“People buy feelings, not things”.
You’ll find this phrase said by business strategists all over the world as they explain the importance of psychology in business. The phrase is pithy, catchy, and it’s also true. Normally when this phrase is used its concerning sales, but it works for customer service too. While sales teams need to make customers connect with the product, customer service teams make customers connect with the company. With deliberate and sincere use of psychological influencing techniques, you can turn an unhappy customer into a happy one, and even stem negative feelings before they begin.
One study found that 84% of customers said that their last customer service interaction did not exceed their expectations. This can happen for many reasons, but not effectively connecting with your customers is a key reason and that’s what inspired us to make this list…
Why Sincerity is Important
People tend to get a little uncomfortable when talking about psychology when it comes to persuasion and influence. This discomfort stems from the belief that if you are acting deliberately rather than off-the-cuff, then your actions aren’t sincere. And if you’re not being sincere, then you must be trying to manipulate. In truth, manipulation is exactly what you’re doing. Manipulation has negative connotations because nefarious individuals often manipulate people for their own gain, a gain that is often detrimental to the person being manipulated.
However, at its most basic, manipulation just means the skillful handling of a situation for a desired outcome. This outcome can be good for you, and good for the customer. This is exactly the kind of manipulation we’re interested in. The kind that benefits everyone involved in the buying journey, the customer and the business.
This is where sincerity comes into the equation. Your customer service agents should sincerely want to help the customer – that’s likely why you hired them! However, even with the best of intentions, customer service agents can make mistakes. They may accidentally say the wrong thing, use the wrong tone, or use awkward phrasing. All of these actions can derail the customer-agent interaction into something negative and result in a poor customer experience. This is ultimately what we want to avoid, and this is why following psychology tips is so helpful.
Language is Everything
When we say language, we mean the words you choose, your tone, and what message these invoke in the customer. You’d be surprised how similar-sounding phrases can spark totally different emotions in people. Several of these points will focus on the language and tone should use with customers because this is where your success lies. According to many psychology studies, 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is spoken words.
When it comes to customer service, your agents will likely be cut off from one element of that communication, and maybe even two. Customer service agents who talk on the phone can’t rely on body language at all, they can only rely on tone of voice and spoken words. For agents responding to customers on Live Chat or SMS, they can only utilize the spoken word. When you cut out elements of this communication equation, you need to be much more careful with the parts you do have. Put simply, if the spoken word is all you have, then you can’t afford to get it wrong.
10 Winning Customer Service Psychology Tips You Can Adopt to Dominate Your Industry
1. Focus On What You Can Do For the Customer
Always focus on what you can do for the customer, rather than what they can do for you. Customers aren’t really interested in your achievements as a company, your success stats, and other things of this nature. If they are calling your company, it’s because they are experiencing an issue that is personal, and they expect a personal response. They want to know how you are going to solve the problem, so this should be your primary focus.
2. Write As You Speak
If you’re talking to customers over a messaging platform, then write as you would speak if you were talking to them on the phone or in person. Your language should be conversational and informal. Customers want to talk to humans, not robots. Even when they talk to robots, they want them to feel human, so don’t talk like a corporate robot.
3. Use “We” instead of “You”
If you’re helping a customer complete a task, always use “we” rather than “you”. For example, let’s pretend you’re helping a customer log into their account for the first time. You should say “First we need to go to login portal” rather than “you need to go to the login portal”. This is a subtle difference, but it makes the customer feel like you are invested in the solution to their problem. It makes them feel like you’re tackling the problem together, rather than instructing them on how to do it alone.
4. Always Use the Customer’s Name
In customer-agent interactions, it’s common to clarify the customer’s name when starting the conversion. However, there’s another important reason to use a customer’s name outside of the initial introductions. When people hear their name, they pay attention and they feel validated and important. You might need to clarify their full name initially, but after this, you should just use their first name because it’s more personal and intimate.
Now, of course, you should abuse this tip – don’t say the customer’s name at the end of every sentence, but rather slip it in every now and again. This will draw the customer’s focus firmly back to the interaction and let them know that you’ve invested in them as a person. You want to make customers believe that you see them as a person and a valued customer, not just another number.
