Remember back in the 1980’s when Walmart Founder Sam Walton introduced the concept of greeters at their stores as a way of not only branding the giant retailer, but also identifying its culture? With their recognizable vests, greeters would stand inside the store entrance and welcome shoppers.
Many had disabilities and the duties suited them fine. The greeters were well-received by customers until two years ago when Walmart began transitioning the role to one of “customer host” with expanded tasks which included not only helping customers, but also security and even the clean-up of spills. Unfortunately, the disabled no longer qualified for the new job description.
For more than three decades prior, however, greeters were a warm and welcome sight at Walmart stores. Today, they’re the prototype for employees who are in regular and frequent contact with potential customers as well as current ones. They include everyone from customer service to sales development reps.
Why is this important? Recent surveys show that customers are more prone to leave their brand for a competitor because of poor customer service. 79% told Oracle they felt their complaints about poor service were ignored. 89% went the next step and took their business to a competitor after a bad experience in spite of 67% telling an Ameyo poll that they probably would not have left their brand if their issue had been satisfactorily resolved.
In today’s fast-paced and quickly changing consumer environment, brands need to ensure that any staff member who’s in contact with the public is given the proper training and tools to maintain a meaningful relationship with the folks they talk to that results in a satisfied customer. Here are some tips.
Trust is the cornerstone of any brand–customer relationship. Being both a good listener and a good questioner are important. It’s not the job of a company rep to deal with a customer who has a complaint to defend the brand. It’s the rep’s job to listen and empathize and then ask good questions. Listening to the customer describe his/her complaint or issue usually offers clear clues of the basis for reaching out as well as what they wish to see as a remedy. If that’s not obvious, ask open-ended questions that encourage the customer to expand their response. Asking a question that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” doesn’t shed any more light on the matter than before.
By understanding what an irate customer values or how they wish to resolve a matter, brand reps not only have a clear picture of what needs to be done but can also work to retain customer trust and loyalty.
As in life, first impressions are also important. Many unhappy customers expect staff to be defensive and ready themselves for that when they call in. This is why active listening and a display of empathy are so important. Not only does doing so throw them off, but it also sets them at ease and gets them more receptive to listening.
But the most important thing brands must do to foster a healthy and positive environment is to instill a culture where the customer is indeed right. Reps need to be empowered to do everything within reason to satisfy the customer. It says a lot about the brand’s culture when a rep informs a customer that he/she has to get a supervisor to approve a refund exchange, change in contract, etc.
Once resolved, the final step is a follow-up call or email to that customer again apologizing for any angst and asking them to complete a short survey on how their issue was handled. Leave room for the customer to also write whatever they wish. Offering a small or special gift or discount for their feedback also helps. The information gleaned from such surveys is also valuable in making future adjustments.