Good customer service is key to retaining customers, and the stats back it up; it means a increase in net promoter score (or NPS, which answers “how likely are you to recommend this company to a friend?”) and 89% of consumers saying they are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience.
And for fast-growing startups that rely on revenue, traction, and standing out in crowded markets to scale, keeping customers happy can mean life or death for their business.
“If you’re in tech, you probably have a competitor who can do something similar,” says Pedro Muller, director of startup innovation at a software company. Intercom. “But the relationships you build in the service you provide, and the way you communicate with your customers and build your relationship with them, is something unique to your business – which is harder to copy.”
So how do you go beyond the conversation to build meaningful customer relationships? We asked a psychotherapist, a PR crisis expert, and a client communications software company for their top tips.
Make your customer feel heard
You’re a founder focused on scaling your business – resources are limited and your customer service team is small. All of a sudden, your product breaks down and you’re inundated with customer complaints. What are you doing?
While it’s tempting to look for a quick fix, not taking the time to hear a customer complaint first can mean escalating anger.
Jennie Miller is a UK based psychotherapist, couples counsellor, trainer, supervisor and author. She tells Sifted that whatever the nature of the relationship, listening is key in times of crisis.because it makes us feel valued, loved and thought of. To feel heard in a crisis is to experience that the other sees our anguish, our wounds, our frustrations. It validates our feelings and our experience,” she says. “It can also help defuse those feelings.”
For Muller, this is particularly relevant for customer service teams, since most agents have to deal with crisis situations. After all, customers don’t often call to tell you how well your product works.
“TTo feel heard in a crisis is to live the experience of the other by seeing our anguish, our wounds, our frustrations. It validates our feelings and our experience.”
“Most of the time people contact customer service agents, they don’t contact them to compliment them or say anything nice,” he says. “So they need to be able to work on a crisis mindset and understand how to interact with customers on an issue and make sure they are heard.”
Many fast-growing tech companies have managed to get by without Customer service or only automated options as they focus on bringing products to market quickly. But that could lead to deadly customer churn.
And while many start-ups can’t afford a large customer service team, it’s still important that they are able to provide personalized support, whether it’s live chat, interactive presentations products or tracking abandoned messages. This means investing in tools that can supplement a small human team.
“Most of the time people contact customer service agents, they don’t contact them to compliment them or say anything nice”
Making a customer feel heard is only the first step; the goal of customer service is to provide an answer – a shoulder to cry on first, but then an answer.
“The old adage that a problem halved is a problem halved is true,” says Miller. “By being heard and expressing our feelings, we can then free our own thinking and that then helps us deal with the situation.”
Now focus on fixing the problem in question. “You can be there, be there to hear them, but if you’re not solving their problems, you’re not solving the crisis,” Muller says. “Be able to hear them to ensure you get the right information you need to provide the help you expect.”
It’s all about context
Customer support can be done through different channels – from live chat to email and WhatsApp. Being flexible in what you can offer your clients is key to meeting them where and when they feel most comfortable.
“The secret to customer experience is in context,” says Muller, adding that it means communicating to the customer when they need a solution, not before or after.
For example, if a customer sends a message through your company’s chatbot, you should respond to them through that same channel. Don’t email him an answer four hours later. “As a business, you just need to communicate with users when they need you most, rather than out of context, out of time, and on a different channel,” he says.
Software like Intercom helps with this because it allows customers to communicate with businesses when they need to, using whatever channel they are most comfortable with.
“The secret to customer experience is in the context”
“Over the years, we’ve evolved to create software to help customers engage better,” says Muller. “The operating system allows companies to create more personal communication with their customers through different channels: chatbots, emails, in-product messages, banners, notifications, WhatsApp, SMS…”
Customer service should not only be reactive. For larger, ongoing technical issues, or if your small team can’t respond immediately, Miller suggests reaching out and letting the customer pick a time when they’re able and willing to communicate.
“Ask the person if you can have five or 10 minutes of their time rather than opening up a conversation when they’re not really available,” she says. “It may mean you have to be patient and wait, but it’ll be a better outcome than trying to talk to them when they’re busy or just trying to get out.”
If a product or service issue is ongoing, or if an issue arises out of the blue and has a personal impact – take downed payment systems, for example – it’s especially important to be proactive in reaching out to customers. . Tim Toulmin is managing director of Alder, a crisis communications agency that also specializes in reputation management. He tells Sifted that in cases like these, it’s important for companies to communicate regularly and with clarity about what happened.
“They must remember the four Rs: remorse, comfort, reward and recovery.
“There are many different types of crises that can hit businesses and they require different responses…Consumers are more concerned when a crisis affects them personally,” he says. “Companies need to communicate regularly and clearly about what happened. They should remember the four Rs: remorse, reassurance, reward and recovery, which explain how clients will be compensated or how and when things will return to normal. »
And using customer service software can help put that into action, Muller says, because it can enable proactive communication through things like product message banners and pop-up messages.
“When I want to communicate with my customer and be proactive about a new feature or an event that we want to inform them about, we can react,” he says. “We can contact them proactively.”
Remember the human side
For Toulmin, companies often miscommunicate with their customers when they focus too much on their own communication activities and miss the human element.
Muller agrees: “We believe that all business on the Internet should be personal,” he says. “The coldest message a brand can respond to you is very formal, and it’s not what kind of business they are or what kind of business they’re in.”
That’s why Muller says Intercom tries to make customer communications feel like messaging a friend, using similar platforms like WhatsApp.
“Why does this action have to be any different, if it means it doesn’t come naturally to you or the person on the other side?” he asks. “We believe in removing the friction of this bad technology and empowering people to communicate better on a personal level.”
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