When I was a teenager I worked behind the cash register at my father’s small men’s retail store during the busiest holidays of the year, Christmas and Father’s Day. I had fun being with my dad, but more importantly, it provided an education in customer service. My father interacted with every person who came into the store.
Two key words: interact and person. He saw everyone who came into his store as a person first, a customer second. Giant malls were just a stone’s throw away, but that didn’t concern him. Neighborhood businesses, by definition, automatically think personal and are familiar with their customers. My father knew when kids were graduating from college, if a vacation was coming up, or a family moving out of town. How special to be able to connect in that way.
I’m an advocate of utilizing technology to save dollars and enhance the customer experience. Today it’s easy to purchase technology that will automate almost everything. It’s also a buyer’s market with competing customer service software offerings released almost daily. But it’s critical to not lose sight of the full picture. Customers are people first, customers second and while it’s natural to be fascinated with the latest gadget, human nature demands human connection and relationships. Technology can’t yet automate my father’s human touch.
Here are some of my suggestions for creating more meaningful customer relationships:
1. Connect First
Whenever you interact with a customer, first introduce yourself. People connect with people, not nameless, faceless robots. Then find out about their day, comment on the weather, or ask about their favorite sports team. It will fulfill the hope that they are doing business with a company that values them as an individual, more than just counting their dollars.
Remember to smile. Even if you’re on the phone, callers can hear a smile in your voice. Keep your tone warm and light.
2. Do More than Just Answer their Questions
Remove one-word responses from your vocabulary. Curt answers seem unfriendly and indicate that you want to get away from the person you’re talking to. No one wants to feel like they’re pulling teeth to get information.
When a customer asks a yes or no question, offer to follow up with more detail about your processes, products or other options. It’s a great way to build a connection.
3. Respond Quickly
When a person leaves a voicemail message or sends your company an email, respond within an hour. Even something as simple as “We just got your email. Give us a day to look into it,” will show your customer you are engaged. The longer it takes to get back to a customer, the less important the customer feels.
4. Invite Customers to Return
When a customer is ready to leave your office or store, or get off the phone with one of your staff, any associate should end with, “It would be great to see or hear from you again, let’s make that happen soon.” The words will demonstrate your company cares.
5. Tailor Scripting for New Customers
The first time someone calls or emails your company or visits your place of business they need to learn more than a regular customer. Create a checklist of items and communicate. It will help turn a first time customer into a repeat patron. In almost every business, first year attrition rates are twice as high as the overall percentage.
6. Value Your Associates
It takes time to create and build strong customer relationships. If you have associates on your staff that your customers love, make sure you love them back. When a good employee leaves to go to your competitor for a $1 per hour increase, the result is a double-whammy.
My dad welcomed people into his store just like he would welcome them into our home. Jeff Bezos of Amazon said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” Technology is enabling us to do things faster, better and cheaper, making all our lives easier. But wise companies will still consider embracing the ‘human2human’ element in every interaction. It’s a winning combination.
How do you put a human connection in customer support interactions at your business? Let us know in the comments!
Header by Abby Kahler