Recent research by the Temkin Group showed that how a customer feels about an interaction with a company is the most powerful indicator – and driver – of customer loyalty.
Compared with customers who have a poor emotional experience, those with a positive one are 6x more likely to purchase again, and 12x more likely to recommend a company.
This clearly has implications for every company that sells products and services to customers.
But it got me thinking… how do you do it? I realized the manifestation of incredible, emotionally-riveting customer service is a feeling you create in your customer.
Colin Taylor, CEO of The Taylor Reach Group, a call center consulting firm, told me that “making an emotional connection with the customer is one of the key aspects of delivering a superior customer experience and is one of the three E’s of superior customer experience – along with ease and engagement.”
The impact? An increase in customer loyalty, retention, and sales.
If incorporating positive emotion into the customer experience isn’t at the core of your customer service philosophy, it’s time to recalibrate.
Image Source: BillQuiseng.com
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How do you use emotion to improve customer relationships?
There are ways you can use emotion to generate more lucrative relationships, and increase your customer lifetime value right now. And you can start making easy changes immediately.
I did some research and gleaned insight from a few of the brightest minds in the customer service industry to learn how companies can use emotion more effectively. Here’s the kicker: these techniques are not growth hacks, or even means to subconsciously impact your customer’s behavior. They’re just about raising the bar with customers from rational satisfaction to emotional fulfillment.
This list is the most comprehensive list on using emotion in customer service on the web. It is categorized into the following categories: Body Language; Friendliness, Personalization and Individuality; Helpfulness, Knowledge and Truthfulness; Technology; and Creating an Experience. While some of these points apply to face-to-face interactions, others are more relevant for phone service.
Here’s 45 easy-to-implement tactics you can use to instantly create deeper emotional connections with your customers – and drive more business, customer retention, and sales.
45. Teach contact center agents and customer service representatives to smile
Smiling – even fake smiling – increases positive emotions. Research based on the “facial-feedback hypothesis” suggests that the action of making a facial expression correlates with our feelings about that expression.
Human beings can also distinguish vocal intonation between someone who’s smiling and someone who isn’t, as well as the type of smile. So, smile, even if you’re not face-to-face with a customer.
Disgruntled customers will not be smiling, so it’s your job to help bring them up. What better way to say “I’m here to help” than a smile?
Image Source: CallCenterWorld.com
44. Don’t slouch in your seat when speaking to a customer
Practice active sitting.
If you’ve got a job which demands that you sit in a cube or at a desk, sit up straight.
Aside from benefits to your posture, sitting up straight will help reduce back pain later in life.
Most importantly, doing so makes you happier and increases productivity. An article in Fast Company points out that sitting straight increases the likelihood of having positive memories, or just thinking of something positive in general.
More positive customer service agents are the first step to happier customers.
43. Nod in agreement
A study conducted by Ohio University found that how we feel about something may be subconsciously impacted by our physical actions.
When people nod in agreement or shake their head in disagreement, we can assume that they agree or disagree with what we’re saying.
Implications for your contact center? Even if you’re on the phone with a customer, nod in agreement as they explain (whether legitimate or not) their issue. You’ll find it helps you understand their point of view, and their scuffle.
42. Uncross your arms when you’re helping a customer
Retail customer service representatives, especially, should refrain from crossing their arms when helping someone.
Always maintain professional etiquette. When your arms are down to the side, or gesturing as you speak, you’re giving an implicit signal that you’re excited to help.
41. Always welcome customers
When you walk into Jimmy John’s, you’re welcomed.
Don’t feel like you need to audaciously yell “Welcome to Jimmy John’s!” at every customer that you interact with – but it’s better than saying nothing.
A simple and friendly welcome is a good median.
40. Say “thank you”
As customer service expert Richard Shapiro points out, customers ought to be thanked at every opportunity.
This includes thanking someone after they swipe a loyalty card, for instance.
Recognize the fact that customers have opted in to sign up, join, or buy an additional item, and thank them for their continued business.
Bonus points if you can get the customer thanking you, too. This means you’ve done something right.
39. Always say something positive in every interaction with every customer
Okay, so not every interaction you have with a customer – certainly those handled as complaints – will be of an excessively positive nature.
But you and your team can always control your attitude, a critical point to remember working in customer service.
If you take it upon yourself to always say something positive, not only will you feel better, so will the person you’re helping.
38. Never say “I don’t know”
It’s simple: “I don’t know” implies – whether you mean it or not – “I don’t care.” And definitely do not make up answers. It’s perfectly okay not to have answers to every question. Instead, you should say something like:
“That is a great question. I’m not sure, but if you give me just one moment, I can try to look it up for you or grab a manager who will be able to assist you further.”
