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How customers expect to be spoken to & why that is

Andrej Csizmadia

Andrej Csizmadia

Last modified on December 30, 2021 at 2:59 pm

No one likes to be made to feel stupid. Least of all customers who are seeking for much-needed advice and help.

For anyone in a customer-facing role, it’s essential that you understand the psychology of customer service. Whether you belong to the marketing or product team, you need to fully appreciate and understand how customers want to be spoken to. And though it’s dangerous to generalize (after all, everyone is an individual), there are some central tenets that hold true for us all.

Let’s take a closer look at how to keep customers happy when communicating with them.

Service with empathy

You know the old adage ‘service with a smile’?

The problem is, it rings a bit hollow if there is actually nothing behind that smile….

You need to cultivate empathy instead of token positivity.

Rather than lots of overly positive language, well-placed empathy and understanding are more appropriate when dealing with customers.

  1. Don’t talk to your customer — understand them and communicate with them. It’s important to stop and listen to customers, as it can be dangerous to assume. One wrong word can send the conversation off in the wrong directions so tread carefully.
  2. There is nothing wrong with automation or scripts, but you have to try to lose the ‘script’ mentality when dealing with a customer who is sharing their problem with you. Stop trying to jump in or analyze the mechanics of what you’re going to say next. You will probably find that a small pause to think will do you some good.
  3. Think about how you would want to be spoken to if the shoe was on the other 
    foot. It’s easy to create an ‘us and them’ mentality (only natural), but try to understand how customers feel. You might have had the same conversation a few times, but this could all be new to them. Try to cultivate patience.

Apple’s customer service machine is legendary. Though they call their support staff geniuses, there is no sense of hierarchy when it comes to looking for help in an Apple store.

Want to talk with someone?

Their support staff are given the time and energy to chat about Apple products in a way that’s conversational and engaging. And definitely not scripted.

A great testament to the power of company culture and employee empowerment. Start your own company culture journey today with a tool like CultureIQ.

Kill the ‘no-reply@’ mentality

The ‘no reply’ email address. It seems crazy that companies still think this is a good idea…. Trust me — it’s not.

A no-reply address sends completely the wrong message and makes no sense in today’s omnichannel retail and customer service world. If a customer gets an important communication about their account, order, data, or anything else — it’s the most natural thing in the world to want to respond.

If you have gone through the trouble of actually emailing someone, at least have the courtesy to treat email as the communication channel it is designed to be.

That’s why live chat and ticketing are a much better way of managing your customer support machine — no conversation will get left behind.

Personal, not fake

Fake personalization is a massive turn-off and will damage brand credibility. If you are going to personalize email or chat communications, at least make it believable! (Read more top email marketing tips here).

  1. Wishing someone a happy birthday is a pretty easy one to get right, but be careful about commenting on customer life events — you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Blanket messages can feel crass.
  2. Renew and replenish your customer database on a regular basis and make sure that you tag data up so that you don’t make any merge field fails. Only use personalization if you are sure that your data systems can handle it.
  3. Personalization is a great converter and should be adopted across the board. On the marketing side, personalization can be automated through scripts (Moosend is strong on email personalization, Socialbakers on social media) — but don’t just “set it and leave it”. Keep reviewing your engagement rates and join up marketing and support data for a more well-informed system.

Customer buyer personas that you use for content marketing can help you with customer service personalization too. Think about who you are pitching your support tickets and emails to and adjust your communication style accordingly.

It’s not a channel thing

What you’re selling matters.

The Kano Model (pictured below), clearly shows that product attributes play a part in the customer service dynamic. 

Customer satisfaction product function graph

When it comes to product excitement, performance, and thresholds, customer satisfaction moves in function of perceived value and difficulty.

It’s worth factoring the Kano model into your customer support workflow and roadmap. Think about whether your service or product is really up to scratch, and how things might be improved.

Own up!

It’s important to ‘fess up when you mess up.

The worst thing in the world is a support team who simply won’t admit any wrongdoing, or who blindly ignore customer complaints and concerns.

In today’s litigious world, customer service reps may be nervous about admitting fault, but it can cause a lot of unnecessary friction for customers who are just looking for answers to their problems. It’s a good idea to find a wording that’s ‘safe’ to use, but that also fully recognizes the customer pain points.

Confessing to a blunder may even be useful PR gold. This clever save from ASOS made a printing blunder into a truly wonderful social media moment:

Ok, so we *may* have printed 17,000 bags with a typo. We’re calling it a limited edition.

— ASOS (@ASOS) March 21, 2018

Honest and cheeky, ASOS nailed it by pre-empting any negative comments or trolls and getting there first.

A valuable lesson for customer support teams: you can really take the sting out of something if you are the first to acknowledge the issue.

Direct language

If things are starting to go south or get a little heated with a certain customer, then some direct language will be welcomed. Quoting terms and conditions and littering your speech with jargon will be a definite turn-off.

Try to cut to the chase and leave all the extra information to another time.

Humor and tongue-in-cheek memes and GIFs might work to cut the tension, but it does depend on your target audience and industry. Try to show your human side and be real with people, but make sure you still remain professional.

Stand out

Try to not only focus on putting out customer service fires and dealing with support tickets, but try to stand out with a great customer experience instead.

This means really committing to your customer experience and ensuring that all relevant departments are on the same page and doing their best. Little touches and extra perks can make a big difference to customers.

It all comes down to reviewing all the channels and tactics that you are using, and ensuring that they are aligned with your company mission and communication standards.

Victoria Greene

Guest Post Author

Victoria Greene

Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and ecommerce specialist. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she shares tips on ecommerce and how companies can improve the way they digitally represent their brand. She is passionate about using her experience to help brands improve their brand equity.

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