8 real world B2B customer service lessons
Many of our daily interactions and situations have an array of complex psychological layers that we’ve grown so accustomed to, we don’t even notice them anymore. Why do people instinctively walk on the right side of the sidewalk or put their foot on the brake when they start their car?
These actions we once consciously thought about but now perform at a near subconscious level have all sorts of little lessons and meanings behind them. We walk on the right side of the sidewalk to avoid unforeseen collisions with others. We put our foot on the brake when we start the car so we don’t roll down the hill. This got me thinking – what similar lessons can we learn from the real world and apply to B2B customer service? Here are 8 real world lessons to be aware of as you evaluate your customer service experience in the past, present, and future.
1. Don’t underestimate the power of first impressions – Restaurant recommendations from people you know can sometimes be hit or miss. If a friend tells you to visit a restaurant and you drive by and see it empty on a Saturday evening, you may be hesitant to park and go inside to give it a shot. The same can be said about online support experiences such as self-service. It’s important to make these experiences appear popular and useful through a simple, inviting support home page and suggesting lots of relevant content on additional support pages.
2. Keep the lights on to create positive experiences – Don’t promote a culture that turns the “We’re Closed” sign over five minutes early, leaving potential customer to approach your store and attempt to open a locked door. One of the best ways to create a positive experience is not just saying you’ll go the extra mile but actually proving to the customer that you will. Have your team get in the habit of assisting one or two more customers before the day is over and you’ll see customers take notice as they receive responses earlier than expected.
3. Don’t let good service go unrecognized – Especially at times when you ask for more from your support team, it’s important to distribute accolades. At restaurants in the U.S. the amount of the tip is a direct reflection of the quality of service. While tipping isn’t available in traditional customer service, the same principle can be applied by immediately asking customers to rate their support experience while it’s still fresh in their mind. Evaluate these ratings often and make sure to recognize agents who consistently receive high marks, especially if they are going above and beyond their traditional responsibilities.
4. Utilize the power of free – While initial feedback is great, it often isn’t actionable enough to make operational changes. Similar to how free samples will draw people into candy stores, consider offering free personalized products or prizes in exchange for direct and detailed feedback about your overall customer support operation. Make sure to share the good feedback with employees to boost morale and accept negative feedback to change policies and procedures so the overall support offering can be improved.
5. Too many choices can overwhelm customers – This is becoming a more common point of negative feedback within customer service organizations. When you go to the supermarket for a simple item like bread, you are bombarded with an entire aisle of options and choices. A similar experience can happen with customers when they evaluate how to contact you – do they want to contact the Technology, Software, or Application group? Is this issue severity Tier 1 or Tier 2? Define the choices given to customers very clearly and simplify them as much as possible. Use B2B customer support software to do a lot of the more granular ticket organization automatically without confusing the customer.
6. It’s perfectly fine to guide customers – A health and beauty store may have two different types of perfume but may push the type they have a surplus of by setting up an in-store display and placing the product at eye level on the shelf. Customer service solutions can deploy a similar tactic in the sense that they can feature their favorite support method (i.e. live chat) across multiple digital assets. You can even take it a step further and push live chat on a self-service page with basic topics and email or phone on a more complex page.
7. Train customers to be situationally aware – We’ve all had our behavior conditioned so that when we sit by the doors of a train or bus we are prepared to give up our seat to a person in need. This same type of conditioning can be translated to our customers – if there’s a major issue causing a support crisis, make sure your customers are aware of it so when they submit a minor request they know that a response may take longer than expected. In many cases it will provide each customer with an understanding that their minor issue may not be dealt with immediately, but at least their issue is acknowledged and not ignored.
8. Evaluate when to push the issue – Even if a ticket is lower priority, it’s still a priority and it’s important to train agents when and how to escalate an issue. Just because a customer says an issue is urgent, don’t encourage agents to be like a person who yells at the taxi driver that is stuck in traffic. Have agents take a step back from the situation and evaluate all of the variables impacting the issue and focus on the ones the support team can control. If the issue is in their control then by all means push to resolve it quickly, but otherwise cordially communicate with the customer that the issue is out of the team’s control and point them in the right direction. Don’t forget to follow up as well to make sure the customer was able to pursue a positive path in the right direction. The less agents come running to customer service leadership with irrelevant issues, the more seriously the issues they do bring up will be taken.
In conclusion, there are many ways we can apply the small and often overlooked moments of our daily lives to the customer support world. First impressions are still important, don’t be afraid to say nice things, and as customer service professionals we can help guide both agents and customers down our preferred paths for solving issues. Customer service in the modern era has become increasingly more about psychology and taking anecdotal approaches and experiences from our daily life can only make us more relatable in working with customers to find solutions.
Robert C. Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of TeamSupport.com, a cloud-based, B2B software application built to help customer-facing support teams serve clients better through stronger collaboration, superior teamwork, and faster issue resolution. A seasoned executive and entrepreneur who has founded and invested in numerous software and high-...