37. Don’t aggravate customers
As Brian Moore, customer service expert points out, many arguments with customer service reps often come out of demands for payments.
Instead of calling a customer to demand a late payment, consider less intrusive means of digital communication like a text message or email.
But his point also speaks to a bigger idea – don’t aggravate customers. If you feel like a conversation is escalating, refrain from the temptation to raise your voice. Don’t feel like you must “win” an argument (point #26 elaborates!). Stay focused on resolution, not irritation.
36. Teach call center agents and CSRs to speak up, and not to mumble
It can be easy to forget that even though you might be working a long shift, a customer is interacting with you for only a brief period of time.
Therefore, remember not to get lackadaisical in your dialect.
Speak clearly and loudly, as if you were meeting your spouse’s parents for the first time or announcing a ball game. You can give agents more physical space, or build cubicles for a little more privacy.
35. Ease tension by complimenting your customer
Professionally flattering your customer will ease tension with them.
Studies have shown that complimenting someone radically increases endorphins in the brain.
Help facilitate these feel good chemicals in customers’ brains for better, calmer, more effective interactions.
Personalization and Individuality
34. Call the customer by name, if you know it
Today’s technology allows for in-person transactions and service calls to be highly personal.
Customer service assistants usually have access to people’s name and purchase history. They can use that information to add an element of personalization to every interaction like referencing the customer’s name.
“Thank you for your business, Michael” creates a better emotional connection than “Thank you for your business.”
33. Always identify yourself by name – it’s more human
Conversely, you can let customers know who they’re speaking with.
Brick-and-mortar employees almost always have name tags, so this is less evident in those scenarios.
But when conducting service in any other mode – over the phone, email, texting, chat or social media – you can help spark a more human connection by letting customers know who they’re speaking with.
Because without a name, to them it’s simply how.
32. Draw a personal connection with the customer
The same way sales teams attempt to draw some kind of personal connection, so too should customer service teams.
Sales is to customer acquisition as customer support is to retention. All the more reason to connect with the customer in a way that is unique. Only you can do that.
Related Content: 3 Ways to Use Customer Service to Sell – Sharpen
31. Come up with a favorite quote or favorite saying, and tell it to a customer every day
Not only will this help your mood, but it will enrich your interactions, and bring a nice surprise to customers.
Seth Godin, writes about “emotional labor” in his book Linchpin. Emotional labor is your ability to bring your own unique value to a team – be it through conversation, innovative ideas, or revolutionary critical thinking. It’s the thing that’s not in your job description, but that becomes a central part of your value.
Every time I enter the Meijer across the street, the greeter who is paid to sit at the entrance and simply welcome customers sings his own short jingle. He is not expected to do this, but he does it to brighten the day of the customer. That’s your task.
Helpfulness, Knowledge, and Truthfulness
30. Insist on the best fit for the customer, even if it’s not you
Customers respect honesty and transparency. Sometimes, the best course of action is to direct them toward the best solution to their problem, even if that answer isn’t you. They’ll admire your candor and decency; thereby increasing trustworthiness with you and your brand for the future.
29. Be as transparent as possible
You might think transparency goes against common business sense – that you should always be selling. Often, sales associates give customers a sales pitch or a rehearsed a script. This is what they’ve been trained to say. But it’s not often they give a personal opinion as well. Do both.
I still remember a trip I made to a popular consumer electronics store years ago. I was blown away at how transparent the sales associate was. It was like two guys just having a casual conversation. Give and take, blatancy and authenticity. He could have sold me if he wanted to – I was there with the intention of spending $100 on a new ink cartridge. But he saved me money by letting me know how it was really in my best interest to pick a cheaper option. He was a source of information. An impartial resource. And I’ll go back to this store knowing that I can trust in what this employee says – that he has my best interest in mind – not hitting his quota.
Try this: next time a customer comes to you seeking information, give them the required sales spiel. Sell him or her as you normally would. But then add, “now, in my personal opinion, (based on my experience and expertise in this field) I think you…” You might just be surprised at how good it makes you feel, and how thankful your customer is.
28. Don’t bash your employer, but be willing to acknowledge obvious shortcomings impeding the experience your customer is having, and apologize
Creating an emotional connection is about trust. This sometimes means taking the side of the customer when glaring shortcomings occur. Maybe it’s a systematic error. Maybe it’s a lapse in judgment.
Your ability to acknowledge a lackluster experience or less-than-perfect performance will – even if momentarily – help a disgruntled customer stay a little more composed.
