Do you feel customer service has either become too casual or too robotic? Where is the humanity sweet spot?
Recently I had the pleasure of trying to change/update my address for my contact information at a telecommunications company. If you hadn’t guessed already, I do say “pleasure” in the most sarcastic of tones.
In a nutshell, the process went like this:
- Step One: Try online
- Step Two: Give them a call.
- Step Three: Tweet at them through Social Media
I certainly would have loved to have done all this through Step One, using their website change my address, but unfortunately, for whatever reason, my password wasn’t being accepted nor my security questions. It was a little frustrating but they did encourage me to call on the site if there were any issues. Which I did. Which is sadly what inspired this blog.
Not Human Enough
The minute I dialed their customer service number, I fell into the dreaded and pretty frustrating phone tree. You know the one. Bouncing from option to option based on the particular number that coincides with what you’re trying to do.That’s IF you fall into one of their neat little categories. And it’s always more fun when they add the voice recognition software that just inevitably leads to “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you. Can you repeat that statement?”
What also doesn’t help is the tone of the automated voice. It moves just slow enough to be grating. Never mind you’re already pissed off at having to wait for your particular topic to come around on the number train, but you also are pushed to want to punch a wall from the nails-on-a-chalkboard inflection of robo-operator.
But, can you just push “0” to get to a live person while jumping through these hoops? Course not. They removed that feature because everyone does that..which should be a sign that the phone tree isn’t working for your customers. Just sayin’.
Unfortunately this “efficiency” just usually leads to more frustration. And the longer you’re going through this tree, the more you want to “leaf”. (sorry, too easy).
So off to Twitter I went. I’ve really found that to really get quick, engaging service from a lot of companies, you have to go through their social media platforms. Is that fair and right? Nope. But sadly not all customer service channels are created equal. So when I shared my phone tree frustration (Tweet quote: “I’m starting to hate you from a phone experience. Can you help me change my mailing address?”), I received an almost too human response…
“Yikes, how can we change that hate to love?”
I’m the first person to encourage human behaviour when engaging with customers. People can see right through insincere scripted or tired and repeated messaging, but you can go too far the other way. As any waiter can tell you, you need to “read the table” aka, understand the situation or environment you’re involving yourself in and act accordingly. Two parts of this response troubled me:
1) “Yikes” isn’t the best word to use to address a customer’s obvious frustration. That might be your personal preference in how you talk but this is an engagement between two people, a customer service representative and the customer. We aren’t friends. We don’t have a prior relationship. For example, picture this…
Your friend turns to you and tells you how angry they are in how you do something that involves them. They are asking for your help in making it right. Would you say “yikes”? Or would you listen to what they have to say, apologize for the situation and look to find a solution? Exactly.
2) Where’s the listening? And you can’t get more of a human trait than responding without listening. I’ve shared what I’m angry about and need resolved. The customer service rep asks what they can do to “change that hate to love.” Um, I’d love it if you’d fix my problem that I just told you about. That would be a great start.
Being too conversational without establishing a relationship. Being defensive. Avoiding uncomfortable conversations. These are all very human actions, but none of which should be a part of your customer service engagement strategy.
Sidenote: For the record, I did share my concerns with the social service operator and they got defensive and said it was their “personal tone”. Sigh.
Just the Right Amount of Human
So where’s the sweet spot?
At the end of the day, customer service journey, sales funnel, etc. it’s about the customer, not you. What are they needing from you in that moment? It could be to fix their problem, it could be to take complete a sale, it could be a few different things but you need to understand what they need from you to make that happen.
A) Show Empathy – put yourself in the customers position. Try to understand their feelings and frustrations and think about how you can resolve it for them. You may have a particular personal approach but understand that it may not work in all situations. Meaningful relationship building starts and is maintained by showing empathy for another. And don’t you want to build a long relationship with your customer?
B) Actively Listen – Make a not of what the customer is saying, how they are saying it and what could be motivating them to say it
C) Make it Easy – what’s stopping the customer from getting what they need from you? How many steps have you put in their way to resolve their problem? Stop it. As important as it is to be friendly, be useful and helpful too.
Try to find the human sweet spot for your customer engagement. Going to far, either way, will only alienate your customers and not build that relationship you should be striving for.