Having great customer interactions is the key to a successful business. The point of talking to customers isn’t only about avoiding negative language but providing helpful advice with the right tone. Customer expectations change over time, and some businesses need to adapt even further to cater to rising customer demands. This guide aims to provide you with options for learning and practicing, and it’s available for free so that you can return to it anytime.
So, what are the top things you need to know to achieve the most satisfying customer communication? Let’s start with the introduction to customer communication and the essentials you should know before you dive into advanced topics.
What is customer communication, and why is it important?
In simple terms, customer communication refers to all interactions with customers in the business world. So basically, any type of direct or indirect communication, conversation, message, tooltip, and even an error page can qualify as customer communication in some way or the other. You’re not wrong if you think that communication with customers concerns not only customer support agents. It also concerns most other specialists who work on stuff that is meant to be read, seen, heard, touched, or otherwise perceived by customers. It includes passionate graphic designers, focused marketers, salespeople who love quoting Dale Carnegie, and others.
Communication with customers is anything that helps you attract customers to engage in conversations or buy your products or services. Therefore, learning how to create a delightful communication experience is a vital skill that needs to be learned and practiced. This article focuses on written and oral communication within a help desk environment because most people find a lot of the pain points in customer service.
Why is customer communication the key to better relationships with customers?
Well, the answer is fairly obvious. If your communication is terrible, your company gets lousy feedback from customers, which doesn’t lead to customer satisfaction. As a result, your business won’t grow, and your brand won’t be able to build better customer relationships. Also, you probably won’t sell a whole lot of your products or services. Sometimes all it takes is one unhappy customer with a keyboard, and your brand can say goodbye to many future interactions with new customers.
So, how to make sure this won’t happen to you and how to make sure every customer conversation you make is a successful conversation?
The answer is pretty simple, but before I give it away, I have a question for you.
What was the worst customer service experience you have ever had with an employee?
If you ever had one, you surely remember how it went and how you felt afterward. Maybe the representative never used positive language and acted without respect for you. Perhaps they never went through a proper customer service training program and never learned how to handle your situation. Maybe they simply had too much going on in their personal life, or perhaps they just didn’t sleep well the night before (any employee is just a human being, after all). Whatever the reason, you have definitely noticed what grinds your gears. This leads us to an essential aspect of customer service that will help you create a special connection to customers.
Empathy in customer service
Empathy is the main ingredient in making almost any customer a happy customer. It can help you to build personal relationships with any potential customer. In some cases, incredible customer experiences might require hearing not only what the customer is saying on the surface level but to figuring out exactly what it means on a deeper level.
This type of customer dialogue can become a complex process so let’s deconstruct it.
Let’s say you get customer feedback that contains less positive language and looks like it has been written by an angry 14-year old whose parents refused to buy him clothing from [insert a name of the most popular teenage clothing brand in the year you’re reading this article]. Your task is to find out what went wrong and engage in customer dialogue you know won’t be easy.
You contact the customer, and they say something like, “I bought your [extra amazing space-age product name] and that @#$%&! thing won’t do what it’s @#$%&! supposed to do, I want my money back right away. I contacted your customer support twice already, I went through a long process of item return, and they gave it back, broken like it already @#$%&! was!”
Boy, this customer is angry…
Luckily, you are about to learn how to be more emphatic to customer needs, and you will know how to deal with any customer type on the way.
Here’s the obvious…
- The customer bought a product, and it stopped working in some way sooner than expected.
- The customer has already contacted support twice.
- The customer already tried to return the item after unsuccessfully trying to get it fixed or replaced.
- The customer is fed up and decides to give bad customer feedback.
- The customer wants their money back.
- The reason why the customer is angry is because of terrible support.
Here’s where empathy comes into play….
Empathy will help us find out what the customer says and find out what they feel and mean. Reading the situation will help you keep your cool. It will also help you find out what exactly needs to be said to keep the customer happy in the long run.
- The customer feels very angry for a logical reason.
- The customer feels like they’ve been lied to by the company.
- The customer feels disappointed by the product.
- The customer doesn’t feel heard, understood, or respected.
- The customer will not tolerate any more mistakes. The feedback was a final warning. They will never consider buying from the company again if customer support won’t resolve the situation.
Simply think about this for a second. Based on what you found out, would you ever be satisfied with a cookie-cutter answer to a specific problem you have if you were in this customer’s shoes? Probably not. The key here is to use the findings to carefully craft a proper answer using positive language and a consistent tone. Like all customer answers, it should provide a personalized experience tailored to this specific situation.
