Winning Customers’ Hearts at the Checkout Counter

The relationship we maintain with brands is hardly ever based on a single, isolated event or interaction. Rather, it is the whole customer experience, from the moment that an individual enters a place of business to the very moment that they walk out of it, that sums up a lasting impression of that particular brand. Keeping that in mind, the checkout counter is the ideal place for brands to win their customers’ hearts!

Lost on how to win your customer’s heart at the counter? Here are a few simple tricks and tips to deliver customer service excellence.

It’s In the Way That You Speak

The checkout counter is your final sales point and it is imperative for your business that a customer leaves the counter completely satisfied with the service rendered. Make sure the customer is happy and pleased with the overall experience offered. It is also a key opportunity for the representative to make more sales as customers often make impulse purchases at the counter. However, this impulsive urge works both ways as there is also a chance that they may also change their mind at the checkout counter and drop some of the items from their shopping cart. Prevent this change of heart by offering a personalized service experience to your customers which makes them want to come back.

The Extra Touch of Personalization

In the age of self-checkouts and self-scans, provide your customers an extra touch of personalization by being more human in your interactions. If it’s a regular customer who drops by every morning for a quick cup of coffee, personalize your greeting by including their name while you ring up their bill. Exchanging short pleasantries builds a positive reputation about the brand and encourages customers to keep coming back for more.

Even if you don’t know the customer’s name, actively greet them with a smile, introduce yourself and ask them their name – all of this will take under 30 seconds!

Empower your staff with customer service training by teaching them vital skills such as active listening and empathy to better interact with customers. Here’s an unwritten rule to remember:

If your customer pays and leaves the checkout counter without a change in expression, you’ve made a sale. If they pay and leave the checkout counter with a smile, you’ve made a client. MAKE THEM SMILE!

Provide Useful Solutions

The checkout counter is a perfect place to demonstrate to your customers that you care for them. Anticipate your customer’s needs, be an active listener and provide solutions to them without delay. One way of doing this is to stock your checkout counter with frequently forgotten items. For instance, it is not uncommon to see chewing gums or pretty little notebooks and stationary items at the checkout. These are things that customers need but forget to buy while crossing off items on their shopping lists. Mega-brand makeup stores are known to design their checkout lines with mini-sized essentials, such as makeup brushes, nail files, and travel pouches, that customers can pickup while they are waiting in line to pay. Another neat strategy is to keep a log of items that customers frequently ask about and place them close to the sales counter. Winning hearts is all about being proactive where your customers needs are concerned.

Tempt Them to Visit Again & Again

The checkout counter is one of the places where your employee gets an opportunity to interact with the customer and exhibit their best customer service skills. While it is important to pitch additional items at the sales counter, it is just as important not to sound too pushy or overbearing. Instead train your checkout counter staff to positively engage customers by offering them loyalty rewards, coupons, or access to exclusive sales and other promotional events.

A good loyalty program will multiply the impact of a good customer experience and help you increase customer loyalty. What matters is how well you can provide a pleasant service experience and secure a repeat customer for your organization.

Essential Damage Control Tips for Customer Service Agents

Mistakes happen. Unfortunately, it is quite easy for upset customers to walk out after you have made a mistake. Thriving businesses know that service recovery is one of the most important components of customer retention. According to customer service expert and author Ruby Newell, it takes up to twelve positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. For customer service representatives, damage control is not only about saying the right thing, rather, it’s also about not saying the “wrong” thing during a customer interaction.

Before we talk more about what to do in a situation like this, let’s first list down what NOT to do:

?     Don’t be on the defensive- remember that your company’s reputation is at stake.

?     Don’t put the blame on others- especially not on the customer!

?     Don’t walk away from the situation – take maximum measures to resolve the issue.

?     Don’t give superficial options- lead with empathy and provide meaningful solutions.

?     Don’t appear dishonest to your customers- stick to your word.

By following a few simple damage control steps and implementing the right customer service training, you can transform angry customers into loyal ones. Here is a quick guide that’ll help you fix your mistakes over all three modes of customer service; face-to-face, over the phone and over social media.

Resolving Customer Complaints in a Face-to-Face Setting

If you’re in a customer-facing role at a bank, hotel, retail counter or the reception desk at an office, you’re bound to deal with dissatisfied customers from time-to-time. This may sound clichéd but putting yourself in the customer’s shoes can really improve your response as a customer service professional. A well-established customer service practice is to handle sticky face-to-face situations with the simple L.E.A.R.N. acronym.

