Customer Care is everyone’s responsibility, but as an online customer service representative, you are often the first and last impression that your company will have on a customer. Their questions, concerns, and complaints all come to you – and you’re expected to have the answers. This is downright overwhelming and can be quite frustrating on any particular day. But it also gives us an opportunity to leave a lasting impression on a client.
Of course, this can depend on our mood and the number of support tickets in our queue. Maybe it depends on how well your computer works on a given day. A lot of variables can make that first and last impression good or bad. Are you wondering how (and why) you should leave a positive impression on your customers? No matter the subject line of their support email or the outcome of your interaction, consider the power of small gestures.
The Psychology of Kind Gestures
You might be thinking, “Why do I have to be kind to all of the customers who scream at me in capital letters?” Simply put: Because customer care benefits the customer, the company, and (unexpectedly) you. Yes, your job is to make sure that the customer’s “pain point” (a late payment, a crashed website, an annoyance with the user interface) goes away as soon and as easily as possible. But does that mean that you have to do it robotically, without thought or consideration for the people on the other end of the support ticket? We think not.
Subtle gestures are the small acts of kindness that are unexpected by the customer. These are often the ones that make customers feel recognized and “seen” by a company. These small gestures could be anything from acknowledging how frustrating their billing problem is to giving them $10 off their next bill (if you’re authorized to do so). “Seeing” the customer as a person rather than just an invoice surprises the customer. When you do so, they are more likely to spread the word and continue working with your company.
Small Gestures in Customer Care
Businesses whose customer care representatives make an effort to make “small gestures” actually do better in customer retention and satisfaction ratings. Some numbers even indicate that:
- Almost 90% of customers will stop using a company that provides them a subpar customer service experience.
- 76% of people would be willing to pay more for a product or service if it was accompanied by superior customer service (that’s you).
- 70% of people rate customer service experiences based on how the representative makes them feel.
Your Customers and You
A simple act of kindness has another unexpected side effect: they improve a customer’s day and break the cycle of a poor interaction. It’s human nature to mirror how we are treated. We get defensive when someone else is defensive, we shout when someone else shouts. What if we cut that instinct down with a mindful effort towards kind gestures? Customer service reps can actually create a positive interaction with a customer simply by modeling the behavior.
The final and probably most unexpected impact of small gestures is how it improves your job and daily experience as a customer service rep. Not only does it benefit your customers and the company, but kindness can actually improve your day. Studies show that kindness and subtle gestures actually make you feel better about yourself and your customer care work. You are also less likely to leave a job when things get stressful. So the next time you’re thinking that customer is just really asking for a snotty email response, take a moment. Just think about the boost you’ll get when you extend a kind comment or give a refund with a smile.
Customer Care #1: Even When They Don’t Deserve It
There are probably a few clients popping into your head who just plain don’t deserve your kindness or your effort. Try anyways. While this may feel a little like beating your head against a brick wall, nobody can deny that you’ve tried. Taking the upper hand in a heated conversation will not only help you feel calmer, but it may actually calm down the customer. Even better, if your manager or the company have to review the file on this support ticket, you’ll have clear proof that you were nothing but kind to the customer (who was far from kind to you).
When you relate to a client in a small way, it could be just saying, “I totally understand why you’re frustrated right now.” Even offering to give them a $5 credit for their time (if you’re authorized to do so) shows that you actually care. Half the time, customers are upset because they feel unheard or disrespected – whether by an overage fee, an improperly working product, or a delay in response time. You may want to simply delete the support ticket and pretend like you never heard from them. The kind thing to do is reach out and be empathetic.
Still at a loss for things you can do to leave a positive impression on customers without going too far out of your way or taking too long on a support ticket? You’re in luck.
Small Gesture Cheat Sheet
Depending on the nature of your customer service and support duties, your “kindness” could vary from simply empathizing with their bad day or even refunding them on a specific payment. Of course, this depends on how much power you have as a customer service representative and also how large your company is.
Small Company, Small Gestures
If you’re a small company or a startup who just really needs every client it can keep, try adding a few interactions to email, phone, chat, or even social media support.
A few examples include:
- Sincerely ask how the customer’s day is going.
- Agreeing if something really sucks.
- “Oh man, I’m so sorry to hear about your sciatica. That sounds horrible.”
- Ask your customer if they want to hear a joke while you wait for an order to process.
- “Wanna hear a joke my grandmother always told me about llamas in a waiting room?”
- Be prepared for people to say “No” and don’t ask a customer when they are livid.
- Simply acknowledge that your company fudged up.
- “I am so sorry to hear that you’ve had difficulty with your new remote-controlled helicopter, Timmy. Don’t worry, though, we’re going to send you out one that actually works this time.”
- “We are so sorry you’re experiencing these difficulties. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to fix it.”
- Ask if there is anything that the customer service department can do to improve their experience.
- “Is there anything else we can do to make this a great day for you?”
- “Do you have any suggestions or tips that would make our service even better for you in the future?”
- Thank the client for being a part of your company.
- Reference how long they’ve been a client and sincerely thank them for being a loyal customer.
- “I see here you’ve been a customer since 2012. That’s amazing, and I’d like to personally thank you for being a loyal customer. We are so happy to continue working with you.”
Why do these work? For one, they do not take more time and resources on the part of the company. For two, they also pull the customer into an interaction they will most likely remember when they’re thinking of your company. Even if they’re mad when they email or call, the fact that you’re showing them respect will tamper down any negative associations.
Large Company, Larger Gestures
Maybe you’re a larger company that isn’t devoted to every single customer’s payment or if you have a lot of free license as a customer service agent. If so, you have a little more wiggle room and a lot more capacity for small kindnesses.
- Basically do everything listed for the smaller businesses in the previous section.
- Just because you’re a big company doesn’t mean you get to overlook these basic customer care interactions!
- Fix the problem and refund the customer if you have license to do so.
- “We are so sorry you’re dealing with this problem. I’m going to fix it right now and I’m also going to refund you for this purchase (this month’s dues, this upgrade, etc.) to apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.”
- Upgrade them
- This could be shipping, a monthly subscription, free return and replacement shipping, a discount on their next purchase, etc.
- “I just upgraded you to free 2-day shipping so that you can get back on track. I appreciate your patience.”
- Send them a bonus without telling them you’re doing so
- People love surprises, so send them a free coupon or a discount ticket. Whatever your company can accommodate.
- Include a note with the bonus that says: “Thank you for your patience in fixing your billing problem. Please enjoy this $25 off coupon for your next order – and shipping is on us.”
The key to these subtle gestures is that you’re not asking for anything in return. You’re simply fixing the problem, admitting fault, and providing something as appreciation for their patience. Just the fact that you provided them a refund or discount without them having to ask is enough to stun a customer into staying.
The Case for Kindness
Maybe you already do a lot of these things already in your day-to-day interactions as a customer care rep. Maybe you’re not “authorized” to provide many of them. Whatever the case, there is room in your day and your support ticket load to simply treat your customers like humans. The basis of these small gestures is simply taking a moment to recognize that your customer is a person with feelings .
There are days where this can be downright difficult, and there may be cases where your kindness makes little to no impact on the customer. But the benefits far exceed the downsides of spending a few extra seconds making a connection. Even when things get a little crazy, be kind. As Jerry Springer always says, “Take care of yourselves, and each other.”
Latasha Doyle is a freelance writer living outside of Denver. When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys crocheting, Netflix marathons, and planning her next trip.