Think of the worst customer support experience you ever had and think of the answer they should’ve given you. Then, use it, write it down, get inspired and take advantage of your own bad customer support situation to provide exceptional experiences for customers in the future.
There are multiple good ways to defuse the situation above and a lot of ways to screw it up. So take the following advice based on an empathetic approach.
What should you keep in mind?
- Solve the issue promptly. This should go without saying, but you need to solve the customer request as quickly as possible.
- Use positive language but don’t necessarily try to calm the customer down, especially if they have a good reason. Instead, try to be understanding and agree with the customer on how the situation should’ve been handled.
- Find out what happened on your side and explain the situation as best as possible. Don’t try to cover up mistakes made by your colleagues, especially if they’re obvious. Instead, acknowledge that a mistake has been made and apologize for it (no matter if it’s your fault or not).
- Do something nice for the customer without any expectations. It could be a significant discount for a future purchase, a gift bag with company goodies, a free product, or a free service with no strings attached. Get creative and surprise them with something (nobody cares about a free corporate pen and a 1.23% discount, trust me).
- Avoid offering more products or imply in any way that the customer will return. People rarely appreciate obvious sales tactics. Leave them with the best experience you can provide, and let the customer decide if they want to return after the situation cools down.
- Have you done everything in your power to defuse the situation? Pat yourself on the back, you’ve done an excellent job.
Well, that was a successful day with customers, wasn’t it?
One more thing. You should never beat yourself up if a customer keeps being difficult, refuses to cooperate, or straight-up insults you. Some people never change their minds, or they are just looking for their next fight.
That’s why you should focus on yourself and do the best job you possibly can. Use positive language and keep your professionalism handy. That way, you always know you have done everything in your power to do a great job. And who knows, maybe the customer will eventually calm down and return with a more positive tone.
A simple 10 step guide to customer contact
Empathy is just one crucial aspect of customer service, but it’s still just the tip of the iceberg. In general, customer support roles require knowledge and skill to perfect. Whether you’re a single-person online business or a member of a large corporate help desk team, everyone can use some fresh advice or a reminder. Take a look at the detailed customer support tips below to learn more about creating incredible experiences for customers in any industry.
Don’t take forever to respond
Help desk employees or other employees who deal with customers know that taking a long time to answer is bad for business. It’s even worse when it’s taking them too long to respond to basic questions or common queries. The obvious tip is to start focusing on faster replies. The less-obvious fact that the average business owner doesn’t know about is that sometimes it’s just not possible to handle more replies.
Some help desks simply have low numbers of agents. A good customer service training program can help agents learn how to handle more requests while maintaining quality. Sometimes, all you need is good customer support software. Some help desk features can help any agent stay organized, reply faster and maintain the quality of customer interviews and conversations. For example, canned messages and predefined answers are the right tools for the job. These features can help you reply to common questions efficiently, allowing you to focus on more elaborate issues.
Keep customer type information handy
Customers always come in various types. Are they a new customer? A returning customer? An impulsive buyer or a careful thinker? Are they usually calm and friendly or slightly unhinged (like in the unpleasant example above)? Every good help desk should contain customer data with the help of CRM software or help desk software with CRM features. Based on this information, you can choose your communication approach and determine what works best for any customer type.
There are many definitions, guides, and approaches to defining customer types. Get inspired and then create your own customer groups based on your priorities, such as the range of products or target customer base. First, think about who potential users or customers might be, their age groups, and their personalities. Then, spend a day with customers and see what works to build your own guide to customer contact types. Don’t forget to keep your customer files handy to help you define new customers.
Think of customer success, not only the business success
Why? No matter how good your sales team is, everything comes down to support after the sale has been made. That’s why investing in a good customer service training program or finding one for free is always a great idea. Customer success is a method for providing incredible customer experiences and ensuring that the product or service will be according to standards and worth the purchase. That’s why customer support plays a significant role, especially with sophisticated modern products that might require assistance from experts.
Product managers ensure a smooth experience, while support agents answer questions from current and potential users or customers. At the end of the day, with customers and their queries, you can be sure that you have done the best job only if their journey was successful. This will, in turn, bring you more business, and your target customer base will stay happy at the same time.
