Your customers have high expectations of the companies they choose to patronize. And, as it turns out, only one instance of missed expectations can make customers change providers for what they perceive to be a better opportunity.
In fact, according to a recent study, 82% of customers said they would switch products or service providers after a bad experience with the company's customer service department.
To avoid this scary-looking number from coming true at your company, it's important to actively listen to customers and analyze their feedback so you can correct big issues that are causing customer churn.
In this post, let's explore how you can better listen to your customers and why it will benefit your business.
Listening to Customers
Listening to customers isn't just hearing about their problems. It's not picking up the phone or answering the ringing bell at your service desk.
Listening to customers is about connecting with them. It involves paying close attention to their needs and understanding how you can help them achieve their goals.
The best service reps are excellent listeners. They can recall relevant details that were mentioned earlier in the case and are consistently in-tune with the customer's emotions. This saves customers from having to repeat information which adds friction to the service experience.
But, this is just one benefit of listening to customers. Let's review a few more below.
5 Reasons Why You Should Listen to Customers
1. Reduce Customer Churn
When it comes to churn, poor customer service is the second-biggest reason why customers switch providers. When customers don't feel valued during a service interaction, they're quick to look to your competitors for help. In fact, 86% of your customers will be happy to pay more for another provider if they'll receive a better customer experience.
2. Improve Customer Loyalty
No matter how great your product or service is, it's never completely safe from churn. As we discussed above, just one poor interaction will cause the majority of your customer base to churn.
This leaves you very little wiggle room when it comes to customer service. Your team needs to be on its A-game to ensure customers remain happy and loyal to your business. Listening to their feedback is the best way to keep pace with customer demand and fulfill their short- and long-term expectations.
3. Increase Customer Retention
When your reps listen to customers, service interactions tend to be smoother. Reps and customers are on the same page and troubleshooting goes like a breeze. This lack of friction is important because it leads to an increase in customer retention. Studies show that 91% of customers will remain with a provider after a good customer service call.
4. Identify Opportunities to Upsell and Cross-Sell
Listening to customers isn't just a way to improve customer satisfaction. It's also a tool you can use to upsell and cross-sell to customers.
For example, let's say your rep is troubleshooting an issue for a customer. When the customer explains their problem, they highlight their frustration with the usage limits of your tools. They keep running into restrictions and need more storage space to house their data.
Your rep could explain the benefits of your premium plan and how it would resolve their problems. If the customer was interested, the service agent could refer them to your sales team and close the deal.
5. Create Delightful Customer Interactions
Whenever you actively listen to another person, the conversation automatically becomes personal. You become invested in the dialogue and the role you're playing in the experience. When customer service reps get invested in a conversation, their more likely to go above and beyond for their customers. That's because they've connected with the customer's needs and are committed to delivering a delightful service experience.
While most customer service teams know they should listen to customers, many don't know how. And, that's okay. It's not as easy as you would think to listen to customers in a way that consistently produces a positive outcome.
Fortunately, we've gathered some best practices below that you can use to improve your listening skills.
How to Listen to Customers
1. Let the customer speak.
You can't listen to another person if you're speaking. So, in order to truly listen, your reps need to remain silent until the customer has finished explaining their problem. Even if they already know the solution, interrupting them makes your team look impatient. It's better to wait until the customer is done speaking as you never know what information they may have that could alter the case.
2. Stay humble and patient.
It can be frustrating to work with a customer who's new to your product or service. They don't know the basics, they fumble the terminology, and it feels like you need to hold their hand for every troubleshooting step. These are the cases where reps can mentally check-out and overlook costly details.
In these instances, it's important for reps to keep their cool and remain humble. Remember, there was a time where they were just as new to the product and they probably felt just as lost when they had questions. Every question is significant, so your team needs to value each one equally no matter how well the case is going.
3. Engage with customers on their preferred channels.
The goal of customer service is to make people more comfortable with your business. Part of that is communicating with customers on channels that they prefer to work on. This requires your team to have an in-depth understanding of your customer base.
This is also an opportunity for customer service to align with marketing. Have service managers assess your customer personas and identify the channels that your customers use most.
For example, if you're targeting a millennial audience, you may find that social media is their preferred communication channel. So, you can assign reps to your social media accounts to field questions that customers may pose. That way, you'll reduce friction in the customer's experience by meeting them on a channel they're already using.
4. Consider your body language.
You may think this tip is only for in-person customer service, but these practices can affect calls and chats as well. Body language is a major factor that shows whether or not you're listening to a customer. If your rep's body signals that they're uninterested or not paying attention, then they probably aren't listening to the customer.
And, that goes for phones and chats, too. Even if you're not directly facing the customer, your body language can still influence the interaction. For example, if you sit straight up at your desk and maintain a smile, you're naturally going to be more energetic and optimistic during a call.
5. Practice active listening.
Active listening is a communication approach that sales reps use to close deals. However, this method for interacting with customers translates perfectly to customer service.
Active listening places the focus on the customer's speech. Rather than scrambling to find a quick solution, it encourages reps to only think about what the customer is saying then repeat the problem back to them to ensure they fully understand the issue. This shows the customer that your rep is invested in the case and that they have a clear understanding of the problem.
6. Focus on the person as well as the problem.
Nobody likes to hear, "I told you so," especially customers. Even if your rep has found the perfect solution, they need to be careful about how they position it to customers. Saying the right wrong thing at the wrong time is a perfect way to derail a customer service case.
For reps to be timely with their solutions, they need to pay attention to the person as well as the problem. They need to be emotionally intelligent and determine how the customer will react to different responses at various times. This will help them give advice that the customer will feel they can trust.
To learn more, read about these customer retention strategies from real brands next.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November, 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.