L= Listen, E= Empathize, A= Apologize, R= Resolve, N= Now.

The most pressing need of angry customers is to be heard and you have to “listen” with your eyes as well. A University of Pennsylvania study reported that 70% of communication is body language, 23% is voice tone and inflection, and only 7% of communication consists of spoken words! Maintain eye contact with the customer, stand or sit up in your chair and give them your complete and undivided attention. This approach will definitely diffuse some of the tension. With the customer convinced that you are being attentive and that they are your top priority, confidently list down the possible solutions and work with them to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Mending Customer Service Blunders Over the Phone

In most businesses, a majority of customer service interactions take place through the phone. The most obvious pain point a customer experiences on the phone is the inconvenience of being put on hold for extended periods of time.  It is frustrating to be immediately put on hold for indeterminate time periods, especially when they are calling to lodge a complaint in the first place!

Try not to interrupt while the angry customer is speaking; instead, listen patiently and jot down the major concerns on a notepad. Once they have finished talking, give them a few seconds to calm down before you repeat or summarize their points.

The tone of your voice plays the key role here. Focus on using an even tone while you speak to them which is both calm and sympathetic. Do not forget to apologize for the trouble this problem has caused them. Then go on and provide them with options to resolve their issue along with an estimated time by when the solution will be implemented. Before hanging up the phone, always inquire if there is anything else you can do and if possible, add a compliment or crack a joke to lighten their mood.

Repairing Strained Relationships Over Social Media

Responding to customer support inquiries over social media is crucial to a business’s success in this increasingly technology-dependent age. Optimal response times for customer care issues over social media fall in the thirty minutes to one hour range.  Just like in a face-to-face setting or on the phone, first allow the customer to explain the situation without interrupting and then deal with them in an empathetic manner. The most challenging part is to sound “human” since body language and tone are key elements that are missing in a Facebook chat or a direct messaging conversation on Twitter.

Avoid giving robotic or scripted responses to an angry customer. It really helps if you include the person’s name in your replies because it sounds more human and they can relate to what you are saying more quickly. For example write something like, ‘Thank you, Sarah, for making us aware of the situation. Let me see what I can do to help you”.

Look through this particular customer’s history, such as prior interactions with the company on other social media platforms or via email, to gain valuable insight that can help you quickly resolve the complaints. Spelling and grammatical mistakes make you look unprofessional and can further irritate an already upset customer. This might sound odd but careful use of emoticons in your written communication can also help calm down distressed customers.

Finally, treat yourself to a cup of coffee after the situation has been successfully resolved.

5 Human Skills Every Savvy Professional Must Have

Miscommunication and misfires during customer interactions can threaten a company’s reputation as well as an individual’s career. Whether or not one is in a primarily customer-facing role, the expectation is to deal with all clients in a competent manner.

Part of that competence comprises of tapping into the relevant human skills such as critical thinking, negotiation and emotional intelligence that can resolve even the most tense situations.

A pre-programmed chatbot may be able to make a simple travel booking, but add in a few complex requests or a crisis situation and the customer will immediately want to talk to a real person. Empathy, for instance, is a non-tradable human skill that no robot, till date, can replicate.

It is not enough to do our job well, especially in a time when we are becoming increasingly dependent on technology and automated systems. We need to rise above the very mechanical aspects of a role and strive to bring a ‘human’ element to all of our customer dealings.

Here are five unparalleled human skills that all of us need to sharpen to remain competitive in the near-future:

1)    Critical Thinking

Critical thinking was once assumed to automatically be a part of every adult’s toolbox. We now know that is simply not true. Critical thinking must be cultivated. There are a number of everyday situations where an employee is required to make spontaneous decisions. How effectively an employee can resolve a challenging situation with their critical thinking skills indicates a company’s customer service excellence. Let’s suppose a distressed customer reaches out to carpool service’s customer support helpline for assistance with an unprecedented request, like whether their dog can ride in the car. The agent is expected to take charge, utilize their critical thinking skills and present a solution – instead of waiting on directions from their supervisor.