Customer experience leader Jeanne Bliss wrote that “the measure of your company is determined in the moments of recovery.” If you’ve made a mistake, send a genuine apology, and move forward.
27. Don’t disregard complaints – take them seriously
True, some complaints are bogus. Some are probably due to people’s lack of action, lack of understanding, or inability to follow instructions.
But no matter who or what the complaint is, all must be addressed. Remember, word-of-mouth can be a powerful spark or detractor. Take complaints seriously, and make sure you give due diligence to resolving everything you can. You’re a problem solver, a fixer. Complaints come in all shapes and sizes, but each one should be taken seriously.
26. Remain caring
Customer experience author Blake Morgan says it’s often more important to make the customer feel cared for than be right – and not to hire people with egos.
Your customers will thank you, and have a better experience, too.
25. Remain professional, and polite
As an agent, resist the urge to let a customer service call turn into an unfiltered altercation. Remember, they’re not attacking you (usually), they’re just having trouble with your products, services, or account.
Those who work in customer service have a responsibility to keep a cool head even when things get hot. Doing so will project confidence, respectfulness, and politeness.
24. Ensure agents are knowledgeable about products and services
In addition to staying calm, service agents must be knowledgeable about many facets of a company (or at least the function which they support). Being a fountain of information invariably helps customers understand that you are the right person for the job.
23. Share savings information
Be willing and able to communicate how much a customer saves after a transaction, especially if they used a loyalty card or coupon. This reinforces your commitment to the customer, and that you can help them save in the future.
Kroger does this each time I use my Kroger card to check out, and it inspires a degree of satisfaction with me knowing that I spent less.
22. Keep the focus on the customer, not the company
Your employer may be X. You work for them, but you are not them.
Don’t think of yourself and your company as necessarily one-in-the-same. Instead, use your individuality to stay focused on the 1:1 relationship you are building with a customer. Make sure the customer has a great experience, and don’t worry about the success or failure of things out of your control.
Let the executive team make high-level product, pricing, and promotional decisions, and realize they’re out of your control. Shift focus to using those things as a conduit to help customers.
21. Follow customer service experts – and heed their advice!
Use experts as a source of inspiration. Let them be a constant reminder of what great emotional service looks and feels like. A simple way to do this is to create a Twitter list, and add experts you like. Here are a few leading industry experts to get you started:
- Shep Hyken (@hyken)
- Bill Quiseng (@billquiseng)
- Jeanne Bliss (@jeannebliss)
- Bruce Temkin (@btemkin)
- Sean B. Hawkins (@seanbhawkins)
20. Be yourself
You do not have to be molded into some kind of rambling, repetitive robot. Your personality is what will evoke emotion in your customer. Let it out!
19. Invest in the right contact center technology
Technology is one component of a good customer service strategy.
Related Content: Why Your Customer Service Team Needs a Cloud-Native Contact Center – Sharpen
The technology itself won’t make or break your customers’ experiences. You’ll do that. But the right technology will help to decrease hold times and time-to-resolution, resulting in happier customers.
Not sure where to begin your search? You can begin by checking out common software review sites to find a solution that can empower your agents:
18. Customize your IVR (interactive voice response) – and add soothing music
Research shows that if you want to convey forcefulness, use a male voice. If you want a soothing flavor, more than 9/10 people say a female voice works best.
You can also choose soothing wait music, or include a brief message within. Don’t make the “break-in” message too frequent, or it’ll just make hold times seem longer. Aim for once per minute.
17. Offer web chat as a customer service channel – and add a personal flavor with a name and/or person
Not every customer wants to call you up and chat. Some prefer less involved methods of communication.
Web chat is a growing contact medium because it’s painless, quick, and easy. You can add an element of customization and personalization to your web chat function by adding either a name or headshot of a CSR to give the appearance that your customer is chatting with that person directly.
Image Source: EdMartinNissan.com
Be careful that the implementation of chat fosters a good experience for visitors, rather than annoying by grabbing attention.
16. Make issue resolution as quick as possible
A 2015 Forrester report Contact Centers Must Go Digital or Die by Kate Leggett and Art Schoeller reported that customers are largely impatient. They want a correct, speedy answer to their issue the first time they contact a help center.
77% of people say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with a solid experience. So, ensure your system is equipped to handle large volumes of interactions and route them efficiently.
Creating an Experience
15. Start the interaction with a bang
Be genuinely interested in helping to bring a customer to resolution as seamlessly as possible.
Ensure you’re not speaking in a mundane tone – you are not a recording. Everyone has different personalities, so you don’t want to be fake. But you should speak, initially at least, with a sense of enthusiasm.
