6 Strategies for Intelligently Approaching Customer Conversations
All good businesses work to understand their customers. Whether they track conversion funnel metrics or seek customer feedback, a business evolves to meet their demands.
Customer service is an excellent way to boost your marketing efforts, but we also have to treat it as an end in itself. It’s essential to consider how your staff talks to customers, regarding the channels used and what the conversation looks like.
Taking a holistic approach to customer conversations will much better position your business to deal with problems and retain - or expand - your customer numbers. Let’s take a look at how to do this.
- Use the right channels
- Use technology properly
- Track the whole conversation
- Think about message fundamentals
- Consider the customer’s perspective
- Be diplomatic
1. Use the Right Channels
Today’s customers have more channels than ever to communicate with your business. For customer service to be effective, we need to understand the nature of these. Then, we can solve problems for customers much more effectively since different channels allow for messages with other formats and purposes.
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Broadly speaking, we communicate with customers through five channels: live chat, email, social media, phone conversations, and text messaging. Live chat and social media are good for quick, simple queries or calling attention to a more significant issue. Conversely, phone and email conversations are ideal for in-depth dialogue. While you might not talk to customers via mobile, you can use mobile messaging to build customer loyalty.
You don’t have to use every channel, but understanding their quirks and expectations enables you to address concerns more effectively. It also helps you prioritize communication - live chat demands a quick response, while email can handle asynchronous conversations.
Remember, you and your customers can move between channels. For example, you might see a negative comment on Twitter about one of your products and offer to discuss it over email in more depth. You can also transfer customers to another staff member if needs be.
2. Use Technology Properly
Technology helps us talk to our customers more effectively, but there are limits to what it can do. Take recent innovations like chatbots. They’re ideal for simple queries but struggle with anything more specific. Even if your services incorporate a human element, impersonal elements (like ticketing) can frustrate and turn off your customers.
Use technology in a way that serves customers’ needs. You might want to set up chatbots, so they direct customers to a staff member if things get too complicated. You can also automate tasks that don’t need a human touch, like booking appointments.
It’s a good idea to anticipate common queries and answer them in an FAQ or similar resource. Try looking at blogging platforms if you need to explain more complex topics in small chunks. Whatever you decide, this lets you spend more time on meaty customer problems. It also accommodates people who like to find answers themselves.
Image source: Zendesk
3. Track the Whole Conversation
One thing that frustrates a customer is having to explain the same problem to different people. If you have to transfer a customer from one professional to another, everyone in the conversation needs access to the same information.
The best way to ensure this is with a CRM solution. You need to be able to consolidate customer information and conversation history from multiple channels into one place. Be sure everyone who needs to access it can do so, including sales and support teams. Doing this will cut down on customer dissatisfaction and ensure your staff can work more effectively.
If your customer service involves something sensitive or a large data file, choosing to fax virtually can make your job a little more straightforward.
4. Consider Message Fundamentals
In addition to your communication channels, you need to consider whether your responses meet basic messaging criteria. Your staff will likely be familiar with common customer needs, but it still helps to think about the nuts and bolts of messaging.
All messages need to convey accurate information (and allow colleagues to take over or fact-check messages if needed). They also need to address the specific concern, which is where the context from customer history comes in handy.
Even with plenty of customer context, you might not be best placed to handle a specific query, so make sure the appropriate messenger is available within your business - can you transfer customers to the right individual or the right team if needed?
Another concern is timing, which has an impact on things beyond customer service. You likely receive more complex queries at certain times of the day, which need more time to resolve. If so, allow time for support teams to deal with these problems and avoid scheduling other events (like meetings) in this time frame. Customers who feel that their concerns aren’t being addressed will make this clear to their friends and contacts.
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More broadly, consider how you prioritize customer messages. For instance, emails that mention bugs, glitches, or similar problems should be answered first, while requests for information, or to switch plans can wait.
If your staff struggle to answer queries quickly and accurately, consider outsourcing to a call center. This ensures your staff can concentrate on tasks and perform them to the best of their ability.
5. Consider the Customer’s Perspective
Of course, we have to consider the customers themselves in our approach to conversation. Some of your staff’s customer interactions will likely be stressful, even if you’ve worked to anticipate common problems.
The people they speak to might be impatient or condescending and make your staff want to respond in kind. If that happens, your customers are sure to share their experiences with other people and you could lose potential customers as a result.
Naturally, your staff are professionals and won’t resort to such tactics, but an excellent way to defuse the situation is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Likely, they didn’t mean to insult or belittle, and their response might be because they’ve misinterpreted something or because of a genuine error on your business’ part.
Encourage staff to listen to your customers’ side of the story. This will help them get the information needed to fix the problem. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer an apology if you have made a mistake somewhere. You aren’t guaranteed to mollify your customers, but you’ll have a fair chance of doing so.
6. Be Diplomatic
There are times when the customer is wrong or is focusing on the wrong thing (like the perceived incompetence of your staff members). Keeping the conversation moving in the right direction can be difficult without actively contradicting your customer, which is unlikely to improve their mood.
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In this case, it’s a good idea to focus on the issue the customer is facing and pull attention away from what the customer thinks is important. Staff should acknowledge the complaint but then focus on steering the customer back to the task at hand.
If nothing else, remember that keeping existing customers is preferable to looking for new ones. It costs five times as much to attract a new customer than keep one you already have, so you should spend time and money building trust and encouraging a purchase. Care and attention now will save you money later.
Isn’t it time you put these six top tips to work?