Customer service is an essential aspect of running a retail business – a key ingredient with the power to make or break the flavour of your brand. An innovative, high-quality, competitively priced product can be completely undermined by a subpar customer service function – and if it’s your mission to bring such a product to the masses, one non-negotiable item on the agenda is ensuring your customer experience is up to scratch.
At Six Circles, we’ve developed a cutting-edge community engagement platform that’s designed to effortlessly complement your customer service function – with tools galore to manage, engage and grow your brand’s audience online.
First, though, it’s time to master the foundations of customer relationship management, as we share a handful of unforgivable sins committed by companies in various sectors across the globe.
Setting a negative tone
The laws of communication with customers are highly nuanced, and it’s all too easy to slip into a visibly negative tone when countering negative feedback or frustrated comments from your customer base. Negative language – which covers anything defensive, dismissive or condescending – paints a picture of a brand unwilling to hear the likely constructive feedback being offered by those best qualified to comment.
Don’t think of these exchanges as a battle – think of them as an opportunity to court and persuade your customers. Simply reframing the experience will make it infinitely easier to strike the right chord with members of your community.
Neglecting basic etiquette
Manners cost nothing but are worth everything, as they say. This is undeniably true of customer service, as poor etiquette has the potential to end previously profitable relationships – while first-class customer service is the key to loyal, enduring custom. There’s more to this than the obvious hellos, thank-yous and goodbyes, but it goes without saying that these basics should be a firm fixture of your customer service script.
Use your customer’s name in every exchange to make it abundantly clear that they’re a valued customer rather than a box to be checked. Express gratitude when a customer provides useful insights into how your product or service could be further improved. Ask if there’s anything else you can help with. Go the extra mile with each customer encounter.
Refusing to say sorry
There’s a natural aversion to apologies among customer and client-facing businesses, fuelled by a fear that apologising means admitting failure and relinquishing all power. We’re not suggesting assuming blame for every minute hiccup a customer has experienced as part of shopping with you – we’re merely urging you to own up to genuine mistakes and approach conversations about these mistakes in a polite and transparent way.
Acknowledging a frustrated customer’s feelings (rather than dismissing or belittling them) is a crucial first step towards smoothing over situations where your business is undeniably at fault. A defective product or problematic shipping process can leave a customer relationship on the rocks – and an unsatisfying response from customer service could well be the final straw. Maintain some perspective and hold your hands up when the situation calls for humility.
Keeping it impersonal
No customer wants to feel as though they’re communicating with a mindless bot. Every customer service experience should feel genuine and personal and tailored to the given customer’s unique query or complaint. This means every response you provide should be relevant and useful, rather than feeling as though it’s been ripped right out of the catch-all customer service handbook.
Get customers on side right away by mirroring their tone to communicate that you’re on the same page – ensuring your language and energy are appropriate for the nature of the exchange. By all means, follow a basic customer service script structure in terms of carefully and politely guiding the customer to an acceptable resolution – but if the customer ever feels like you’re phoning it in, you’ve done something wrong.
Regurgitating industry jargon
Many customers feel alienated by industry jargon – not least because it has the potential to read as patronising by customers who aren’t in the loop. As well as unnecessary shop talk, though, there’s also the customer service jargon that, when overused, will convince customers you’re less than invested in their query. Don’t “apologise for the inconvenience” when a simple “sorry” will do.
Speak plainly. Time is of the essence from both parties’ perspectives, and resolving a customer’s query quickly involves getting straight to the point and leaving the industry noise in the company boardroom where it belongs.
Leaving them hanging
While we’re on the subject of time, we don’t want to miss an opportunity to stress the importance of acknowledging questions and complaints in a timely manner. ‘Ghosting’ your community is a recipe for dead-end customer relationships – and the truth is that, in many cases, all a customer needs to feel heard in the immediate sense is an initial holding message letting them know their query is being looked into.
If you need to buy the time to investigate their issue in more depth, by all means buy that time. After your initial contact, calendar reminders will serve you well when it comes to touching base and providing updates. As long as a customer knows their query is a priority for you, you’ll find they’re happy to wait patiently for the resolution they need.
With your customer service function on point, you’re ready to use these newfound skills to build a thriving community of happy and engaged customers. Get in touch now to book your free online demo of our community engagement platform.