14. End the interaction with awe
When we end a human interaction (with a non-family member), what’s the last thing we usually say? Something like:
“Have a good day.”
“Have a nice night.”
“See you tomorrow.”
“You guys have a great night.”
“Talk to you later.”
These are all friendly, polite ways to end a conversation. But don’t be afraid to be remarkable. Now replace those with:
“Make today fantastic!”
“Have a wonderful evening!”
“I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!”
“I really enjoyed our conversation.”
When customers get off the phone, make sure they remember the solution, not the problem.
13. Create a feeling
The definition of customer service is “whatever the customer feels it is.”
Data shows that in both B2B and B2C, emotion is a chief factor driving purchases (more so, in fact, in B2B settings!).
While it’s hard to describe how to create a feeling, it’s something that your agents will need to do case-by-case. There’s no hard and fast rule – it’s a general competency for compassion, responsiveness, and sincere care.
12. Invite customers to join in the club, program or organization
In some cases, feelings of exclusivity, privilege, and belonging – especially coupled with incentives like saving money or building loyalty points – increase customers’ emotional desires to opt-in, sign up, subscribe or join.
Most companies offer these kinds of rewards, in some fashion.
Image Source: VanHeusen.com
Appealing to both financial (savings) and personal (birthday specials, anniversary deals) aspects is the ultimate play. Doing so will encourage repeat customers, and future purchases because customers are more invested, both rationally and emotionally.
11. Anticipate their desires
Be proactive in addressing customers’ concerns – this can help to reduce aggravation in the first place.
Southwest Airlines does a tremendous job of doing this. They proactively notify passengers if a flight is canceled. The text or voice message is automated, but offers the option to transfer to a live contact center agent. Southwest Airlines has seen improved service levels and customer satisfaction as a result of anticipating customers’ needs.
10. Use power words
Using certain power words can help you instantly increase impact and emotional resonance. They include:
Approved. Reliable. Authentic. Certified. Recognized. Complete. Endorsed. Guarantee. Lifetime. Money Back. No Obligation. Protected. Proven. Result. Secure. Tested. Unconditional. Trust. Safe.
9. Positivity is contagious. Empower, enliven, and reward your team
The happier your customer service team, the better job they do. Take every opportunity to inject positive energy by unplugging. Positivity is contagious. Here’s a few ways to do this:
- Allow agents to take (or earn) breaks
- Give agents scheduling options so they’re proactively choosing when to work a shift
- Offer office perks and outings where people can get out of the office
Workforce management resources can help you streamline this process too.
8. Get inside customers’ hearts
Customer service expert Bill Quiseng said:
“To connect with new customers don’t try to get inside their heads. Get inside their hearts. Create an emotional connection.”
Your customers are humans, not piggy banks. Treat them with humanity.
7. Encourage agents to have a free-flowing, charming conversation
If there’s no industry constraint, requiring agents to stick to a script is counterintuitive and unproductive.
Give your customer support team the freedom to deviate when they see fit, and create an amazing experience.
Scripts can help as guidelines, but they shouldn’t be the only thing agents can say. Providing more freedom will allow agents to feel more at ease, and charm customers with their emotion.
6. Make “magic” for your customer
Perhaps better than any other organization, Disney focuses on creating a magical, emotional customer experience.
Image Source: MyraGolden.com
In fact, Disney’s Approach to Quality Service course teaches Disney’s employees to focus on the cumulative customer experience as opposed to worrying about individual transactions or interactions.
That’s why Disney uses the phrase “Aim for your customers’ hearts, not just their heads.”
They recognize that emotion – more than anything else – drives behavior. An article from Disney points out that emotionally-engaged customers are:
- Less likely to shop around and less price sensitive
- More than 3x more likely to recommend a brand
- 3x more likely to re-purchase
Find your magic, define what it means, and make sure it’s the lifeblood that flows not just among your customer support team, but your entire brand.
5. Inspire more emotion cross-functionally
Think about evoking great emotional experiences with more than your customers. Who else touches the customer?
Help your service team and your sales staff be happier. In turn, their positivity will spread.
As an article in Management Issues points out, one good way to achieve this is to help your team understand how their initiative or their action helped solve a customer’s problem.
4. Aim for emotional connection over rational satisfaction
This point can’t be overstated enough.
According to Human Sigma: Managing the Employee-Customer Encounter, research by Gallup, “Emotionally satisfied customers deliver enhanced value to a company, for example, by buying more products, spending more for those products, or returning more often to or staying longer with the business. Rationally satisfied customers, on the other hand, behave no differently than customers who are dissatisfied.”
The implications of this research are critical: aiming just for customer satisfaction is no longer enough.