2)    Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence and stellar customer service go hand-in-hand. There is often a gap between what is being said in a conversation, how the customer actually feels and what is being understood by the representative. A company’s entire customer experience can boil down to each employee’s ability to accurately gauge customer satisfaction during an interaction. Emotionally intelligent customer service representatives are known for being able to better understand the customer’s wants and needs. A truly customer-centric organization will facilitate productive interactions and relationships with clients. Why not train everyone in the skill of doing just that?

3)    Cognitive Flexibility

While the popular mantra is to avoid multitasking in the workplace, there are times when it becomes impossible for a professional not to! That is when one desperately needs cognitive flexibility, especially when trying to accomplish tasks with competing deadlines. Ideal customer service representatives go an extra mile to cater to their customers, which can include dealing with various requests that help resolve their concerns. Cognitive flexibility is a valuable trait that helps one:

  • develop professionally
  • adapt to situations effectively
  • learn more quickly
  • solve problems creatively

Think of cognitive skills as a muscle- the more flexible it is, the better it performs.

4)    Negotiation

Like critical thinking and emotional intelligence, negotiation skills were once thought to be a trait one was born with. It is now widely understood that people can be taught how to effectively bargain with others in professional setting, especially when they play a key role in a company’s overall customer experience. If you think about it, customer relations are strengthened when negotiations end with wins for both parties.

5)    Collaboration

Even your best employees will require help from other team members from time-to-time.  Willingness to collaborate, be it in-person or in a digital environment, will help your employees efficiently find solutions for the customer. The ability to collaborate enables people to come up with better ideas and overcome challenging situations.

No matter whatever role one occupies, maintaining congenial customer relations is a must for all professionals. Having the necessary human skills can help achieve this. Customer Service Training Programs are particularly useful in harnessing these essential workplace skills.

Is Your Customer Service Millennial Ready?

Millennials are the first truly digital generation and they are changing the rules for customer service. Many of them are entering their prime spending years and as compared to the baby boomers, they expect their customer experience to be more dynamic and holistic. According to Accenture’s Global Consumer Pulse Research report, 68% of all millennials demand an integrated and seamless experience regardless of the channel.

Convenience is pivotal to millennials and they easily switch brands if their expectations are not met. They are technology dependent which also makes them more aware of their options. Chances are that before engaging with a particular company they have already done their preliminary research online. This changes the landscape of conventional customer services best practices.

It is fundamental that your customer service team is trained to deliver according to the expectations of millennial customers. Here are some key features that your customer service must encompass in order to be deemed absolutely millennial ready.

Quick, Simple and User Friendly

Customers want convenience and instant solutions to their problems. Your customers should be able to easily find each and every detail they need from you.  In a virtual setup where there is a pool of choices available, your company should focus on providing a simple and user-friendly experience. This includes:

  • Up-to-date FAQs section
  • Straightforward purchase path
  • Multilingual Live chat support for quick assistance

For millennials most brand interactions start online and mostly via mobile instead of a desktop or laptop. Having a mobile friendly website which is easily accessible on all devices has become essential.

Research shows that most millennials are not a fan of calling phone support as they hate having to wait and being put on hold. This makes round the clock, real time live chat on websites, social media and within business apps an essential tool which is quick and efficient when it comes to helping customers.

Personalization is a Norm

Rapid technological advances have enabled companies to leverage data to provide highly customized messages to customers which is something millennials like.They expect a customer service agent to know about their service history when they get in touch with them for assistance. Doesn’t it feel great when your favorite café remembers your preferences?

Adding a human element in your interactions will set you apart from other competitors in the market, which is why it is highly recommended to avoid using scripted responses when dealing with customers. This can be ensured with regular customer service training of the company’s staff to deliver personalized responses.

Listen and Understand

Millennial customers are big on giving feedback and ratings to companies. They are more likely to put in the effort to write a positive review if they have had a pleasant experience and a negative one for a poor experience. They are not afraid to speak their minds and social media is their oyster. They would immediately report a negative experience and share their stories with the world which creates a negative image for your company.

Listening and understanding your customers has become a necessity more than ever before. It is crucial that your team is collecting feedback from customers and is actually catering to their complaints and suggestions. For millennials it matters that their voice is being heard and their suggestions are being valued by a company.

You can also conduct mystery shopping to check if your service is millennial friendly. Based on the results, your service can be tailored accordingly.

What are the customer service practices that you feel are crucial for keeping millennial customers happy? Comment and share your experiences with us.