Two Strategies to Increase Your Emotional Connection with Customers

Fully engaged customers are enthusiastic advocates of your brand. They are likely to refer your business to others and remain loyal to your business over time. But what attitudes make a customer engaged? Recent Gallup research found engaged customers felt: a.) their promises are always met, b.) pride in being a customer, and c.) the company is a perfect choice for people like them. Only 13 percent of customers were fully engaged and responded yes to all three questions.

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Is there a difference between engaged and fully engaged? Yes!

  • Fully engaged banking customers contributed 37% more annual revenue than disengaged customers.
  • Hotel guests who are fully engaged spend 46% more per year than disengaged guests.
  • Companies that can fully engage business-to-business customers have 63% greater customer retention.
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Knowing these attitudes have such a huge impact, how can we hire employees that are likely to engage customers?

Answer: Hire Employees Who Foster an Emotional Connection with Your Customers

While you can teach the steps and procedures for delivering service, it is much more challenging to teach employees to personally connect with customers so that they feel special and valued. We remember experiences longer than purchases, and average to poor customer service can impact decisions and customer loyalty longer than an above-average product. People also speak more to others about their bad experiences than their positive, which can multiply the effect of customer service even more.

But what strategies make customers feel valued and lead to full engagement? We recently developed a hiring assessment which measures customer service strategies that are linked to greater customer ratings and net sales.

These strategies focus on how candidates manage work demands and display emotions and behaviors that lead to customers feeling understood and valued. Hiring candidates proficient in the following two strategies will increase your likelihood of fully engaging customers.

  • Customer Empathy. Engaging the customer is not just about satisfying the customer’s basic needs for the product or service, but emotionally satisfying them. Showing emotions that convey understanding is essential to satisfying those needs and moving neutral and disengaged customers, to becoming fully engaged and loyal advocates of your brand. When engaging in Customer Empathy, an employee tries to authentically feel an emotion they need to express to deliver quality customer service. For example, if an employee encounters a rude and upset customer, she might think about a time she was in a similar situation in order to show concern. Customer empathy might also involve changing the dynamics of a situation to improve the customer’s mood. For example, I recently witnessed a flight attendant engage an upset passenger in friendly conversation about his hometown. This indirect approach might elevate a customer’s mood, as well as the employee’s, and provide opportunities to meet needs the employee was unaware of before. The advantage of the Customer Empathy strategy is the employee is displaying emotions required by the situation authentically.
  • Positive Face. In customer service work, however, it is not always possible to truly experience the emotion required by the demands of the situation. Enthusiasm, joy, and an apologetic response may be required multiple times within a single shift. Employees proficient in Positive Face understand the key behaviors and displays necessary for customer service, and are skilled in “putting on a mask” to cover undesirable emotions, and fake required emotions as needed. Our research found this “fake it until you make it” strategy is particularly useful when paired with Customer Empathy, as employees have multiple tools in their toolbox for delivering engaging customer service experiences.
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Skilled employees may also deploy multiple strategies simultaneously: to use the flight attendant example, she may have faked positive emotion and concern while trying to redirect the situation by asking the passenger about his hometown. Once the passenger’s mood improved, she may have been able to express the emotions required by the situation authentically.

Using our research from over 30 years of creating hiring solutions for the service industry, we’ve created a new assessment, the Service Q, which asks candidates to respond to commonly encountered customer interactions critical to reaching customer engagement. Our assessment measures the strategies candidates use to reach the emotional and behavioral displays required by a situation, whether it’s changing the nature of the customer encounter through Customer Empathy, faking it until you make it with the Customer Face strategy – or using some combination of both. Stronger candidates in these customer service strategies are more likely to #PFR: perform, fit, and stay with your company, drive sales, and help you fully engage customers.

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If you have any questions, leave us a comment below or connect with us on social media.

References

Gallup.  Turning Customers Into True Believers. http://www.gallup.com/services/169331/customer-engagement.aspx

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