The most successful organisations recognise the importance of establishing a strong emotional connection with their customer, in order to acquire and retain customers over time. It is the overall customer experience with an organisation that evokes the perception of value that will subsequently determine brand preference.
With this in mind, it is important to remember that employees are at the forefront of building an emotional connection with a customer. Any interaction with an employee, in a retail space or contact centre, will have an impact on the customer and their emotional bond with the company.
Aaker (1997) suggests that personality traits come to be associated with a brand in a direct way by the people associated with it. Employees as well as brand messages and service offerings create the customer’s total experience and opinion of the brand. It tells the customer whether or not an organisation cares about its customers and if it holds important values; such as honesty, community mindedness, dependableness, responsiveness and flexibility.
HOW TO BUILD AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION TO SUPPORT CUSTOMER LOYALTY
1. Don’t make the customer repeat themselves to multiple agents
A recent study shows that 91% of UK callers do not mind being put on hold once they have reached an agent or being transferred to a more qualified one. However, 62% of customers in the UK get frustrated by having to repeat information they have already provided.
Ensuring your CRM is up to date and capable of facilitating information transfer between agents, can avoid the customer having to repeat the issue multiple times. Information sharing is a key component of creating a positive experience as the customer feels their time and issue is important enough for the agent to spend time explaining it to their colleague. Optimising the blend of people and technology to create a seamless process can only help create favourable emotions towards a company, both internally as well as externally.
2. Remember you are talking to a real person
It is the general consensus that one of the most efficient ways of building an emotional connection with a customer is for the agent to show s/he cares and has taken ownership of their issue. Simon Berry, Customer care consultant, teaches that a deep connection between humans is a natural state. Agents should not think about techniques or best practices but simply remember that there is a real person on the other side of the line. Often contact centre agents get too focused on their own thoughts and interpretations instead of listening to the customer. Hitting targets and reaching own objectives become the main focus, completely forgetting that the whole purpose of customer service is indeed to serve the customer.
3. Drop outdated metrics like average handling time (AHT)
When your customer calls the contact centre, they are most likely already agitated. According to research by Osuna, the on-hold time activates the “fight and flight” response within us and heightens the sense of anger. Acknowledging the callers frustration and genuinely showing interest and consideration for their time can help calm anger and facilitate collaboration between the two parties.
David Welham, an award winning customer service specialist, believes that call targets should be dropped and priority given to building rapport with the customer. Drop outdated metrics such as average handling time and prioritise good service. It is better to take your time and resolve an issue the first time a customer gets in touch instead of forcing them to call in a second or third time.
4. Share your story and create a bond.
According to the social penetration theory by Altman and Taylor (1973), self disclosure serves as an important symbolic foundation. By disclosing personal details about themselves, agents signal that they like a customer and enjoy the interaction they are having. By being themselves, agents can respond to the customer call through empathy and care, allowing for a higher probability of buildng emotional connections and consequently customer loyalty.
5. Use past experiences
Don’t undermine the importance of past experiences. Call recordings can be used to train agents to identify important cues on how the customer is feeling, that can help them respond in the best possible way. Through the use of speech analytics technology, call centres can pin point specific calls and utilise them to understand and address speech patterns that reflect moods and emotions in order for the agent to be well prepared to handle difficult situations when they arise.
Building an emotional connection with another human being is hard in everyday life. It becomes even harder when one of the parties is stressed and aggravated. There are numerous tips and techniques out there to help build an emotional connection with the caller, but ultimately, it’s really all about sincerely caring about the customer’s issues and trying your best to resolve their problem.
A special thanks to everyone involved in the discussion ‘Building an emotional connection with the caller’ on the LinkedIn Group ‘Call Centre and Contact Center Helper’.