It is important we understand that, people are complicated and as such, you should make it work to your advantage. Psychology and business are a lot alike — at their core, they both seek to understand people’s needs, wants, choices, and behaviors.
In a perfect world, everyone in any kind of customer-facing position would take a psychology 101 course before ever engaging in any interactions, because, as every customer service professional knows — people are complicated.
Every single one of your customers is an individual with their own backgrounds, experiences, issues and mindsets — whether permanent or situation-based.
Whatever emotional or behavioral peculiarities these people come with, you can bet that something completely outside of your control is the cause — you can only affect what comes next.
Sounds scary? It is.
However, there are a few psychological tips that can be applied in almost every customer support situation.
Here’s what you can do to understand your customers better, nudge them in the right direction and make them feel good about themselves and your company.
Understand That Being ImportantIs Important
We all need to feel valued. You might be familiar with the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory — the five main terms that form the pattern that human motivations generally move through:
Esteem, right up there in the pyramid, presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others.
A little ego boost has a myriad of positive psychological effects, and even simple compliments and a little bit of special treatment can go a long way in making someone feel good about themselves.
The easiest way to make your customers feel important and valued is to give your undivided attention to every one you communicate with, no matter how “important” the communication may be.
Putting in a little bit of effort to caress your customer’s ego can go a long way in regards to how they feel about your company.
Leave Aside Your Fight or Flight Mode
In angry customer situations (or any interpersonal exchange, really), the first reaction is usually the first thing that goes wrong. When someone attacks, we intuitively shoot into stress and defense mode — fight or flight.
It’s easy to get defensive, however that sort of mindset is not going to help calm you or your customer down under stressful circumstances.
The key to letting go of that completely natural, but dangerous first reaction is understanding what’s causing the stress — in this case, it’s the fear of not being able to fix the situation.
The stress doesn’t come from the situation; it comes from you. By letting go of the idea that you have to fix every situation, you let go of the fear and the stress.
That’s not the same as not caring, it’s just accepting that you can only do your best in any given situation. Let go of the responsibility for the outcome and only focus on the execution — the one thing you can control.
Learn to Understand Anger
Instead of focusing on just the fact that someone is angry, try to figure out why they are angry.
People don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say, so it may take some work on your end to read between the lines and find the source of a customer’s anger. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What caused the anger?
- Were they ignored, insulted, or treated unfairly in any way?
- Do they have unmet expectations when it comes to your product or service?
Learning to put yourself in the other person’s shoes is a crucial skill to learn. Here’s the thing: for every customer who complains, 26 others remain silent.
Getting into the habit of ignoring your personal defence mechanisms and instead focusing on the only thing you can do—actually getting to the bottom of the issue—will mean that you’ll learn to proactively recognize dissatisfied customers.
Use Names (Theirs and Yours)
A lot of us are used to firing off quick email replies that jump right into what we want to say. When it comes to great customer service, that’s not enough.
Starting each email by addressing your customer by name (and for the love of everything, make sure you spell it correctly) doesn’t just make you sound more respectful and polite; it actually makes the customer happy to hear it:
A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.
Besides using your customers’ names, using yours is just as important. We’ve talked about personal customer service before:
Personal service is about making the customer feel like they’re doing business with a human, not a company.
Using names is a big part of the “human” feeling. Think about it — who would you rather get an email from, “Mike” or “The Support Team”?
Remember: a customer service exchange—whether it’s an email, live chat or a phone call—isn’t a transaction; it’s a conversation.
By introducing yourself to the customer, you make things personal and begin to frame the interaction as one between people, versus one between a customer and a business.
Understand the Power of an Apology
There’s one single word that’s absolutely necessary for your entire team to use during a crisis.
That word is “sorry.”
But you have to mean it. No one likes to hear an empty “we apologize for the inconvenience” like you’re some kind of robot.
Apologizing is obvious when it comes to a complicated customer service situation, but don’t leave it at just that.
Just because a customer’s email is positive in tone, doesn’t mean that they may not deserve an apology for having to email you for help. Many people are simply too polite to send a negative email.
Well, according to a study at the Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, 37% of customers were satisfied with service recovery when they were offered something of monetary value (e.g., a refund or credit).
But when the business added an apology on top of the compensation, satisfaction doubled to 74%.