Some might tell you that “it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.” But in actuality, business can be quite personal, with emotions wrapped up in the process inspiring a sense of brand loyalty. One of the most emotional components of a business is undoubtedly customer support.
When dealing with customer support inquiries, you’re going to meet a slew of customers who are in an extreme emotional state. It’s your job to help them through this emotional moment and salvage their experience into a positive moment in order to preserve their continued business.
Ignoring emotional needs through customer support is unfortunately all too common. In a survey of the customers of 294 companies on their ability to provide support, none of them received an excellent rating, while more than 40% of them were rated as poor when dealing with the emotions of their customers. That’s a scary figure when you realize that 78% of customers take action following one bad experience with a company.
After all, it is repeat business that is the backbone of a successful company.
So why are emotions so important to customer support? Read on to find out.
Why do Emotions Factor in?
It’s naive to think that human beings leave their emotions at the door when it comes to dealing with the companies that they do business with.
The truth of the matter is that emotional responses define our business interactions in a way that may come as a shock to many.
Scientific evidence notes that emotions influence what we buy at a much higher rate than logical thinking.
That’s because emotional responses are not something that customers can just turn off at will. Not only do emotions play a major role in our buying decisions, they dictate all future interactions.
That’s because bad memories are powerful and leave a lasting impression on us on a subconscious level.
Subconscious choices are still choices, and they play a major role in the selection of the companies we choose to support.
It’s interesting to note that values differ between genders and age groups when it comes to products. That means the way in which you try to appeal to the emotions of your customers could differ based on key demographic information.
Most companies try to instil loyalty with a sense of belonging or exclusivity, which is something that appeals to most human beings.
Customer testimonials are designed for this reason, showcasing like-minded peers that your audience can connect with.
They will see the emotional impact of your product or service on the face of your happy customers and they too will seek out that emotional state.
Success, at this point, becomes an exclusive club that these customers are dying to be included in. What’s more, customers also are drawn to feelings of security, studies have shown that this is more so true in women than in men.
Appealing to a sense of security through the use of your service can be a great way toward instilling emotional comfort in the minds of your audience.
Positive emotions also go a long way toward creating brand loyalty and making your audience into ambassadors.
If you’re providing your customers with positive emotional experiences, they’re likely to feel a sense of belonging toward your company, which in turn strengthens their loyalty to you.
Customers with increased brand loyalty will be harder for competitors to sway, even if they are offering lower prices than yours.
Also, customers who are loyal will tell people about your services and draw new clients in.
Referrals are bred from emotional responses, and when your customer loyalty is high, they will want to bring their friends and family members in to improve their lives as well.
Emotions are vital to continued success, and customer support is the battleground where emotions live and die.
When a customer calls in to make a complaint or ask a question your support staff stands in an important place, which can push to customer toward either loyalty or abandonment.
How Can Your Customer Support Cater to Emotional Needs?
We’ve already established how important emotions are to the buying process.
And because they are so vital, customer service becomes that much more important to the success of your business.
When customers call or email with your support staff, they’re entering into an exchange which could change the very course of their relationship with your company.
It only takes one negative support experience to completely annihilate any loyalty you’ve built with a customer.
That’s why every support interaction is vital to your continued success.
When customers reach out to your support department, there’s a good chance that they will be in some kind of emotional state.
If you’re a financial institution, or they’re calling about a monetary transaction, this is particularly true. Matters of money can be very emotional for consumers.
That’s why these situations have to be handled with care. One wrong push can incense a customer and drive them away from you for good.
Not only that, a truly horrible experience can trigger an emotional reaction that could turn a brand ambassador into a strong detractor.
It’s important to protect the emotions of your customers throughout the support process using the following guidelines for continued success.
Soften the Blow
Delivering bad news is never fun, but unfortunately, in business sometimes it is necessary.
When the news that you’re delivering is bad on the level of cancelled flights or total outages from a system, you can expect that you’re going to be experiencing a strong emotional reaction on the part of your customers.
You can help to soften the blow by owning the issue and taking full responsibility. Customers like transparency in the businesses that they purchase from.