Know your limits and ask for help
Knowing all the products or services your company makes isn’t always an easy feat. Company newcomers might have the experience, but they might lack the knowledge to provide reliable and trustworthy advice to customers with detailed questions or complicated issues.
If this ever happens to you, don’t be afraid to ask for help from colleagues in different departments specializing in various problems. Make sure to use tags in tickets to communicate a general idea of the issue to your colleagues before you transfer the responsibility. Furthermore, any business owner or help desk manager can set up rules to assure that someone will always answer a ticket.
Keep chaos out of your help desk and your tickets
Keeping your answers organized is a critical factor. It doesn’t matter if your company uses business English or not, any response should be to the point and provide specific information for customers. Keep an eye on your grammar and the clarity of language. Careful explanations and specifics can help you avoid repeating yourself or getting into misunderstandings with customers. When it comes to handling issues, it’s a good idea to get a reliable ticketing system to help you manage your communication.
A ticketing system can help agents organize their work based on various criteria and automatize responsibility for queries. It can gather communication from any channel and manage it in one place, so you don’t have to switch browser tabs between social media, email, and other channels you use. Furthermore, ticketing allows you to collaborate with various features. Leave a note for tracking purposes or write down data in tickets to inform your colleagues.
Always show instead of just telling
Keeping your communication clear and transparent can do only so much, especially if your product is not easy to use. But, if you have the means, always show your customers pictures or videos to explain the specifics of a product. If your help desk allows it, you can even start a video call to handle face-to-face communication and use a live chat widget to send attachments quickly.
Video communication is also excellent for conducting more extended user interviews and discussing relationship-building ideas and topics with customers. It can help you speed up interactions and avoid misunderstandings. A help desk ticketing system that houses attachment features and video call options can be beneficial.
Ask for feedback from customers
It’s always a good idea to find out what customers think. It can help customer support agents determine what needs to be improved, added, or removed from a product or service. In addition, this can help service and product managers figure out what needs to improve or what should be added in the future.
Ask your customers for feedback, user interviews, and even advice from potential users who did not buy your product or service (hint: ask them why, to find out how to improve). Especially from customers who have tried a more comprehensive range of products or services from your company. Many customer support software solutions offer feedback & suggestions features to help you gather comments and use them for new improvements or even relationship-building ideas. A customer portal with a knowledge base, forums, FAQs, and feedback features is an effective way to get started without breaking your bank.
Learn how to multitask
Multitask and shift your focus from one issue to another. It can be difficult but not impossible. But the more communication channels you use, the harder it gets. Switching between emails, calls, social media, knowledge base, and whatever else you use won’t be easy if you don’t use dedicated omnichannel software. However, learning how to multitask can help you in the long run and improve your efficiency.
Efficiency in replying and communication stays just as important, even with a universal inbox that gathers communication from every channel. Help desk features such as hybrid ticket stream allow you to keep track of a specific customer communication even if it comes from a different medium each time. If things prove to be overwhelming for a single agent to handle, don’t forget to split tickets and ask your colleagues to help out.
Always be polite
All good articles should include this holy grail of customer support advice. Every customer deserves respect from the support team. So check your tone once in a while, even if your company tone is more casual and uses less business English. Remember our example of the angry customer at the beginning of this article? Remember what caused it?
The example shows an angry customer because of lousy customer support, not because they were looking for their next argument. No matter how difficult your customer gets, you have to keep your cool and focus on defusing the situation. Never ignore problems and never antagonize a customer. Even if you can’t solve a problem right away, and the customer is getting impatient, keep your wits about you and don’t let yourself slip.
Don’t take the job that seriously
The advice everybody should mention but never does. Stress can be helpful in some situations, but it can do you no good if you experience it long term. Customer interviews can slowly drain your energy and leave you helpless. That’s why you should learn how to utilize stress when necessary, but leave it behind when you don’t need it.
There is a thing called help desk agent burnout, and it can be inevitable for employees who never take a break. Get some time off to take a breather and put a perspective on problematic issues, even if you take just a short break. Refocusing your brain on something other than work can help you find solutions more quickly once the stress chemicals go away. Once you feel ready, take a deep breath and get back to work.
Looking for further customer communication advice?
Make sure to take a look at LiveAgent Academy. It’s the definitive resource and the ultimate guide to customer communication, help desks, customer support software, and everything else you need to know. The Academy covers introductory topics as well as niche areas, so you won’t miss out on vital information. Learn more about soft skills, customer appreciation, or customer feedback and go deep.
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