Businesses today must appeal to both customers’ rational and emotional sensibilities.
Rational satisfaction can include things like proving how much a customer saved, showing them benefits and features, and offering them access to a fancy loyalty program.
Building emotional connections might include things like, well, this entire list.
3. Focus on avoiding disappointment, anger, irritation, anxiety, and stress rather than “Wow-ing” customers
Research shows that certain emotions tend to linger more than others. Learn to maximize the positive emotions, and minimize the negative.
Springer’s Journal on Motivation and Emotion recently found, for instance, that sadness, hatred, anxiety and disappointment all ruminate longer than compassion, being touched, and gratitude.
“Emotions that we would normally associate with service failure or customer service problems will last longer than emotions that we would associate with wowing and delighting our customers and providing great customer service,” wrote customer service expert Adrian Swinscoe.
Sometimes, it might pay to shift your focus. Take a break from focusing on remarkable experiences, and spend some time thinking about ways you can avoid a negative customer experience that causes negative emotions. Let “remarkable” happen as the natural outcome.
Image Source: Wikipedia
2. Turn emotion into memory
There’s no debate that customer experience is the new battlefield.
So, you need to provide a great customer experience.
We’ve covered ways you can do that using emotion. But if you can take the next step, and turn emotion into memory, you’ve gone from creating a great one-time experience to creating something that lasts forever.
The key to customer experience is turning emotion into memory. https://t.co/YhMBE6IyBG
— Neal Woodson (@NealWoodson) July 9, 2016
Customer experience professional Ian Golding wrote about how the Ritz-Carlton masters creating emotional memories by going above and beyond for each customer.
Creating a memory isn’t easy… this isn’t the Christopher Nolan fantasy-mystery film Inception. It takes a remarkable associate, freedom to act (e.g. deviate from a script), and a perfect opportunity to make a memory.
A good example of this would be sending a personal gift to a customer’s doorstep. It would be offering a month’s worth of free service for a mistake made. It’s proactively giving value even when you’re not required to do so. Things like this go above and beyond.
Next to love, empathy is perhaps the realest of human emotions.
It’s the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, and understand them.
The tough part, especially with customer service, is that often being empathetic means breaking so-called rules.
Image Source: 360Connext.com
That’s why it’s #1 on my list, and it’s so difficult to do.
Colin Taylor told me “Most organizations train their staff to be dispassionate when interacting with customers. All organizations can deliver improved customer experience by training staff to better understand a customer’s perspective. This includes walking in the customer’s shoes, and displaying empathy in customer interactions…”
It’s easy to say “I understand. I get what you’re going through.”
Quite tougher to have the flexibility to step outside the boundaries and give a customer leeway on their bill because they’re bankrupt. Or to share a personal story with them to let them know you’re there.
Empathy is the most important thing you can do to connect with customers for more emotional experiences.
There you have it – 45 relatively easy-to-implement, surefire ways to move toward more emotional customer service and experiences.
Experts, analysts, and thought leaders across the industry are clamoring for businesses to create more emotional customer experiences:
Are you connecting to your customers emotionally? It’s more important than you think. https://t.co/D8TcIwL0Sx
— Neal Woodson (@NealWoodson) September 24, 2016
— Shep Hyken (@Hyken) September 14, 2016
— Teresa Allen (@TeresaAllen) June 7, 2016
Emotion matters in customer service more than you’d think https://t.co/Sr5LxOW4V6
— Brian Moore (@GetMooreNuance) May 3, 2016
— Jeanne Bliss (@JeanneBliss) August 3, 2016
So shouldn’t you? Emotion is critical in forging more human connections. It has to be evident in all outward-facing functions of your company including the:
- contact center
- sales team
- marketing material
Chances are, you won’t be able to implement every one of these tactics. But if you can take a few, and create just one happier customer per day, you’ll be on your way.
Keep in mind that you’re only one half of the equation. At the end of the day, the customer must be willing and open to experience pleasure when they connect with you. By using the tactics outlined here, you increase the odds of that happening.
As Augie Ray, customer experience analyst at Gartner points out: “You cannot manufacture emotion; you can only change what you do to evoke a shift in perception… customer experience is owned by the customer.”
Research from the Human Relations journal shows that positive emotion is contagious. It’s clear that emotion is the next wave in customer experience.
Are you in?
Guest Author:Michael Becker is a Content Marketing Strategist at Sharpen, a cloud-native contact center platform. He writes about customer experience and content marketing strategy. He graduated from Butler University with a Bachelor’s in Communications and Journalism, is an avid Bulldogs basketball fan, and lives in Indianapolis, IN. Twitter | LinkedIn