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The Golden Rules of Customer Interaction

Tackling customer interaction and communication in the 21st century

               “The customer is always right” – by Garry Gordon Selfridge. This belief and golden rule of customer interaction have been held for centuries and are quite prominent in the retail industry. Now, is it correct? Oftentimes, the answer is yes and no, and although time won’t be spent dwindling in the philosophical and psychological aspect of why (To learn more about it, go to articles 12 or 3) it remains an important perspective when considering an organization’s customer interaction.

               Customer interaction is a major part of an organization’s success, it involves continuous honing of one’s expertise to ensure and facilitate a consumer’s roadmap. This article will look at how to best optimize the customer interaction throughout different contexts to ensure higher customer satisfaction, which in turn, can lead to growing sales.

               Emphasis will be put on online and onsite environment alongside the different emotions and problems that the customer can raise and how to best respond to them.

Ground Rules for Any Customer interaction

               There are customers in all walks of life, some will bring forth a positive experience to the establishment, while others not so much. Regardless of the case, it is always best to remain professional and keep a neutral/ positive language in verbal and non-verbal communication. In the face of negative customer interaction, remaining courteous is essential for business success. Sometimes remaining level-headed can be harder than what was originally bargained for, however, getting into a heated argument with customers will only make matters worse.

               Nowadays, interactions are not limited to the individuals in the room anymore, it is nigh impossible to know whether a bystander, customer or surveillance camera might be recording one’s responses. In many cases, recordings may lack context or only show a segment of the interaction, but unfortunately, social media circles can have a difficult time differentiating the circumstances. A video or audio of the occurrence could reach key customers or go viral, potentially impacting the individual and organization’s success. It is always best to maintain a mindset geared towards improvement and how such complaint, interaction, or suggestion can enhance the business and drive positive change. Emotional Intelligence has become integral to long-term personal and organizational success.

               Should you ever feel as if you do not have enough information to deal with the matter at hand or that illegal activities may be taking place, it is best to remain calm, call and follow the organization’s protocols. This may include escalating the matter to supervisors or calling security or the police.

Online Customer Interactions

Communication Channels

            Customer Contact: The word ‘convenience’ might as well be synonymous to online customer interaction. Customers might have different ideas of what is a convenient way to inquiry about a certain matter with a business (by phone, e-mail, live chat, WhatsApp, social media etc). It is best practice to know your customer’s demographics and the type of communication channel that they are more engaged with.

            Understanding the forms of formal, informal and unofficial communications that customers are likely to use can help the organization plan and position itself better. 66% of correspondents are using 3 or more channels of communication, with simple inquiries going to the website (24%), mobile app (14%), voice response system (13%) or online chat (12%). It is essential to have key channels of communication open for your customers, while taking into consideration the cost of maintaining it. Remember to keep the contact information easily available to clients to facilitate future interactions, at minimum, the company’s e-mail, address, telephone number and if possible, social media accounts should be listed.

            Live Chats: live chats are considered to be the preferred method of communication by Millennials. It is perceived to be fast, hassle free and often leads to the issue being resolved in a matter of minutes. However, the responsible individual or chatbot representing the business in the live chat needs to maintain a professional and neutral language and be prompt to respond to clients with fast answers when possible. Otherwise, the representative needs to let the customer know it may take a few minutes to process their inquiry. 

            Sometimes reps are dealing with 4-6 inquiries at once, due to complexity and customer response rate, This can have an impact on customer service quality, metrics and cost, which should be taken into account. Some customer may become frustrated by the waiting period; therefore, organizations need to ensure that their customer reps are not spread too thin and that they have the appropriate resources to resolve matters, which includes training, pre-planned answers, access to relevant data sets among other areas. Not all businesses have the means to provide live chats, so before taking this route, ensure that it makes sense for your business to do so and even potentially consider outsourcing the process.

            Online Reviews: Undoubtedly, online reviews are nothing more than an online manifestation of a business’ reputation, which have the potential to greatly propel a business or sink it. Positive reviews are always welcomed and should be thanked. However, negative reviews can hurt a business if responsible personnel do not know how to respond to the situation. For more information on how to deal with online reviews, please see our article How to Deal with Online Reviews.

            Customer E-mails: Surprisingly, e-mails are not the promptest way to reply to customers anymore. It used to be the case that e-mails were perceived as one of the fastest ways to communicate with anyone or any business. However, e-mail etiquettes often leave space for a 24-hour response grace period. This extra time may allow for a more formal interaction and a well-thought-out response, allowing businesses to carefully tailor their response in case something out of the ordinary happens. For the sake of saving time, there are a few e-mail templates that you can save to respond to customers, however, we highly encourage that the e-mail is further tailored to the matter at hand.

  • Complaint response e-mail structure:
    • Hello [Insert Client’s Name], thank you for raising this point. We are currently working to resolve this issue in a timely manner.
    • Hello [Insert Client’s Name], thank you for raising this point. Unfortunately, this issue occurred outside our jurisdiction and therefore we are unable to help.
  • Appreciation response e-mail structure:
    • Hello [Insert Client’s Name], we are happy to hear that you have enjoyed your stay with us. We hope to see you again in the future.

Face-to-face Customer Interactions

               Although common knowledge is expected to be ‘common’, businesses should not take it for granted. There have been many documented cases of employee misconduct while interacting with customers. To ensure all employees are ready for face-to-face customer interaction, here are a few golden rules:

  • Make customers feel welcomed – there is nothing worse than entering an establishment only to feel as if you are an annoyance to the receptionist or other employees. Instances like this make customers feel out of place and can greatly decrease the chances that the same customers will come back to your business.
  • Make sure your processes and systems are properly working – it is very unprofessional to keep customers in the limbo (E.g. waiting and full of unresolved issues). Services should be provided in a timely fashion and for the rare occasion that they are not, businesses should be equipped to accommodate customers accordingly.
  • Never partake in any heated arguments with customers – it is very unprofessional to lose your temper in front of a customer. Plain and simple. Sometimes, something can get a little heated. In that case, it is best to try and remove yourself from the situation and call someone else to deal with the matter. This point is especially true for managers. Management should be equipped to dealing with disgruntled customers and employees without letting it get to their nerves, but in the rare occasion that things go south, it is much better to call unto someone else than end up disrespecting the customer. An example would be to call security, or request to speak with an employee privately.
  • Teach all of your staff how to interact with customers – most of the advice provided in this article should be part of company policy for any interaction that employees have with customers. It is simply not enough to be professional at the reception. Any employee dealing with customers (house-keeping, waiter, pool cleaner, security, etc.) needs to be equipped to interact with them neutrally and proactively. No exceptions.

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