Meaningful, helpful and personal customer service that’s tailored to the individual is valued by everyone. Whether you’re ringing up a call centre, sending a cry-for-help via email or simply pressing the ‘Tweet’ button, the response you get can make or break your view of the company.
Ever received a generic ‘please visit our FAQ’ response via Twitter? Or maybe you’ve received an email that’s clearly a template and doesn’t actually answer your initial query? Or perhaps you’ve ended a phone call with a customer support rep with more questions than answers? It’s evident that impersonal, non-human, ‘robotic’ customer support is nothing but frustrating – so how can you ensure that these pitfalls are avoided and that your business goes one step beyond?
If you’re looking for tips to make your customer support more human then you’ve come to the right place.
Tips on more personal customer service
1. Know your product inside out – whether you’re selling a physical item or offering a service, product knowledge means a lot to your customers. If you know what you’re talking about then people will trust what you say and will be happy to hold a conversation. It’ll also make you sound like you care about the brand you’re promoting – after all, how can your customers trust you if you don’t even believe what you’re saying yourself?
2. Know your customers inside out – good customer knowledge is just as important as good product knowledge. When a customer contacts you, have their details up on screen and make an effort to understand their history with your company. Build that relationship. Knowing a bit about the customer makes them feel valued and cared for. (Just don’t creep them out by referring to their latest Instagram post.)
3. Listen, listen, listen – listen to what the customer is actually saying to you. Read or hear every single one of their words as if your life depends on it. You can’t answer queries efficiently if you don’t understand the whole story and if you’re constantly trying to read between the lines or second-guess what the customer means. Always listen actively and give your full attention – and yes, that means closing the Amazon sale/eBay auction/online game tab that you’ve got open.
4. Only use positive words – even if there’s a problem. Positive language can’t help but put the customer in a positive mood, even if they’re contacting you because they’ve forgotten their password, their product’s broken or, God forbid, you’ve made a mistake and messed something up. No matter the situation, always be polite and explain what will happen as if the glass is consistently half full – and not half empty.
5. Use discretion to go above and beyond – sometimes you have to take a hit to gain loyalty, such as giving the customer something for free or at a discounted rate, just to prove that you’re fighting their corner and want to be their friend. Small gestures can easily change an ‘I’m never using your service again’ type of customer into a ‘You’ve really made my day’ type of customer, so use this to your advantage. Nothing says personal customer service like actual, personal customer service.
6. Take it one step further – forget the minor goodwill gestures: if your customer’s having an awful day, why not do something out of the ordinary and send them something in the post or give them an extra freebie? Use social media to spot unhappy or distressed customers and contact them out of the blue with a motivational image, a voucher or a happy emoji. You’ll quickly put a smile on the customer’s face and they’ll feel truly valued as a customer.
7. Don’t play hard to get – it’s good practice to let people know your name, direct dial, personal email or other method of contact (like a Twitter handle). Don’t be an Anonymous Andy. Nothing screams ‘impersonal’ more than a message from ‘The Customer Support Team’ instead of from ‘Steve’. Your customer service will be 100 times more human if the customer can see that they’re actually talking to a human.
8. Use the customer’s name – similarly, address your customers personally whenever you speak to them to make them feel valued. However, do mind your manners, and always start with ‘Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss’ rather than jumping in at the deep end with a nickname, but certainly don’t give people an impersonal ticket number as if they’re a parcel in the Post Office.
9. Be amicable, approachable and sociable – whether you’re responding over the phone, in an email or via one of the many social media platforms, being friendly is a necessity if you want people to believe you truly care. Don’t be too cheesy and don’t be too formal – instead walk that fine line between the two and let your customers know that you’re a real person who has real thoughts and real replies.
10. Respond appropriately depending on the method of contact – you may receive a customer query through Twitter, Facebook, email, live chat, over the phone or via a myriad of other platforms, and it’s important that you have a method of response for each one. Always look to solve the problem or answer the query in-situ – don’t just direct everyone on social media to a central phone number. Instead, use different tones for different platforms. Twitter, for example, gives you 140 characters and requires a much more ‘down with the kids’ approach than live chat. You want people to see that you’re actively listening and don’t just have a presence on the platform for the sake of it.
11. Banish the cookie cutter – nothing says ‘we don’t care’ more than an auto-response message or a template email, so make sure that you always personalise your communications. If templates make things a bit quicker, then that’s great, but make sure you edit them for each customer. Use the customer’s name and add in an extra line at the end, just for them. You want each customer to feel like you’re speaking to them individually – not as if you don’t have time to respond.
12. Reply to everything – even if a response isn’t required, your customer support will come across as more human if you do. Even just a thumbs-up emoji will help to keep your company’s voice heard and will make customers aware that you’re available, ready to help and care about what they’ve said. And remember – no automated responses. You might as well not send anything.
13. Keep your promises – this is a mantra you’ve probably heard repeated to you a million times since childhood, but for good reason! If you’ve told a customer that you’ll be in touch within 2 hours, then make sure you do just that. If you’ve promised to follow up with an answer the next working day, then make it a priority. Nothing’s more stressful than – well – nothing.
14. Actually answer the phone when people ring – this suggestion is almost too obvious, but it’s one that many companies overlook. Wherever possible always avoid automated systems: ‘press 1 for this ’, ‘now press 12 for this’ and ‘now press 3 for this’. Even reading that sentence is enough to make your blood boil. Do your best to make it easy for people to speak to an actual person. Oh, and avoid leaving people on hold for 456 minutes at a time, too.
15. Use a photo in your signature – not a photo of your cat, but a photo of you. Preferably smiling. Even better if you’re having fun on holiday. Using a personal photo in your email signature makes you look like a real, trustworthy person and helps people to connect with you on an emotional level. Studies have actually proven that using a photo increases conversions so it’d be daft not to!
16. Enjoy it – if you hate your job, hate people or are having a bad day then it’ll show through your communications with customers, no matter how hard you try to hide it. It’s so important that you’re enthusiastic, willing to help and overtly friendly if you want to make a good impression and ensure your customers feel cared for. No one wants to deal with someone who can’t be bothered to be there!
Guest post by Louise Petty is a Content Author at High Speed Training, a UK based eLearning provider with a range of business themed online training courses available, such as Customer Service. She produces High Speed Training’s courses and writes for their blog, the Hub.