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Believe it or not, there is a considerable amount of Psychology behind customer care. Here is the lowdown ...
Theorist Maslow created the Hierarchy of Needs: a pyramid model which identifies the requirements we need as individuals to exist. This places Physiological at the base and rises through Safety, Love, Esteem and Self-Actualisation. It is Esteem which of importance here, as providing self respect, a noteworthy point of the pyramid, means we need to have self worth to exist. Therefore, through providing customer care the customer will feel special and they will return to the company again and again.
This self-worth has to be physical: make it clear where the Customer Service desk is in a supermarket or in a hotel Reception. At the checkout staff should show interest but don’t personalise the situation as they will not know the customers background. For instance, a staff member should avoid picking up a can of beer and saying “is this for the husband?” as the female customer may be divorced or widowed. At the Reception desk show interest in why the guest is staying and make suggestions of places to go if needed. Interacting with customers should always include a smile even when the staff member doesn’t feel like it. Irrespective of the business, managers should make it clear that this is a selling point as a frown could lose a customer.
Good customer service will produce what is known psychologically as The Halo Effect. If the initial impression is positive, the person will hold onto this for the long term even if this is not so. Therefore, making sure the first encounter is memorable is important. I am very happy to discuss with you how this can be made so.
It is natural for those dealing with disappointed customers to react to their frustrations particularly as we have the Fight or Flight mode conditioned into us. This is a physiological reaction to being attacked or a threat to an individual’s survival.
However, if the staff member reacts negatively the affect will be that the customer will be even more annoyed. So much so, that they may request to speak to someone superior and no doubt complain about the initial respondent too.
This desire to give a negative response is based on the respondent fearing the situation. I am sure a ranting customer is overwhelming at any time, but particularly on a phoneline where the person is merely a voice. The respondent should be trained to take several deep breaths to distant themselves from the conflict and remind themselves that not every situation is fixable; they can only do their best. If dealing with the issue over phone, it may be useful to have this stuck nearby as a written reminder.
It will make reacting in a more positive manner and allow the respondent to try to understand the customers problem which is a less overwhelming stance. The problem is when someone is angry our brains get warm and as a result some statements may lack clarity.
Therefore, the respondent should be trained to play detective quickly to determine as quickly as possible the situation. In a matter of seconds the staff member should have answered three significant questions: “What caused the complaint?” “Did the customer receive unfair treatment?” “Did the company not meet their own expectations in this situation and if so what were they?” These questions should be learnt so that any aggrieved customer can have their issues rectified quickly. If over the phone the questions should be printed nearby so it can be resolved swiftly.
Asking questions will allow the customer to explain how they feel. Being empathic will guide questions the respondent asks and will demonstrate that as a business you care. Briefly summarising what the customer os saying will then provide clarity to the situation and as the staff member does so the customer will calm down.
If a complaint is over email the customer should be addressed by their name. It will make them feel reassured that they are not being neglected. Individuals working in customer service should always be associated with their own name, i.e. a name badge in person, “hello my name is ...” over the phone or signing off the name of the respondent in an email as it makes the person feel they are taking to a human. Managers should encourage a policy whereby respondents do not sign off correspondence for other people unless the person is off sick or on holiday. Being passed from person to person will not make the customer valued.
Also, signing off an email from the company rather than an individual will not make a connection with the customer. The customer wants direct support and to trust that. To send an email without signing it from a specific individual will feel make the customer feel even more frustrated.
Discussing issues over the phone is more complicated than airing them face-to-face because both the caller and respondent cannot see each other. This makes the course of the conversation more complex. Researcher Harvey Sacks found that as the conversation was instigated by the respondent, the opening line was crucial to how the conversation would unfold. For instance, "This is Mr Smith, how may I help you ...?" led the respondent to mirror the respondent's response with "This is Mr Brown...". The conversation continued mirroring in this way meaning there was no direction to the conversation. This could be because "how can I help you? is a broad statement. Asking a more specific question such as "tell me about what happened" will instigate a more detailed response. I can provide help with this, just get in touch.
In discussions with aggrieved customers try to use positive language throughout. For instance, “I am sure we can resolve this now” “Lets get this resolved.” It may not just make the customer feel looked after, psychological research by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert found it could affect how the situation is resolved. Their findings found that using positive words actually changed brain function to be more positive all the time. The repercussions for keeping customers happy could be immense: if the situation is resolved quickly the customer will create positive associations with the company.
The important one word “Sorry” response is very much one respondents should be reminded of and trained on how to say. Saying sorry won’t help if it is not meant and could prevent the situation becoming protracted. Making an apology does not indicate blame but shows clearly that as a business you care.
In fact, an apology may be more beneficial than a goodwill gesture. Research conducted by The Carey School Of Business at Arizona State University found that only 37% of respondents were satisfied when they were offered money or credit to resolve an issue. However, when this was combined with an apology 74% said they would be satisfied.
This research finding is very important to a commitment to good customer service. Psychologically the effect of offering kind gestures is known as Reciprocity. This theory argues friendly offerings will result in kindness in return from the customer, such as good online reviews or passing on your company or business name to other people. Don’t forget Reciprocity is an indistinct force and can work the other way, and with social media so prominent today this should not be ignored. A negative response could lead to the same from the customer such as negative reviews. Alternatively, word of mouth can be Reciprocity as passing on bad experiences to friends who were maybe thinking of using your company.
Overall, doing good customer service means both customer and the business will benefit.