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Emotion matters in customer service more than you’d think

Customer emotion is key to creating a superior, successful customer experience that builds long-term loyalty. Emotion is critical to how people understand and remember situations, and their interactions with your business is no different. Here we lay out three tips to improving the emotional impact of your customer interactions.

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Positive emotions yield powerful business outcomes, but so do negative ones. Here are three tips to improve the emotional impact of your customer interactions.

In 2014, Pharrell Williams sang and danced his way into our collective consciousness with his infectious hit “Happy”, inviting us to clap along if we felt “like a room without a roof,” urging us to emotional heights that could not be contained by four walls and a ceiling. If only consumers felt that way about the companies they do business with.

While most companies who sell to consumers claim that when interacting with them, their customers are able to accomplish what they set out to do without too much effort, these companies are failing customers emotionally.

When the Temkin Group asked consumers how they felt about their most recent interactions with any of the 294 companies included in the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings survey, no company got an excellent rating, synonymous with customer delight. Even more disappointing, 40 percent of companies were rated as poor on the emotion metric, indicating their customers were left feeling at least somewhat upset by their interaction with the business.

You might think if a customer can do what they need to without breaking a sweat, that would be enough. Yet providing an emotionally-positive experience is the most important factor in earning and keeping loyal customers. How consumers feel about an experience heavily influences their future purchasing behavior – and Forrester has found that negative emotions have a much bigger impact than positive ones. Make a customer angry and they’re not only likely to stop doing business with you, they’ll tell everyone they can about their negative experience. In a recent survey, Wakefield Research found 78 percent of customers will take action after a single bad interaction!

On the flip side, positive experiences can go a long way when it comes to creating the coveted “promoter” customer, the one who readily tells friends and family that they should also patronize your brand. Eighty-eight percent of consumers will take positive action if they have a good experience with your business.

Want more promoters and fewer detractors? Of course you do. Here are three things that can improve the emotional impact of your customer interactions:

 

Anticipate their needs

One of the most effective ways to improve your customers’ experience is to predict their needs and proactively offer solutions before they experience a negative consequence. A good example of a company that does this is Southwest Airlines, which got the highest rating of any airline in the Temkin survey. When Southwest has to cancel a flight, they immediately reach out to their passengers using text and voice messages that offer rebooking options. The result for Southwest is happier customers and a reduced influx of calls into their contact center.

 

Don’t provoke them

Some interactions are more likely to spawn negative emotions than others. Attempting to collect a past due account is one of these. Customers are often defensive when it comes to their finances, especially when dealing with a cash flow problem. Having a highly motivated but inexperienced employee calling them to make a demand for payment can start an argument faster than you can say “you can’t get blood out of a turnip.” A better approach is to use a digital communication such as a voice or text message that objectively presents the fact that an account is late and provides interactive response options for resolving the issue. If the customer then selects the option of speaking with a representative, it’s their choice and more likely to result in a positive outcome, from both a transactional and emotional perspective.

 

Take complaints seriously

It’s been said that complaints are like medicine, sometimes hard to swallow but good for you. That’s true, but only if you resolve the issue raised by the customer and then work to change the behaviors that generated the complaint in the first place. To do this, you need an effective complaints management program. Your program should not only deal with formal complaints submitted directly to you or to third parties like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but also be capable of identifying negative emotions expressed by a customer during an interaction that don’t result in a formal complaint.

These are ticking time bombs that you want to root out and defuse like a champion minesweeper. To do this, you need tools like speech analytics that examine your customer interactions for keywords, phrases, and in the case of telephone contacts, acoustic characteristics that indicate customer stress or dissatisfaction. The most sophisticated of these tools allow supervisors to intervene while the customer is still engaged, providing real-time coaching to customer service agents or taking over if necessary.

If you do these three things, will your customers start dancing and singing like Pharrell? Your “voice of the customer” surveys are a good place to look for the answer. But don’t stop with just these three initiatives. Use the feedback to create a model of what matters to your customers, and keep a short list of pain points to eliminate or fix to keep them happy.

