As a business owner, you cannot afford NOT to build customer loyalty to YOUR business.
Whether your business in retail, hospitality, health care, financial services or travel, your customer-facing employees can make or break your business. The way they treat your customers, manage conflict, and resolve problems will influence your customers in their decision to stay with your company or take their business elsewhere. The reality is that one bad customer experience can cost you that customer for life, and if this customer is active on social media, then one tweet, post or status update can seriously damage your business reputation.
Research in the area of customer service has identified in 6 crucial behaviors or attributes in your customer-facing employees that make the biggest difference for your business.
- TRUST – Trusting individuals tend to believe that the motives of others are honourable. When presented with a customer problem, they have a strong tendency to assume from the outset that the motives of the customer are honourable. Rather than being cynical about the true intentions behind the complaint, they focus rather on finding a solution that is amenable to both the customer and the business owner.
- TACT – Tactful people tend to state their positions without offending others and are often seen as discreet and diplomatic. How something is said is often more important than what is said, especially in emotionally-charged situations. Customers may have false expectations about a product – or make wrong assumptions. They do not want to feel stupid or belittled by an employee making a big deal about a wrong expectation. There is always room for a healthy dose of restraint and diplomacy by an employee, even when a customer, client or patient is showing little of either.
- EMPATHY – People with high levels of empathy tend to understand the feelings of others and convey understanding and compassion. Customers, clients and patients need to feel that someone cares about their experience, that someone cares about the pain or unhappiness that they are feeling. They get turned off very quickly when they get the sense that the employee is showing little understanding or appreciation about their predicament. Customers like to feel loved, appreciated and understood – all feelings that can go a long ways in addressing unhappy situations, even ones that may be completely beyond the control of the employee or the business.
- CONFORMITY – People with high levels of conformity have a strong tendency to comply with the rules and those in authority – which is seldom a good thing from a customer service perspective. Solving customer needs or concerns often requires behaviors that are a little more free-spirited, inventive and independent. A willingness to consider alternative ways to get to the same place within some clear boundaries is an important customer service attribute. It also requires business owners that empower front-line staff to move around a little within policies and guidelines to reach acceptable outcomes.
- FOCUS – Highly focused people tend to stay on task regardless of distractions, and they are often attentive and purposeful with customers. They are not responding to texts or phone calls when someone is in front of them. Customers do not respond well to feeling “dismissed” by lack of focus by an inattentive employee. Feeling dismissed almost always results in a dismissal decision by the client – and there walks another customer, never again to darken your doorway.
- FLEXIBILITY – Flexible people tend to explore new approaches to doing things and are seen as adaptable, accepting and open-minded. They look for creative and innovative ways to solve customer problems. They find ways to safely “skate” within the policies and rules and show a customer that they have the ability to do just a little extra something to turn an unpleasant situation around.
Every business sector is different – and is best served by a specially-tailored mixture of the correct amount of each of the above attributes in their employees. But an important point to reflect on: the most powerful and favourable customer experience testimonials are provided by those who had a great experience having a problem resolved satisfactorily by your employees.
Customer-facing employees are the front door to your business. Even if these employees have the right technical skill sets and experience, their odds of being an effective representative of your brand and business are very low if their behaviors and tendencies do not have the correct balance of the six attributes described above. Although training can address these to a certain extent, these behavioral tendencies are largely in our DNA and basic make-up as individuals.
I encourage you to invest a little time to explore the ability of modern customizable customer service assessment tools and subsequent training materials to help you to hire, enhance and keep the best people in these critical roles for your business.
Remember, that the customer coming to your front door can also walk through your competitors’, businesses with similar products, comparable prices, and perhaps with employees with a different level of customer service skills and behaviors !