I spent most of my young adulthood working at Wegmans Food Markets. Front-End Coordinator was the position I held the longest. In short, it meant I was in charge of managing the cashiers on duty, and if any of them had questions or customer issues, they'd call me over by flashing their register lights. I saw customer issues of all shapes and sizes, ranging from folks looking to return cooked meats (yep, sometimes with an empty container) to mislabeling produce in hopes of saving money (e.g non-organic price for organic) to attempting to use expired coupons.
Much of what I learned about customer service is still relevant for me in my role today and applies to businesses of all kinds, especially in e-commerce.
Here are some tactics your CX team can use to keep customers happy and diffuse tense situations.
Connect with the customer by understanding how they feel and mirroring their concern. It's not about faking it but creating a genuine connection by acknowledging their emotions. Asking a few probing questions at the start of the interaction can help gauge where they're at and how to handle the conversation. Then, listen.
Instead of sparking a debate, opt for agreement. Acknowledge the customer's perspective without trying to prove them wrong. Doing so paves the way for a collaborative conversation rather than a confrontation. Don't stoke the fire.
Apologies go a long way when they come from the heart. Show genuine remorse for any inconvenience, assuring the customer you understand their issue and why it's a pain. If you don't understand, ask more questions. Humanize the interaction to let them know their concerns are heard and understood.
Share insights into what's happening behind the scenes. Transparency builds trust, and keeping customers informed about the problem-solving process can ease their worries. The more they know, the more they'll trust you.
Sometimes, it's not enough to say sorry. Suggest practical solutions by offering a refund, replacing the item, or finding out what matters most to the customer. The ladder can sometimes be the place to start. Some customers want a discount. Others want to tell a supervisor about their experience. Creating tangible steps to resolve the customer's problem shows your commitment to their satisfaction.
Sometimes, bending the rules or making an exception can go a long way. Breaking from standard policies to accommodate a customer's unique situation can leave a lasting positive impression and foster loyalty.
As a customer, I've had experiences dealing with customer service that I actually enjoyed because the person was so pleasant. Some have made me laugh because they appear to be looking for a new friend, sharing more about themselves than necessary. And others that were so frustrating I vowed I would never shop with the brand again.
I'm sure you can recall some of the best and worst customer service experiences you've had and how they made you feel.
Unhappy customers love to share their horror stories with anyone who'll listen. But the magic happens when you fix their problem while making them feel like royalty. Those are the stories they'll be excited to share, turning them from dissatisfied customers into your biggest fans.
This post originally appeared in #58 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.