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Enterprises need to focus on customer benefit instead of the novelty factor
The modern consumer requires easy-to-use, intelligent customer service; a generic, vanilla approach no longer cuts it.
‘Vanilla’ IVRs don’t make the grade anymore – customers want ‘gourmet’ interactions
Bring conversation to the IVR to achieve easier customer experiences and decreased costs
The health insurance industry is at a critical transition point, and needs a little help from a friend to increase member retention and re-enrollment.
Health plans have a new best friend, and her name is Nina
Top ten payer uses virtual assistant to enhance customer service, lower costs
Achieving always is a magical experience – it means you have earned customer loyalty and trust.
Achieving always
Three tips for building trust with customers who want to serve themselves
Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s railway system and a world-leading logistic enterprise, embraced text-to-speech for its passenger communications onboard its trains. Deutsche Bahn wanted to notify riders of train-change possibilities, connecting trains, and schedules in real-time.
How to get customers on track with text-to-speech technologies
Confessions of a voice automation skeptic
Whether it’s an epic blizzard or a downed power line, worried customers start rallying to their utility providers for information and updates during storm season.
Utility companies should be preparing for storm season with prediction technology
Combine analytics and NLU to prepare for increased call volumes as winter weather approache
A top financial services company designed a mobile customer experience to turn saving money into a game and give customers a financial education.
Saving is hard: Giving “gaming” a twist by providing financial education
Embrace gamification to drive user adoption in self-service channels
Asking questions the right way leads to greater customer satisfaction and faster resolution times in the call center.
Technical newbie or experienced troubleshooter: How to describe issues to get the help you seek
Helping callers speak to Interactive Voice Response systems
False acceptances and misrecognitions cause a negative impact on customer satisfaction, but the traditional homespun theory of why and how may be misguided.
The potential trap of IVR best practices
Improve satisfaction by challenging conventional wisdom
Voice biometrics allows customers to simply speak in their natural voice to provide identity verification.
Say “Au Revoir” to passwords, PINs and security questions
Manulife enables voice biometrics for enhanced customer experience
IVR call containment can provide a great customer experience that reduces costs and inspires customer loyalty.
Part 2: Why an IVR containment strategy is a must for driving loyalty
Three rules to maximize call containment and increase customer satisfaction
Is SpeechTEK headed in two directions? Virtual agents and omnichannel customer experiences versus speech technologies.
Looming identity crisis for SpeechTEK?
Speech technologies are necessary (but not sufficient) for customer success in the future.
Addressing the FCC’s new TCPA rulings in the contact center.
2015 TCPA ruling: What’s changed?
Part 2: A layman’s ideas for abiding by the new FCC ruling
Delivering effortless self-service with intelligent virtual assistant technology.
BizMisconnect: Intelligent virtual assistants save time (and the day) for busy consumers
Intelligent virtual assistants help companies create effortless, intuitive experiences
Rather than staffing up, eHealth employed proactive customer engagement to deflect calls, enhance the experience and contain costs.
Of mice and cats: How eHealth used proactive customer engagement to meet call center demands
Reduce inbound call volume and deliver a better customer experience
Voice biometrics delivers easier, safer security authentication for customers.
Eastern Bank becomes first North American bank to use voice biometrics in the call center
Nuance FreeSpeech makes access to bank accounts as simple as small talk
Eliminate the silos between outbound communication and inbound conversations to create a consistent customer experience.
BizMisconnect: Connected conversations help avoid call center frustration
Are your inbound and outbound customer service channels talking to one another?
Today’s digitally savvy retail customer calls for convenient, quick and secure omni-channel service.
Voice biometrics and the year of the innovative retail service offering
Deliver better customer experiences with seamless security authentication
Digital customer service channels are on the rise but customers still turn to call centers as their escalation channel.
How digital customer service channels are transforming call center to escalation channel
The escalation of call center customer service
New research shows that Millennial expectations for customer service are now impacting customer demands across all generations.
Millennials vs. everyone else: Debunking the divide
Are Millennials really so different when it comes to customer service?
Voice biometrics delivers easier, safer security authentication without the passwords and PINs.
Polish consumers call for convenience and data security
Voice biometrics delivers secure authentication without passwords or PINs
Are disconnected channels and information leading to bad customer experiences?
Brief encounters with bad customer service
How conflicting customer service messages lead to call center frustration
Digital innovations and connected conversations can create slam dunk customer service experiences.
Delivering a slam dunk with connected customer service conversations
Winning the customer service game with innovative technology and connected conversations
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