We recently published a blog discussing four of the essential customer experience best practices that we identified in interviews of top customer service reps. Today, we continue that discussion and reveal the last four effective practices that sales and service organizations should emulate.

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5. Manage Difficult Conversations

No matter how good your product or service is, mistakes are inevitable. It’s how organizations respond when mistakes are made—whether by the organizations themselves or their customers—that sets them apart. Leading service reps avoid blaming anyone: not anyone in their organization, another company, an employee or, most importantly, the customer themselves. Instead, they take steps to defuse the customer’s anger, lessening the tension. When the customer’s complaint is justified, they apologize for it—an action that was the top positive customer experience behavior cited in comments to our global consumer survey. Whatever their approach, the rep’s goal is to acknowledge and settle the customer’s raw feelings before trying to resolve the issue.

6. Empathize

One key to offering outstanding customer service, according to top service reps, is to know how to walk in their customer’s shoes. They use body language, word choice and tone of voice to communicate a sincere understanding of the customer’s position and beliefs, regardless of whether the customer is at fault. Their goal is to validate the customer’s emotion, whether it’s anger, fear, confusion or joy. They use techniques such as deep acting to channel their own emotional memories that reflect the emotion the customer is experiencing. This way, they create a connection with the customer and, ultimately, a more genuine response with the potential to create a positive defining moment that resonates with the customer and strengthens the relationship.

7. Avoid Problems

Excellent customer service reps resolve problems on two fronts. First, they take steps to ensure that the customer will never again experience the same issue: they answer questions, and if they don’t know the answer themselves, they find someone who does. They serve as a resource to their customers because they follow through and do what they say they will do.

Second, they recognize that if one customer has a problem, it’s likely not a unique problem. They share information about the customer problems they’re resolving with other reps so they can improve the experience for other customers.

8. Learn Continuously

The most effective service reps never stop learning—and they learn in two ways. Internally, they study their own organization, products and services. Externally, they keep learning about customers—both individuals and industry segments—so they can better predict and meet future customer needs. The ability to forecast customer needs gives organizations a differentiating advantage over the competition.

Service Reps Can Learn the Capstone Competency: Emotional Effort

These customer experience best practices are all part of what we call the “capstone” competency: emotional effort. And each of these competencies is based on practical skills that any employee can develop and master—with the right customer experience training and coaching.

Without proper training, service reps often feel stress as they struggle to find ways to connect with their customers emotionally. Confused customers may expect kindness; angry customers may expect concern. Unless service reps know how to go beyond the surface, they’re likely to pretend to feel the emotion the customer expects—and more likely to offer a response that sounds scripted or canned, turning the customer off.

Service Ready customer service training teaches the concepts and processes underlying these eight leading customer experience best practices. As a result, customer service reps learn the soft skills that, as our global consumer survey confirmed, are essential to having a positive defining moment and raising an organization’s customer experience metrics.

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