A few months ago my wife was looking to buy a new automobile. She went to a local showroom, but the salesman was busy with someone else. What surprised her was that several employees walked by, and not one made an effort to ask if there was anything they could do for her, or even said a cheery hello. The customer didn’t seem to matter.

Because they didn’t, she upped and left, and bought her vehicle elsewhere. One lost customer, one big sales opportunity wasted because no one seemed to care. “How can I help you?” is one sentence that should be top of the list when it comes to customer engagement. If you ignore customer support tickets for too long the inference will be that that you don’t care. If a customer is left standing without anyone coming to their assistance, they’ll take it as standard company practice and leave.   Ignore customers and they’ll ignore you.

It doesn’t take much for customers to leave you. One bad experience with your product, or your staff, and they’ll be heading for the nearest exit. It’s hard enough to win clients, but to lose business simply because your employees aren’t switched on to the needs of the business is wrong.

Every interaction with your customers, be it on social media, cellphone or help desk, will govern whether their experience is positive or negative. As Phil Hamburg, Vice President, Strategic Grown, Roots Inc, says, employees are also your most valuable customers, and it’s important that they create authentic customer experiences. It’s crucial to analyze your customer experience analytics to get valuable insights into the interactions between customers and your organization across various channels, enabling you to make data-driven decisions to enhance overall satisfaction. There are any number of ways a customer can be annoyed. They could have a brush with your help desk and feel aggrieved, or they may feel your sales people are not answering questions about how well the products work, but instead sticking to a few familiar sales phrases. The results can be costly.

The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.   - Sam Walton
  • The average ‘wrong customer’ will tell 9-15 people about it. About 13% will tell more than 20 people (White House Office of Consumer Affairs)

  • It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one bad customer experience (Understanding Customers by Ruby Newell-Legner)

  • 91% of unhappy customers will not do business with you again (Lee Resources)

  • 95% of customers will do business with you again if you resolve their complaint (Lee Resource)

  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers believe they are being treated (McKinsey)

One wrong move and you may never see that customer or potential client again. For some excellent examples of poor customer service practices check out Micah Solomon’s article in Forbes.

Your employees’ customer skills can work to your business’s advantage. Disgruntled or disaffected ones can be snappy when dealing with customers, so all employees should be focused on that.

1. Empathy

A lack of understanding or empathy for a customer’s complaint or query is one way of losing their custom. It tells them you are not interested and couldn’t care less. Negative words and phrases are one way of betraying your disinterest. Your tone of voice is another.

You may have had a tough day dealing with other customer queries, but the one you are dealing with right now deserves your full attention and empathy. Whether a customer’s query is major or minor is irrelevant – your job is to ensure their experience is a positive one. That starts with their first interaction with an employee.

Your customer doesn’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.          Damon Richards

2. Know Your Product

When a customer contacts you via a ticket, social media or phone, they expect you to have an intimate knowledge of the product. Your hesitation, uncertainty, or plain ‘I don’t know’ response will leave them with a less than favorable impression. If you’re passionate and knowledgeable then it will convey a really positive impression.

This applies to all employees who should be ambassadors for your product and your company. If it’s a SaaS product they should use it, and sing its praises to others. After all, if an employee doesn’t like their own product what does that say to potential buyers?

You have to live with your product, you have to know it through and through, you have to look at it, understand it, love it then, and only then, you can crystallize in one clear thought, one single theme, what must be conveyed about the product to the consumer. William Bernbach

3. Ask your customer the right question It might seem so obvious, and yet if customers have a problem with the product they may actually not be able to write it down clearly or articulate it. That’s where an employee will instinctively know what the customer is trying to say, and respond accordingly. This is especially so where you are dealing with customer support tickets.

It is also relevant where a customer may not be quite sure what product or software they wish to buy – there may, for example, be several options available, and they may be uncertain which is best for them. Perhaps they don’t need the most expensive solution. Give them what they need and they may come back because you were honest.

Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers Robert Half
  • Keep your focus

  • Stay calm

  • Focus on the problem

  • Remember you are dealing with a customer

4. Practice some patience

No matter how angry, confused or persistent your customer is, take a deep breath and do the following:

  • Maintain your focus

  • Keep your focus

  • Stay calm

  • Focus on the problem

  • Remember you are dealing with a customer

Most of all, be patient. Yes, it can be exasperating when a customer is long winded, is vague about the exact nature of a problem, or is belligerent. Remember, they are contacting you because they have a problem, issue or need advice.

See it as your goal to make their time with you a good experience. An absence of patience will lead to you becoming flustered, exasperated and offputting.

Sometimes things aren’t clear straight away. That’s where you need to be patient and persevere, and see where things lead.  Mary Pierce

5. Play it cool

Occasionally, a customer will adopt an aggressive tone. Yes, these people do exist. Perhaps they can’t find a feature in your software, or there is something wrong with the product and they can’t figure out what it is.

Think before you react. Try to put yourself in their position and don’t be antagonized or provoked into doing or saying the wrong thing. Be polite and listen. Carefully.

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind. David G. Allen

6. Use clear language

You must be able to communicate clearly to a customer, with no room for vagueness or ambiguity. To be imprecise or confused in your message means the customer will go away with either the wrong message or lack clear understanding of what you are trying to convey.

If you’re unsure what the customer is saying or has written on a ticket, probe for an answer. Be tactful in your response. Clarity removes all reason for doubt, in the customer’s mind and yours.

It is often wonderful how putting down on paper a clear statement of a case helps one to see, not perhaps the way out, but the way in. A C Benson

Every employee is a salesperson for your company. If their interaction with customers, or potential ones, is poor you’ll pay in lost sales. Empathetic employees with a working knowledge of your products, who engage positively with customers, are a big asset.