How Can Employees Show Customers They Care? 11 Strategies to Operationalize Caring
Jo-Carolyn Goode | 6/25/2014, 2:05 p.m.
By Jon Gordon, author of The Carpenter
(Wiley, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-470-88854-4, $23.00, www.jongordon.com
Caring about customers is one of the best ways to differentiate your business and gain long-term consumer loyalty. But how can employers operationalize such a “soft” skill?
“Your best strategy is to teach your employees what caring about customers looks like in action,” says Jon Gordon. “Suggest specific tactics they can employ. When they see how good it feels to care—and how good caring is for business—you’ll receive your team’s buy-in and continued participation.”
Gordon notes that most of the tips he shares can also apply internally.
“Employees can apply these principles to their interactions with each other, too,” he says. “How you treat your coworkers is how you’ll treat customers—you can’t separate the two!”
Here, Gordon shares 1 1 strategies employees can use to show customers (and each other) that they care:
Be present. Most modern workers have so many responsibilities and distractions that it’s tempting to listen to clients with only one ear (or half an ear!). You know how it goes: You make the appropriate noises during a client call (“Mmmhmmm…I understand…No, that won’t be a problem…”) while simultaneously typing an email to someone else. That’s why giving a client your full attention is so meaningful. Being fully present says, “I really care about you and what you need from this organization. You are my top priority right now.”
“Leaders, your employees will be fully present with customers only if you give them permission to be,” Gordon points out. “For instance, if you ask someone why she didn’t respond to your email sooner and she tells you that she was on the phone with a client, you need to be okay with that. You can take a cue from Zappos, which encourages their employees to spend more time on the phone with their customers instead of creating time limits like many customer service call centers. Instead of rushing through calls, Zappos employees focus on being present and caring.”
Say it with a smile. Smile and be polite during all customer interactions. “Can I help you?” said with a smile has a very different effect from the same words said without one. If you don’t feel like smiling at any given time, Gordon advises you to think of your favorite joke or funny movie scene and make yourself smile. It has been scientifically proven that the act of smiling improves your mood and can reduce stress! (Actually, a fake smile produces more stress relief. Just so you know.)
Call customers by name. When interacting with a customer, ask her name—then remember it and use it. Referring to someone by name demonstrates that you see her as an individual with unique needs and preferences, as opposed to “just a number” or a source of income.
Extend a genuine offer to help (but don’t hover). It’s true; no one appreciates “that” salesperson who shadows your every step as you browse through a store, asking you every two minutes if you need any help. But that doesn’t mean a single, simple, heartfelt, “Please let me know if you have any questions or need any help while you’re here” won’t be appreciated. It will! Even if a customer knows exactly what she wants, where to find it, and how to use it, the fact that you noticed her and offered your assistance will make a positive impression and send a powerful message about your company.