If you talk to them openly and honestly about issues that could negatively impact their emotional state, the blame won’t be squarely placed on you and the customer will remember that you didn’t try to hide anything.
It also helps to proactively reach out to the customer in the event of such an occurrence. This gives you an opportunity to apologize for the mistake and get out in front of it before the customer has a chance to make negative emotional associations.
When you reach out, make sure that you’re prepared to offer solutions to the customer before negative consequences have a chance to register in their minds.
Let’s say that you offer regular subscription-based service and you’re experiencing a wide outage that will leave the customer unable to access your system for a period of time.
That’s when you should either call or email the customer, hopefully before they even realize that the outage is happening.
Say something to the effect of, “Your service has been temporarily interrupted, we apologize for the inconvenience but we’ve applied a 10% credit to your account for the month to make up for it.”
In this example, you’ve reached out proactively, you’ve addressed the issue openly and honestly, and apologized right off the bat.
You also immediately told them how you plan on making the situation right for them, offering up some monetary relief that won’t break the bank for you.
This goes a long way toward protecting the emotional state of your customers and preserving your loyalty.
Southwest Airlines is a company which has had a lot of good and bad press in recent years, but they are one of the best companies in the world at protecting the emotional state of their customers when it comes to something terrible like a flight cancellation.
South West owns its flight cancellations by reaching out to customers via voice and text to offer rebooking options immediately.
Remember, proactive support can help to turn a disaster into a manageable setback.
By taking the initiative and not trying to hide anything, you’re showing your customer that you’re honest, hardworking and that you legitimately care about their emotional state.
Owning the issues that impact your customers makes the audience thankful, which in turn associates your company with positive emotions and strengthens brand loyalty, even in the face of undesirable conditions.
Don’t Poke the Bear
Oftentimes issues pertaining to customer support are difficult to process or upset the customer. This is true whether the product is not working or you’re trying to collect a missed payment.
When a customer is on the defensive, making demands or lacking empathy can set off an emotional response which can ultimately drive the customer away forever.
That is the last thing that you want in a situation like this. When the customer is already on edge, you don’t want to “poke the bear” and elicit a more extreme reaction from them.
In situations such as these, it is important to diffuse the situation and not exacerbate it.
When dealing with emotional customers, they can often be difficult, even belligerent and hurtful toward support staff.
In those moments it would be tempting to lash back out because after all, support personnel also have emotions.
However, it’s important to fight these urges and continue to work toward a solution with a positive attitude and a pleasant demeanour.
Sometimes, digital communication like text or email might be easier for these interactions as they can present facts in an objective manner.
Rather than immediately moving the customer to a human agent, you should let them choose whether or not they want to speak to a representative.
Never Be Dismissive
When dealing with a customer that is in a fragile emotional state, the worst thing that you could do is be dismissive of their feelings.
That’s why it’s important to let the customer talk about the issues that they are having.
This is a perfect example of a time where support staff need to listen intently to the problems that the customer is relaying.
Don’t interrupt or throw away everything that they say. Validate their concerns, be apologetic, and let them get it all out.
Speaking from an emotional perspective, sometimes it helps to voice what you’re feeling and once you’ve had the chance to yell and scream and let it all out, you start to calm down.
That’s why it’s good to just sit back and let the customer vent for a bit before addressing their concerns.
The most important part of this process is to make sure that you take the customer’s complaints seriously and show that their voice is being heard.
The first thing you should do, once you’ve actively listened to their concerns, is apologizing for the issues that they are experiencing, and then let them know how you intend to address the problem.
Make sure that you’re being understanding and supportive.
Even if the customer is in the wrong it’s important to let them be heard and explain how you’re going to help them in a kind and compassionate manner.
No one is saying that to be an effective customer support representative your employees have to be therapists.
However, they do have to learn how to effectively manage the emotions of your customers.
Failure to do so could cause an emotional response that flies off the handle and costs your business.
Remember, it is up to 25 times more expensive to bring on new customers than it is to maintain repeat business.
Don’t throw money out the window by ignoring that fact that we’re all human and operate on the emotional spectrum.
Treat your customers like human beings, validate their emotions, and work to resolve issues in a peaceful manner and you will enhance your customer experience and increase brand loyalty for years to come.