By Sophia Wright.
In order to deliver a customer service that is authentic and unique, it’s important that companies are able to tap into their customers’ unconscious. This involves not simply focusing on things like time taken to solve a problem or the number of queries your company receives in a week. It means understanding the desires, fears and emotions that happen to be at the heart of every successful sale and interaction, which your customers themselves may not even be aware of.
In a September 2013 study by advertising agency Young & Rubicam (R&Y), major brands were rated first on aspects that customers find consciously fulfilling. This placed brands like Amazon, Google, Apple, McDonalds, Starbucks and Whole Foods high on the list. But when reshuffled to reflect the satisfaction of unconscious desires, Google dropped out of the list completely and new additions like Target, Facebook and National Enquirer were introduced.
This shows that what customers want on a conscious level does not always reflect what they want on a subconscious level. Therefore, it’s time to turn away from structured, cardboard cut-out styles of customer service and embrace spontaneity, genuineness and indeed, humanity.
So how do we achieve that? Here are four essentials you must know for delivering a truly authentic customer service.
Start with market research.
Appealing to customers on an unconscious level is all about building a deliberate experience based on their natural preferences – however finicky or irrational they might be! This starts with getting to know your demographics.
For long-established companies with a defined audience, this should not be too difficult (though they should work to find out just what makes their regular shoppers, regular shoppers). Younger companies meanwhile can start with surveys, rating scales, website logs, search volumes, page traffic, peak times for sales, and so on.
Social media is also an easy and effective way to engage directly with customers and find out what makes them tick. Float their feeds and pages to find out why they might choose your brand – it could be their age; location; hobbies; career; lifestyle or circumstances. Facilitating customer discussion via forums and Q&A live chat sessions also gives your customers the chance to get to know your brand.
Understand unconscious desires.
Unconscious desires can be universal to everybody or unique to your particular demographic. Your service needs to be able to provide a solution or answer to your audience’s problems, wishes or even fears, in order to appear valuable and worth having.
Even though your product may not have universal appeal in itself, find a way to assign it to one specific to your demographic so that unconsciously, people will want to buy it. Apple products, for example, are said to have an addictive appeal because their very design is made to stimulate desire – although there is so far no real psychological evidence to support this.
Value Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the art of tuning into your customers’ emotional needs and responding to them appropriately. Doing this successfully leads to engaged customers that are much more likely to stick around for years.
Delivering emotional intelligence starts with having emotionally intelligent employees who have a good understanding of their own emotions, and the emotions of their co-workers. It is interesting that whilst many companies give extensive training on delivering a well-functioning customer service system, little training is given to customer service reps and frontline managers on how to read and respond to customers’ emotions. When hiring, keep emotional intelligence in mind and provide tools and resources that will help to hone your employees’ emotional competence.
How customers feel when they interact with your reps is how they will feel about your brand in general, and can lose or strengthen loyalty. Whilst negative emotions like irritation, impatience or stress can destroy the likelihood of that shopper becoming a regular customer, positive emotions like interest, intrigue, surprise, excitement and comfort will help to encourage your shopper to buy again.
For a dedicated, long-term customer relationship, however, your customers need to feel respected, valued, listened to and cared for. This will not only likely make your customer want to use your brand again, but heightens the possibility that they will recommend your brand to others. Empathy and staying emotionally present will help to foster authentic, engaging customer relations.
Prioritise the little things.
Most companies don’t think about the tiny touches of any customer experience that may seem insignificant and unnecessary, but are usually just the opposite. By thinking ahead and considering every detail of your customers’ experience from beginning to end, you’re more likely to deliver a service that pleasantly surprises customers, reduces the need for them to ask for anything, and keeps them coming back for more.
These little things are rarely fancy, sweeping gestures, but instead are often the most simple. Things like ensuring easy accessibility to your company’s contact numbers and other channels; offering an intuitive checkout service; providing extra information, resources or accessories that will help your customers get the most out of their recent purchase and sending freebies that are actually beneficial to the customer (not junk that you wish to get rid of) are all paramount and help to show your customers that you genuinely care about their experience.
Even something as small as the music you play to customers when on hold, or a thoughtfully designed product display, can make all the difference.
Whilst measuring and controlling the unconscious aspects of your brand’s customer service is much harder, it is by far the best way to appeal to customers without lowering your prices. Research has shown that customers are not motivated by price alone, or even at all. Instead, they’re looking for a feeling and an experience that they will hopefully learn to associate with your brand.
About the Author
Sophia Wright is a writer and researcher for Customer Service Guru, having worked in the consumer marketing profession as a Customer Relations manager and consultant for the last seven years. Her knowledge and expertise have led to her having articles published on several major leading customer care and consumer industry blogs, as well as in a handful of up and coming trade magazines.