Seven Service Valentines to Give Your Customers

Valentine’s Day is next week, but customer care expert JoAnna Brandi believes that you should give your customers “valentines” every day to increase loyalty, customer satisfaction, and referrals.

But that doesn’t mean simply sweet-talking customers who call your contact center. “Do you say a lot of ‘sweet nothings’ that ultimately mean nothing to customers, or do you communicate in ways that build customer relationships?” she asks. “Sweet nothings– using wishy-washy language, making insincere promises–can backfire on you, causing you to lose customers and profits. ‘Sweet somethings,’ on the other hand, build trust and rapport while creating positive customer experiences that can give businesses a profitable boost.”

Brandi offers the following seven tips for replacing sweet nothings with “sweet somethings that mean everything to customers”:

1) When you say “yes” to a customer, say it in a positive, joy-building way. “Words like ‘Certainly,’ ‘It’s my pleasure,’ or ‘Yes, I’ll gladly take care of that for you’ make customers feel appreciated and cared for – which makes them more likely to buy more from you,” says Brandi. “When you use words like, ‘Yeah,’ ‘Okay,’ and especially ‘No problem,’ it turns customers off. No customer wants to hear the word ‘no,’ which automatically creates the kind of negative feelings that undo customer care efforts.”

2) Build and maintain rapport. “Rapport” means accord, conformity, or harmony, and Brandi says that when people achieve it with their customers, something “magical” happens. “When customers feel that they truly connect with you–when they feel understood by you and trust in you–it increases customer loyalty and your chances of getting referrals.”

Building rapport begins by asking customers their names and respectfully referring to them by name throughout the conversation. From there, Brandi recommends that people listen carefully to discern if the language customers use is more visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, and then use the same kinds of words in the conversation. “Visual people use words like ‘focus,’ ‘see,’ ‘perspective,’ and ‘view,’” she explains. “Auditory people use words like ‘hear,’ ‘call,’ ‘discuss,’ and ‘dialogue.’ Kinesthetic folks favor terms like ‘touch,’ ‘handle,’ ‘irritate,’ and ‘concrete.’ When you speak to customers in the style they favor, it’s like you’re speaking their language–something customers love and appreciate.”

3) Make sure all communications are clear, concise, and correct. “If your honey sends you a Valentine’s card with your name and other words misspelled, would it endear you to him or her? Highly unlikely,” says Brandi. She recommends good grammar, use of spell check, and a final read before hitting the send button – especially if there’s any emotional content in the correspondence (as there usually is when dealing with a customer complaint).

4) Ask one question of customers that will enable you to get to know them a little better. Brandi says this shows that you’re interested in and care about the customer, and it give you some rapport-building info you can use in the next conversation: “Even those we’re closest with appreciate when you show an extra interest in them by asking them about themselves, and they always feel special when you remember what you learned.”

5) Smile! Whether you take care of customers in person or on the phone, Brandi says that smiles release “happy hormones” that are actually good for you–and when you feel good, your customers are bound to feel great when they deal with you.

6) Give customers your undivided attention. Have you ever walked into an office and been ignored by the person at the front desk? Ever have your groceries rung up by a cashier who paid more attention to her friend at the next register than to you? Ever speak to someone on the phone while the person was checking e-mails and talking with her assistant? “These experiences have become far too common for customers,” says Brandi. “The people who are supposed to be helping customers are either multitasking, distracted, clueless, self-absorbed, or poorly trained. This sweet something is about eye contact, listening skills, positive body language, and engagement in communications. It’s about making customers feel welcome, comfortable, and appreciated.”

7) Follow through and follow up. Ever have someone break a promise to you? Brandi says the hurt and disappointment you experience in such a situation are the same feelings customers experience when you don’t “close the loop” on all interactions. “Do what you say you’re going to do, and then let customers know you did it.”

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