You can have the most efficient experience in the industry, but if customers don’t feel like you care about them, they won’t stay loyal. Here’s how the people who interact with customers can consistently show they care.
Most organizations find it’s easier to teach employees the “hard skills” they need to do the job well than it is to improve their “soft skills.”
But it’s the soft skills — signs of caring, empathy, listening and concern — that matter most to the customer experience. “Your best strategy is to teach your employees what caring about customers looks like in action,” says Jon Gordon, author of The Carpenter. “When they see how good it feels to care, and how good caring is for business, you’ll receive your team’s buy-in and continued participation.”
So what does caring look like? Here are seven ways employees can show they care:
1. Be more present than ever
As business gets more complicated by technology, it’s often the simple things that can make customers feel great. Give customers your full attention by taking eyes and ears off all the distractions around you when they talk. All to often, employees type email or answer ringing lines while a customer is with them.
Leaders need to set the example here, putting aside distractions when they communicate with employees.
2. Extend the offer
Offer to help, but don’t hover. If customers visit you, acknowledge them quickly, if not immediately, and offer to help.
Of course, much more business happens online and on the phone these days. So when customers are online, offer a chat session, but don’t have chat box offers pop up over and over. On the phone, end every conversation with one more offer to help, in case customers think of something else.
3. Make it personal
Most front-line employees probably learned a long time ago to address customers by name to make the experience more personal. That still holds true. But adding a memory — perhaps referring to a past experience or personal information the customers shared another time — shows you care about the person, not just the transaction.
Most databases leave room for notes. Encourage employees to make short notes that they and colleagues can use as references to past conversations that can and should be mentioned again. On the flip side, they might want to also take note of things that shouldn’t be discussed with customers.
4. Show respect
Surely, employees who deal with customers know to be respectful. There are extra steps you can take to show respect beyond listening closely, speaking kindly and using a kind tone.
Example: Show customers respect by recognizing something they’ve done. I can be as simple as complimenting them on a choice they made during an order. Or, if they reveal an accomplishment — perhaps a work promotion, 5K finish, a child’s college graduation — during rapport building conversations, compliment them on the effort it took to achieve that. And note it in their account so you can follow up some time down the road.
5. Be positive
It’s nearly impossible to set a caring tone when talking negatively about your job, competitors, customers, the industry, weather or whatever. A negative culture is not a caring one.
“When you see the good, look for the good and expect the good, you find the good and the good finds you,” Gordon says. “You can apply this principle by making an effort to stop thinking of customers as ‘annoying,’ ‘needy,’ ‘clueless’ or ‘a waste of my time.’”
Employees don’t have to sugarcoat everything for themselves, customers or each other. But you can create a positive, caring environment by promoting the good things and asking for solutions to problems — and not complaining about those problems.
6. Have fun
Laughter is a sign of caring. Every conversation and exchange doesn’t have to be all business. Appropriate humor from you or customers is a powerful way to build stronger bonds.
At the very least, make fun of yourself for a little misstep — but never laugh about a major mistake that has customers upset. Show your personality with customers.
7. Go the extra mile
Look for ways to make every interaction just a little bit better. Small actions, such as walking customers to the door or through your website, show you’re interested in customers and how they’re treated. Follow up calls to make sure everything went as expected mean a lot, too.