5. Use Positive and Confident Language
If a customer is contacting customer service, then they are likely experiencing some level of anxiety about your company or product. Maybe something isn’t working, maybe they can’t get into their account, or maybe they’re confused about something. They are calling you because they expect you to solve the issue so it’s of paramount importance that you convey that you absolutely can help them. You should avoid using vague or uncertain language because this will make the customer’s anxiety levels increase.
6. Show Empathy
Showing empathy is critical to strike a connection with the customer. You should listen to their problem carefully and validate their feelings. One way to do this is to use empathy statements. Here are a few examples:
- “I appreciate your patience.”
- “I understand your frustration.”
- “Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.”
- “Your business means a lot to us.”
- “You are totally right.”
- “I’d feel the same if I was in your position.”
- “You might find X helpful.”
7. Be an Active Listener, Not a Passive Listener
Active listening is when you fully hear and comprehend what someone else is saying. It’s easy to get distracted by our own thoughts, especially when we’re talking to customers all day. However, it’s essential that you actively listen at all times and display this to your customers. Here are some active listening tips:
- Repeat the customer’s issue back to them. This serves two purposes. Firstly, you can make sure you understand the problem and that you haven’t missed anything. Secondly, it shows the customer that you were paying attention to them and that you’re invested in combating the problem.
- Try not to interrupt the customer unless it’s necessary. To be a successful active listener, you need to let the customer finish explaining their problem in their own words. Once they’ve finished, you can respond, but try not to interrupt them mid-sentence. This one can be a little tricky because obviously, you don’t want to be locked into a conversation where a customer is rambling and getting off-topic. If the customer starts to go off-topic, you can interrupt to repeat their issue and try to offer next steps.
8. Use Door Openers, not Door Slammers
This ties into the previous point on active listening, but it’s important enough that it requires its own section. Door openers are phrases you can say that show that you are actively listening and encourage the customer to continue talking. Door openers also put people at ease and make them feel more validated, both of which are extremely important when trying to build a connection. Door slammers are phrases that cut off the exchange and invoke a negative emotion in the customer. Here are some examples.
“That’s a good question.”
“Do you want me to look into this for you?”
“I can see why that’s bothering you”
“I appreciate you bringing this to our attention”
You should also use ‘minimal encouragers’. These are phrases that show you’re still listening without you interrupting the customer’s flow. Examples of minimal encouragers are “um hm,” “I understand,” “then?” “Oh?”.
Asking the customer “why?” can make them feel defensive. If the customer is explaining their issue and you have figured out where they have gone wrong, you shouldn’t question why they took those actions or tell them what they should have done. People don’t like to be criticized, even when they can accept that they made a mistake. It makes people feel inadequate and sometimes even personally attacked, even when it wasn’t meant that way. This is just part of human nature and something we’re all guilty of. Instead of saying “you should have done this”, you can say “why don’t we try X”. Even when you have to explain where the customer has gone wrong, it’s important to stress that it isn’t their fault and still make them feel validated.
9. Respond Quickly and Be Available
Nothing will make a customer feel more unappreciated than being ignored. When talking to customers, you must respond quickly to their questions, and if you need to take longer to reply, let the customer know that you’ll be a few minutes. Equally, it’s important to be available for customers at all times. This can be trickier for smaller businesses, but with the support of 2020 technology, it’s doable for businesses of all sizes. Chatbots are an excellent way to still provide customer service to your customers outside of your core operating hours.
10. Be Reliable
You want your customers to know that they can rely on your company to meet their needs. This includes swiftly solving their problems when they arise. Here are a few ways you can become a reliable business in the eyes of your customers.
- Resolve issues during the first interaction. Whenever possible you should aim to solve the customer’s issues during your first interaction with them. The majority of problems can be fixed quickly, so you should aim to fix them while you’re talking to the customer. If a customer has to wait for you to solve the issue another time, they will be feeling anxiety until the issue is resolved. The more time that passes, the more anxiety is felt.
- Identify their needs. It’s important to keep the conversation focused on the customer’s needs. This means you should repeatedly clarify the issue and repeat it when you’re doing to solve it. This must be done organically otherwise it can come across as unnatural and stunted. However, when done successfully, it’s a great way to remind the customer that they are your priority.
- Ask if there’s anything else you can help them with. Customers don’t want to feel that you’re rushing them on so you can get onto the next customer. They want to feel like you’re working with them to solve their issues and that you’re willing to put the time and energy into helping them. When you have solved their original issue, you should always ask if there’s anything else you can help them with before ending the conversation.