Emotional connections matter: that was the ultimate conclusion from a customer experience survey that we conducted with 5,500 global consumers.

Specifically, we asked consumers to describe their experiences with organizations to identify employee behaviors they like and dislike and to evaluate common service practices. Our goal was to determine the universal expectations that define what a positive customer experience looks like.

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In every country, survey respondents told us that being heard and feeling respected are more important than having their issue resolved. Five of the top six positive behaviors referenced in more than 3,000 comments to the survey addressed buyers’ emotional needs.

But these needs often go unmet: only 25% of these respondents said that front-line employees made them feel as if they were on their side. The majority of customer service reps failing to meet their buyers’ emotional needs has devastating consequences for sales organizations: 50% of U.S. respondents revealed that a single bad customer service experience was “somewhat” to “very” likely to send them to a competitor. Those numbers don’t even consider how many consumers are willing to seek a better experience from a competitor when their current seller’s service experience merely meets their expectations.

This survey demonstrates that businesses need to teach their customer service reps how to deliver positive defining experiences as part of their customer experience strategy. To unearth the customer experience best practices that are the foundation for leading service performance, we went to the experts. We asked the leading companies in major global markets to nominate their top customer-contact employees. Then we interviewed them to identify the competencies required to create the best possible customer experience.

We analyzed the transcripts of these interviews and captured eight big-picture competencies that top employees use to create exceptional customer experiences. Here are the first four of these customer experience best practices.

1. Build Relationships

Top customer service reps know that every customer interaction, no matter how brief, is an opportunity to build a relationship. Even during short calls or visits, they communicate warmly with buyers, using the customer’s name and asking them thoughtful, appropriate business and personal questions. Using questions is an effective way for customer service reps to unearth their buyers’ human needs—for respect, understanding and individual attention—as well as their business needs—for products, services and problem resolution.

2. Listen Attentively

The most successful customer service reps know that it’s critical for them to listen actively to what the customer says—and to what they aren’t saying. Active listening means that the rep is noting nonverbal cues, such as behavior, body language and tone of voice, so they can fully understand how to respond to customer demands. Top reps also know that it’s important not to take customer complaints, anger or frustration personally and to separate the person from the problem.

3. Gather Information

The best service experiences are grounded in a full understanding of the customer’s problem. Outstanding customer service reps carefully probe customers to get to the root of their concerns, using open and closed questions to uncover crucial details, reveal hidden needs or determine what happened if a problem occurred. That way, they’ll deliver answers and solutions targeted precisely to the customer’s needs.

4. Communicate Clearly

It’s imperative that customer service reps solve problems, not create new ones with unclear communication. That’s why the best service reps avoid technical language and jargon when talking with customers; instead, they focus on using clear language that’s easy for customers to comprehend. They’re also willing to acknowledge what they don’t know and follow up with additional information. Because they’ve taken the time to understand the customer’s situation and build a relationship, they know how much detail is appropriate to share about what happened and why, and then they move on to solving the customer’s problem.

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Service Ready Teaches Your Front-Line Service Reps These Customer Experience Best Practices

A successful customer experience strategy relies on employees who are equipped to make the emotional effort to connect with customers by understanding and meeting their human needs as well as their business ones. Service Ready customer experience training from Miller Heiman Group teaches front-line service reps the interpersonal skills necessary to deliver an exceptional customer experience—and to improve your organization’s customer experience metrics.

Stay tuned for another post on the remaining four customer experience best practices. Meanwhile, contact us to discover how Service Ready can help your customers develop the soft skills that will help them build customer loyalty in every interaction.

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