By Rhonda Basler
Director, Customer Engagement
Hallmark Business Connections
Customer experience is such a big beautiful term. Everyone uses it. Many companies are “focused” on it. They create journey maps and define moments of truth, all in the hopes of becoming customer experience champions. But what I find most interesting is the struggle many companies face when putting customer experience plans into action.
Improving the customer experience requires both an internal and external shift in an organization. This calls for change, which can be difficult to embrace, but not impossible. I propose a shift that can power a culture change that drives customer experience improvements. It’s a simple shift and is easy for employees to willingly embrace: Stop simply serving customers and start caring for them.
1. DEFINING THE DIFFERENCE
Customer service is factual, punctual and logical. Customer care is empathetic, tailored, individualized and, most importantly, emotional. When customers make decisions, how they feel about your company always wins over what they think about your company.
I believe one of the most challenging roles in a company belongs to customer service individuals. Being a customer service provider typically involves intense training that is focused on the “logical” portion of customer outreach: how to fix mis-shipments, billing errors, damaged product protocol and more. The list goes on and on. Solving problems and providing solutions are important to improving the customer experience, but what if there’s more? What if the customer experience doesn't need to solely end with a solution, but with a relationship as well?
Customer care is an extension of customer service and leans into the naturally empathetic side of all human beings. Each of us seeks to understand one another without judgment. We feel empowered to end our interactions positively. It’s in our nature. We need to capitalize on our inherent urge to form relationships. We need to encourage our employees to own their empathy and apply it to all customer interactions. The more customers feel understood and cared for, the more likely they are to speak favorably of your company.
2. APOLOGIZING WELL
No doubt, one of the biggest moments of truth for any company is the atonement process. Everyone makes mistakes, and businesses are no exception. Each day technology errors happen, misunderstandings occur and, despite best efforts, customers experience distress. But it isn't the nature of the mistake that matters – it's how it's resolved.
Customer service is tactical in its approach to resolving customer complaints. When a customer calls with a problem, the customer service representative solves it. Customer care pushes this boundary further. Instead of simply resolving the problem, a customer care associate uses empathy to offer support and comfort. This employee strives to understand what the customer is feeling and, in doing so, true empathy can be conveyed, healing the emotional wound.
According to the 2013 Customer Rage Study, 56 percent of study participants felt they received nothing from a business after they filed a complaint. Additionally, 76 percent of respondents simply wanted an apology, but only 32 percent received one.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and strive to understand how they feel without over-complicating the situation. Sometimes the most effective solution is a simple apology with a side of empathy.
3. THE RESULT: ENGAGED EMPLOYEES, CUSTOMER ADVOCATES AND IMPROVED BUSINESS RESULTS
Customer feelings wield a lot of power over the future of your business. According a study by McKinsey & Company, 85 percent of customers increased their spending based on positive emotions throughout their interactions with businesses, while 70 percent reduced their spending when they had a bad experience. When employees are actively engaged in their work and strive to create a better emotional experience, customers will be more satisfied. This increased satisfaction leads to higher retention and loyalty.
Hallmark Business Connections has the pleasure of working with a global fortune 100 company on its customer care strategies. After training and providing customer care tools, employees said they felt inspired by the relationships they were building and had an 18 percent jump in their job satisfaction scores. Moreover, customers felt more valued and reported being three times more likely to maintain the relationship with the company than before. Overall, customers touched by the program had a 10 percent increase in customer retention, a 21 percent increase in purchase activity and a 32 percent increase in revenue. There is no arguing the success of those customer care results.
Customer care is essential to achieving our customer experience goals in today’s business world. Our hyper-social, high-tech world leaves little room for just “service.” Why? Because every business can provide that. When we empower our employees to embrace their natural ability to understand, empathize and care for customers, we also create a competitive differentiator in the marketplace.
To learn more, visit HallmarkBusinessConnections.com. Rhona Basler can be reached on LinkedIn.