Why do customer experiences go wrong? Why does the experience feel inconvenient, tiring, even adversarial? What if customers were the priority and helping them, providing good service, and resolving problems are second nature? How would it feel if customers were treated as guests, and friends and family? What if everyone was given the benefit of the doubt and met with patience and generosity? What if your customer experiences were word-of-mouth worthy? How would that sound and feel? 

Perhaps it would sound like what Bridget Brennan in her new bookWinning Her Business: How to Transform the Customer Experience for the World’s Most Powerful Consumers, refers to as “radical empathy.” 

Great customer experience is a great human experience. A great human experience – for everyone in the exchange – starts and ends well. For example, it starts with a greeting and focus of attention – the interaction between customer and company representative being the sole focus of attention. We can recognize when we aren’t. Tone of voice and initial greeting predict how well the human experience unfolds and will end.

Are your customer experience people trained to be ready to acknowledge your customers, and to listen and help? Do they have the right experience and tools to do the job well? Are they aware of their role and responsibility to the company and brand?  Are they using your technology effectively to provide a great human experience? Can you identify your stars, and those who need training and coaching? Do your employees know that they have your support? 

One of the best ways to find out what kind of customer experience your brand delivers is to listen. When you listen to your people, their conversations, and to your customers, you discover so much. Based on conversations with loyal and lost customers, this is what customers want to hear, and what you should never say:

Hello. That’s how good conversations start. People like to be warmly greeted, whether in person or virtual. An initial greeting should be included in every conversation, whether face to face or virtual.  That’s how guests and friends and family are greeted. It’s how focus of attention starts. 

Yes is the word that sets the tone for a great experience. When we take photographs, we should change from ‘cheese’ to ‘yes’. Yes is a relaxing, heart opening, smile inducer. It usually stops angry people in their tracks. On the other hand, “No” puts people on the defensive, they brace for a fight before you’ve said another word. 

I’m here to help versus “we can’t do that.” Even if you cannot do what they ask, or provide what they think they need, you can find a solution to their problem. When you listen, solutions follow.

I can help you with that. Can’t you hear the sigh of relief? Versus “We don’t do that.” Every touch point is an opportunity to demonstrate caring and competency.

I’ll find out. It is not always possible to know every answer. However, customers are fine if people don’t know everything or have every answer at their fingertips. They do, however, expect them to find out and remedy the situation. So, do not say ‘I don’t know’ and leave customers hanging. Customers say it is your job to find out if they don’t know. Customers want to know the customer service person is going to solve their problem. It’s ok if you don’t know but find out.

Great question. This is a great acknowledgement of the customer, hints at the customer service person being experienced and the company has a solution to the problem at hand. Do not reply with, “I’ve never heard this question before,” or “No one has ever asked that before.” It implies you think they aren’t being truthful or what they’re telling you isn’t possible. Or that you have heard it before but aren’t going to do anything about it. Believe your customers and give them the benefit of the doubt

Take your time. Not everyone comes prepared with all the information you need to help them. They don’t have every piece of information at their fingertips. They may not know what they are going to be asked for. People don’t want to be rushed. They find it easier to find the information if they don’t feel rushed or stressed. They’ve waited to get connected to service. Now they want you to give them your time and attention, patience and assistance 

I’ll stay with you until we get this resolved – and stay until you do or get them connected to a person who can help them – versus transferring them and them needing to start their story all over again. Remember when we were in store, and we would walk customers over to the shelf and item they were looking for? This is the remote version of that. Stay with them until they’ve been helped, or you’ve brought in someone who will help them. 

Thank you. Customers want to be appreciated for their business and loyalty.

Follow Up demonstrates concern beyond the transaction.  Moms who leave the hospital with their newborns feel relief and emotional connection when their health care providers check in on them.  Why not create that feeling with your brand   Now more than ever, communication, competence and caring are needed in business.