I was sitting in a restaurant the other day when a Mel Tillis tune I haven’t heard for years started up in the background – “It’s Only Commercial Affection.” The lyrics of this song, especially “a fool and his money are soon parted,” made me think of companies that force scripts and fake sincerity onto their employees.

“Did you find everything okay?” [I was not looking for “everything,” but do they care anyway?]

“Have I satisfied all your needs today? [Really? No, I need a new car. Can you help me with that?]

“Thank you for choosing Cruddy Cellular!” [A customer service agent actually said this to me right after processing my request to cancel their service.]

“Would you like to become a member?” [Yeah, that is exactly what I need – more email in my in-box and another loyalty card to lug around in my wallet.]

“I’m sorry.” [Quite possibly the most over-used and “under-meant” phrase in customer service vernacular.]

Many customer service agents ask these questions, make these statements, say these words, adhere to these scripts, and they’re usually completely devoid of sincerity. This is Commercial Affection – the trite sayings that management pushes down to the front-line to try to make us (the customers) believe that they (the company) care. “Thank you for holding – your call is important to us.” [If that were true, would I really be on hold listening to Barry Manilow’s Copacabana?]

Here’s the punch line: Customers can feel the insincerity.

What companies say to their customers and how they say it are equally important. One is rarely more important than the other. So why do companies push inherently insincere scripts onto their customer-facing employees and then monitor these employees on whether the scripts are followed, instead of coaching them on how to truly engage customers with the goal of turning them into loyal promoters of the company and its brand?

The back-story here is that supervisors and managers not only do not know how to coach sincerity, they often do not know how to hire sincerity. It is easier to hire a person who is likely to be compliant and ask a scripted question or make a scripted statement than it is to teach and coach the behaviors necessary for a customer-facing employee to express sincerity and say the right things in the right way. As a result, companies tend to look for compliance instead of compassion. However, it is sincere engagement that creates customer loyalty, not conformity to written or unwritten scripts.

Long after the customer interaction is over, and regardless of the practical outcome, a customer will remember how he was treated and how the interaction made him feel. I can remember particular customer service experiences, some positive, and too many negative, sometimes for years, and I suspect I’m not unique in this respect. Those memories often create consequences, some positive, some negative, for the relevant companies and brands.

Customers are tuned in, and if your front-line employees are faking sincerity, your customers will know it. True interest in a customer cannot be manufactured. Supervisors and managers need to be shown how to coach their customer-facing employees accordingly. Training needs to be developed, written and facilitated in a way that not only communicates knowledge and meaning but also provides the “how to” at both the front-line and supervisor/management levels.

For any company that cares about the fulfillment of its brand promise, the stakes are high.

Pretium Solutions has developed the Golden Touchpoint™ program so that your front-line customer-facing employees can learn and immediately put to use the methods, tools and techniques that are necessary to create honest and sincere interactions with your customers, interactions that not only create loyalty on the customer side but are also easier and more satisfying for your employees.

A Golden Touchpoint™ interaction conveys the following to your customers: I will listen to your problem, question or issue; I will identify, address and meet not just your practical need but also your related emotional need, because I know that at the heart of every call there is an emotional need on the part of the customer; I value your time and will do my very best to make this entire interaction a low effort experience for you.

Why? Because your customers deserve more than Commercial Affection!