Silence is often a cause for concern.
'No news is good news' is one of those proverbial phrases that has circulated for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, you can’t apply this same wisdom to customer service.
I once made the mistake of assuming that a client my company hadn’t heard from in months was happily paying the bill and enjoying our services without defect. Had I not called to check in, I never would have known of the many technical problems the client was having. The client simply hadn’t had the time to call and resolve them.
Whether you haven't heard from some clients for a while or they just don't seem to be utilizing your product, 'silence' is often cause for concern. I've heard people state that they wouldn't risk emailing a customer because the customer might cancel the service. But disengaged customers won’t help drive your business, and that silence can often turn a fixable problem into a loss.
Silent but deadly
Of course, some customers can find too many emails or calls to be annoying. But in most cases, reaching out to your customers to offer help or ask for feedback actually cements your relationship — all while giving you insights into the customer experience.
Even if quiet customers aren't dissatisfied, they may not be enjoying all the perks of your product. This is especially true in the tech industry. Apple developed the Tips app to help users who were missing out on lesser-known features because small delights take people from mildly enjoying a product to loving it.
Learning about new features or clearing up confusion from a friendly, knowledgeable individual turns a frustrating situation into a positive experience that makes people want to continue a relationship with a brand.
The sound of silence
High-quality customer service is something all companies strive for, but long-term engagement and satisfaction requires something more. Here are five tips for establishing consistent communication that maintains positive, impactful relationships with customers.
1. Listen before you talk
From the very start of your relationships, keep your mouth closed long enough to listen closely and find out what the client wants. Sometimes it's hard for people to clearly and concisely express their exact hopes. Let them talk, and try to understand even their most abstract goals.
If you cut people off the second you think you know what they're saying, you might make incorrect assumptions. Then when you act on those assumptions, you're likely to deliver poor results. Take the time to ask clarifying questions and repeat customers' desires back to them. Speak their language — not yours.
The desire to understand customers, both individually and as a wider audience, should permeate every department of your business. Customer service is everyone's job.
2. Create more touchpoints
A call center or live chat function is great, but no one touchpoint is enough. Diversify your avenues of communication so consumers can take advantage of those most convenient for them.
Use phone, email and texting when possible. Then add FAQs, tutorials and social media. Coordinate responses between team members and departments so as not to overwhelm and annoy people with duplicate attempts to reach out.
When you choose tools to aid these processes, be selective. Literally hundreds of apps, automation software options and integrated services exist. If you invest in ones that actually help your business, you need only one or two.
3. Know when to call
Phone calls can easily become obnoxious interruptions. If your customer numbers are small, you may be able to interact on a personal level. But if you have thousands of customers, you can reach out as a group through email and individually respond to those who want to follow up.
Even the follow-up doesn't have to be a phone call. If you've been listening to your clients, you'll know who appreciates a personal call and who prefers to interact through email or other avenues. Again, if your numbers are big, establish a reliable system so you never make the same mistake twice.
4. Tell it to them straight
When you interact with customers, never give them a reason to stop trusting you. Be direct, straightforward and honest in all interactions. Make sure everyone on your team understands that you value integrity — even when it means giving a customer bad news.
Train your people on the front lines well so the insights and answers they provide are genuinely knowledgeable. That means conducting more than one initial training. Quarterly or monthly sessions keep your people informed on the latest developments, confident that they have the tools to help consumers and focused on acting with empathy.
5. Remember you and your team members are not perfect
Competition can be a strong motivator, but comparison generally leaves us feeling defeated. When employees get too focused on how their co-workers are doing or management gets down about a competitor's success, draw their attention back to the real goal: making each customer interaction as positive as it can be.
You will make mistakes, and so will your employees. There will inevitably be bad experiences and reviews. But overall, consistency and a persistent drive to keep improving will lead to a growing number of satisfied customers.
Instead of being content with apathetic customers, reach out and make those relationships vibrant and engaged. Both your business and those you serve will be better off for it.
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