After hyper exposure to consumer impacts, our customers are often viewed less as people and more as avatars or data points. As customers ourselves, we have each felt, occasionally, that the employee ‘helping’ us had repeated the same interactions until their scripting and movements became rote, and we were invisible to them. As managers, we look at graphs representing customer purchases and practices to the point that we no longer connect stats to human decisions. These are natural responses, but they can kill your business results if you and your team do not resist assimilation into this danger zone.
You must continue to interact with this critical segment of your business as the individuals they are. Here are some things we forget about people and some ideas for increasing competitive advantage by helping these people feel their significance.
Communication Happens… or not
Fight or flight responses are normal in conversations when people are not respected. And, often, while the person does not physically move, we feel them leave by raising what seems to be a mental wall. Sharpening awareness of this wall helps us realize when customers feel disrespected and this attentiveness gives us opportunity to lower that wall and welcome them back to the dialog.
The instinct to respond to this sensitivity and use smart recovery tactics can be learned. Here are a few common ways to lower that wall and confirm you value the customer’s communication; it’s even smarter to use these habitually to reduce the frequency of that wall going up at all!
- Always ensure they feel decisions are in their control
- Avoid assumptions of their expertise by sharing rationale and confirming their interest or understanding
- Ask permission to share or show
- Ask for the customer’s help or perspective
- Demonstrate listening: validate emotion they show and summarize facts they share
- Sincerely praise their past positive decisions and empathize with questionable ones
Businesses adjust services and products… constantly! People feel vulnerable when suddenly informed of changes or coerced into making decisions on options they didn’t plan for or don’t understand. Expect customer resistance when employees respond to that vulnerability with pressure-scripting.
Your customer-savvy employees will deliver these disappointments with ways that help meet the individual’s needs and process through their resistance:
- Validation of the customer’s understandable reaction to the unexpected reality
- Description of the customer’s positive future might look like with this change
- Explanation of the disadvantages for continuing with the former option
- Suggested customer-friendly plans to get to their new, positive future
Conflict between customers and your employees can seem as minor as differing perspectives, but responses to those differences can inspire or injure spending decisions. Using the same strategy to navigate every disagreement can be tragic. Employees must quickly decide the direction that will best meet the needs of both their specific customer and the business. When there is no option that will create the perfect union, we all need the judgment to know when to risk, to sacrifice or to reconcile.
Thomas Kilmann’s styles may help your employees identify what appropriate options look like when they face conflict in customer interactions: avoid, accommodate, compromise, collaborate, compete.
Making customers feel valued has always fueled competitive advantage. Supporting employees who use the tips listed above often requires coordination from marketing, operations, training and sales strategists, so don’t leave it to your customer-facing employees to do this on their own. Check us out…. Aligning the necessary and realistic support from these internal roles that have competing agendas is what we do best!!
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