The gurus tell you to love your customers.
But sometimes customers aren’t so lovable. They’re lazy. Impatient. And they bother you with questions that are answered on your website. Are they stupid?
When listening to complaints and silly questions it’s hard to keep your cool and your sanity. I know that! In our team it’s me who answers emails and calls.
But see the light at the end of the tunnel. You can turn it around and make it a positive experience for both your customer and company.
Customer Support With Love
I am a customer success manager at Antavo and my aim is to make sure our customers can use our product effectively and with ease. We build an online marketing tool for smart marketers doing social media and email marketing.
While working with Antavo I realized that customer service is not much different when you sell to companies or to consumers.
Because in the end you talk with people.
Now I try to stick to my own guidelines. It’s a process! (That means that it’s not easy.)
Here are my guiding principles for customer support. I am sure these will help you too.
#1. Believe That The Customer Is Always Right
Even when they are not.
Have you ever thought that “Duh, it’s a stupid question” or “Isn’t it obvious?”.
Well, customers don’t talk to you because they want to read your charming words or hear your silky voice. They actually need something.
(Or they are lazy.)
You always have to see things from their point of view, assure them that you understand their frustration, and you are willing to help.
In the long run these questions can help you to do your marketing better. You will know when the questions arise, and answer them right away.
After you have done everything, and they are shocked by your kindness, you might even receive something like this below.
#2. Count to Ten Before Answering
I never ever answer a question when my pulse is above normal..
Yes! Customers are blah sometimes. But you are a professional.
Taking some time for yourself before you answer will help you to collect your thoughts. Take a break, grab a coffee or read a previous positive feedback – I always bookmark a few for these moments.
#3. Be Empathizing
Understanding the emotions of your customer is critical. You need to let your customer know that you understand his feelings, and be apologetic about his dissatisfaction.
People care about others empathizing with their situation, which is why apologies can be given out liberally—even if an employee didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not about placing blame; it’s about letting a customer know that you are personally apologetic that their experience didn’t live up to their expectations.
He says that you can’t control a customer’s reaction, but you can influence it.
This is why this second option is much better than the first one:
1. Sorry you are having issues. Let’s get that fixed for you.
2. I’m very sorry about that! I know how disappointing that must be, and I’d like to make things right by…
By showing empathy you make sure you feel what your customer feels.
#4. It’s Okay To Have Limits
There are cases when you are not able to help or do not want to help. In such cases you need to find a nice way to express it.
Never lie about what you can or can’t do. If you know someone who may be able to help, connect your customer with that person.
I loved how Groove was super nice saying “no” to a customer asking for a discount.
#5. Ask A Colleague For Another Perspective
When talking to our customers I am in constant conversations with our developers. Most of the time they are the ones who can answer my questions, but I am better at putting it nicely to the customer.
Sometimes I need help, because I feel a conversation is getting out of control. When this happens I ask Andy, our Head of Sales.
We use Intercom.io for customer support, so I can simply assign the conversation to Andy.
It’s okay to ask your colleague who has more experience than you, don’t be shy about it!
#6. Track Feedbacks And Follow Up
Most of the time I close my email with an open question to make it easy for your customer to reply. I use terms like: “Did you manage to do it?” or “Was my answer helpful?”
These questions help us to gather fundamental feedback from customers. They come up with feature requests that set our development pipeline in the right direction.
Here is how we track feature requests – see the image below. Once we release the sought after feature we follow up. Customers are always happy to get what they wanted (moreover, without an extra fee) and pleased about the personal message.
#7. Accept It. You Are An Interpreter
How did you feel last time when you purchased a phone or a TV? They have these product descriptions with all the features. Plasma, blu-ray, LCD, LED, LOL!
When doing customer support you are actually translating the features of your product to the benefits. See, it’s essential.
You have to know your product inside and out, and be able to speak about it in a language people understand.
#8. They Hate The Problem, Not You. Never Take Anything Personally
Unless it is a compliment, then you definitely should! Haha!
People don’t hate you. You know that? Simply you are the person they can talk to, and well, they have pain.
Try to give them answers, do your best, and… surprise! Among some sour ones a new nice feedback just came from nowhere, feels good, doesn’t it?
#9. Mistakes Happen
Mistakes happen. Don’t make the same again.
Here is a quick and sad story from our company. In the early days of Antavo we had a server downtime when we lost customer data. It was terrible. We called everyone one by one and managed to turn it into a good experience. (The team didn’t sleep for days though.)
Admit mistakes. It will never make you less credible, but only more trustworthy.
Just like Buffer did it. Buffer, the social sharing app was recently hacked, and they handled the situation in an honest and open way. I hope you will never need such a crisis communication, but if you once will, do it like them.
#10. Do Not Overpromise Even Though You Would Love To
Whilst admitting your limits, you should never lie about what you will do.
Never tell a customer something that you will never do. It is okay to say no, you just have to do it gently.
#11. Be Yourself
When you are emailing with your utility provider it’s hard to believe that there is an actual person sitting there, right? Isn’t that a machine talking jargon?
You can do it better. Your customer service can be personal, it can be you. It’s okay to sign your email with your first name or use emoticons, because people use emoticons all the time. ;)
The Watchful Barista in Málaga
I had an experience some years ago that set the bar for me on how I want to deal with our customers.
I spent some wonderful weeks in Málaga, Spain. We visited the same coffee shop every day after lunch, and on the 4th day the barista already knew my favorite. “Your latte with brown sugar and cinnamon?” He had hundreds of guests going into his shop, be he remembered how I take my coffee. I will never forget.
How To Make It Memorable?
Do you think you can make your customer’s experience memorable just like that barista in Málaga?
I am sure you can. Openness, friendliness and staying human helps.
I find point #8. the hardest. After a series of furious emails it’s hard not to take it personally. I feel it’s the end of the word, but then I look at our happy customers and calm down.
It’s not easy to love your customers. Especially when they are lazy.
But you know their feedback can help, they pay you money, thank you for helping, ask smart questions and smile. They are quite loveable after all.