, heading to the east coast.

I did coach this young customer service representative, over the phone, on how to soften her approach by making sure she doesn’t over-talk customers, by using what I call a “lead-in” and by listening with the intent to understand.

We talked for nearly an hour and then I gave her a complimentary enrollment in my online learning suite. She touched me with her proactive spirit and now I am determined to help her.

After coaching this young lady, I thought it might be helpful to share with you 4 of the tips I shared with her today. Maybe these tips can help your own employees deliver a better customer experience over the telephone.
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You Get What You Celebrate (Customer Service Tip)

One of my clients asked me to deliver a keynote to kick off their Customer Service Week celebration.  Right before I took the stage, the company played audio testimonials from a few very happy and satisfied customers. The testimonials were very descriptive and quite emotional.  Each of the testimonials was about an interaction a customer had with the company’s Customer Service Team. The entire company was in attendance so this was a golden opportunity for Customer Service to shine. People from all over the company got to hear first-hand the impact the customer service team had on customers, satisfaction and the brand perception. Audience members began to smile and nod during the testimonials. At times applause broke out. I got chills as I listened to the customers and watched the audience reaction.

What a great way to kick off Customer Service Week. What a great way to celebrate great customer service. One of my former employees used to always say, “You Get What You Celebrate.” I thought about her as I listened to my client’s testimonials. I knew that each of the employees who were responsible for those heartfelt testimonials had to be filled with pride and that they’d go on to deliver more of that awesome customer service. I also knew their co-workers would be even more motivated to go out and deliver an outstanding customer experience.

You want to improve your customer experience? Why not start by celebrating what is already great about your customer experience? Share testimonial emails and letters on a bulletin board. Forward email testimonials throughout the company. Recognize employees who stand out for delighting customers. Get creative. Think out of the box. Remember, you get what you celebrate.

Be Your Own Customer for a Day

Years ago, when I worked in Consumer Affairs I found myself on the phone with a very disgruntled customer who experienced a problem with our company’s product. On top of that, he had great difficulty getting answers from our Customer Care Department when he called to complain about the problem. His first words to me were, “Have you ever called your company to experience what your customers go through?”

 Good question. Tough answer!

The bitter truth was I didn’t know exactly what my customers went through when they called to voice a complaint. Certainly, I knew the logistics of complaint handling in our department, and I knew how the processes were “supposed” to work, but what was the reality? So I went on an expedition to find out exactly what my dissatisfied customers experienced when they called the Customer Care Department. I learned a lot!

I challenge you to be your own customer for a day within the next 30 days. Here are 6 things to look for on your expedition as Customer for a Day.

  1. Call at exactly 4:55pm. Was the phone answered by a friendly, helpful voice? Were your questions answered fully, just as if it were 10:00 a.m.?
  2. Tweet about your product or brand. Does the company respond? If so, how long did it take to get a response?
  3. Call up ballistic – Be demanding and irate.  Does it end good or bad?
  4. Call during lunch or any peak period. How long do you hold?
  5. Visit your website. How customer-friendly is it? How accurate is the information on the site? Does it take too many clicks to get help? Does information seem to be hidden? Is the site useful to customers?
  6. Send a complaint email. How quick and satisfactory is the response?

Conducting this simple “customer for a day” exercise may leave you surprised or disappointed. The good news is you’ll know what your customers go through and you’ll better understand their needs and expectations. The next step is to change everything that you find unacceptable.

This blog post is an excerpt from Myra Golden’s book, Beyond WOW. Learn more about Myra’s Beyond WOW book.

>>Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless!

 

If Customer Satisfaction Is Your Goal, Don’t Ask Me to Help You!

Last month I got a call from a client wanting me to deliver a keynote address on customer satisfaction. I politely explained, “I don’t speak on customer satisfaction.” My client was shocked, as for the past 12 months I’ve been rolling out a strategic plan in her company designed to increase the bottom line by increasing customer retention and by building a customer recovery strategy. I went on to explain 4 reasons why I, as a fierce customer loyalty advocate, don’t speak on customer satisfaction.

1. Customer satisfaction means NOTHING these days. The truth is, today’s customers expect mediocre service. Apathy is expected. Late is expected. Problems are expected. No follow-through is expected. As long as companies don’t g o below these very low expectations, customers are satisfied.

2. Customer satisfaction = “Sufficient or Adequate Service.”  When a company achieves “customer satisfaction” what it’s really achieved is

getting customers to feel that the service is adequate or sufficient—that it wasn’t horrible. The customer’s expectations, typically very low expectations, were met. That’s all customer satisfaction means.

3. Customers report being “satisfied” only because their expectations are so low and because no one else is doing any better.

4. Satisfied customers are not your customers. They’re just with you until they find something better.

I concluded that I do speak on and help my clients build customer loyalty. Customer satisfaction is a feeling…a feeling that low expectations have been met. Customer loyalty, on the other hand, is a set of behaviors that produce revenue.

  • Loyal customers by definition don’t defect.
  • Loyal customers reward the company by buying from you again and again.
  • Loyal customers buy other products or services in your line.
  • Loyal customers tell people in their network about your company (referrals). – That is, they actually market for you and word-of-mouth advertising is the most persuasive form of advertising.

I urge you to stop striving for high customer satisfaction and focus on delivering truly outstanding service and building a profitable base of loyal customers. Satisfied customers will give you a “good” ranking on a survey today and leave you for the competition tomorrow. Loyal customers return again and again, recommend your company often and significantly add to your bottom line!