Every time your sales and service teams interact with customers, you have a defining moment: a moment where your customer judges how well your organization has met their expectations. Defining moments fall into three categories:

  • Negative: When customers feel disappointed
  • Neutral: When customers feel their expectations are met
  • Positive: When customers’ expectations are exceeded

The first two categories lead to customer defections because buyers think they can find a better experience elsewhere. Only positive defining moments build customer loyalty, which deliver the four R’s that are the lifeblood of any healthy business: revenue, referrals, reputation and repeat business.

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But now, we face an unprecedented situation for our service teams. No one anticipated a global pandemic or its devastating consequences: no one was prepared for a quarantine that affected 20% of the world’s population or for 195 million jobs to vanish overnight. Similarly, no one had prepared their front-line employees for the high-stakes interactions brought on by the COVID-19 public health crisis. Service teams are being tasked to deliver unwelcome news to their customers—and internal teams—every day. Is it possible to deliver unwelcome news and still create positive defining moments?

Absolutely. Here’s how, in just four steps.

1. Explain the Situation

Explain the challenges of your current situation in a clear, fact-based way, whether your organization’s products are delayed or unavailable, your stores are closed, customers have longer wait times, you have reduced staffing that affects your service levels or you’re facing any other customer-centric challenges. It’s important to calmly listen to the customer as they vent in response to your statement; hearing them out is respectful and empathetic, and it helps you align more closely with their needs. No matter what happens, avoid blaming anyone, including the customer and anyone in your organization.

2. Acknowledge the Customer’s Feelings

If you’ve listened closely in the first step, you now understand your customer’s feelings. Their emotions are likely intense and varied; they may be anxious, fearful, uncertain, sad, angry or some combination of all of these. Show your customers respect by putting yourself in their shoes and acknowledging their feelings. Some statements that may help here are “Based on what you’ve shared, I can understand why this is upsetting to you” or “I understand why it’s important for us to [meet their stated need].”

3. Offer Any Available Options

You may not be able to meet your customer’s specific needs, but you may still be able to offer them something. Focus on what you are able to do: an option can be a product, service or any action that you or the customer might take. Exercising your creativity and brainstorming some options will allow your organization to follow through on its responsibility to deliver solutions to your customers.

4. Confirm the Customer’s Understanding

Ask a question or two to let the customer know that you want to move forward together in alignment with their needs. Some questions that might be helpful include these:

  • “Will one of these options work for you?”
  • “What other questions do you have?”
  • “What else would you like me to cover?”
  • “Have I answered all of your questions?”

Start Creating Positive Defining Moments

Building customer loyalty through positive customer experiences has always been important. Today, following these four steps in your customer service conversations could be the difference that ensures your organization’s rebound after the coronavirus. Organizations whose employees have the skills necessary to turn the delivery of unwelcome news into a positive defining moment will differentiate themselves during the crisis and beyond.

You can give your team the foundational skills that will help you build a positive customer experience even when you have to share unwelcome news. Watch the webinar and learn about tools that can improve your customer experience. After watching the webinar, you’ll receive the materials, ready to enable your teams.

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