Expert of the day, Helen Pettifer on how we all need the human touch
In recent weeks, the importance of good customer service has become paramount. We’ve all seen examples of businesses that are doing well when it comes to supporting their customers through these tricky times. However, we’ve also seen some businesses getting it spectacularly wrong too.
That’s why we’ve asked customer service specialist, Helen Pettifer, to be our expert of the day today. Helen has two decades of experience in this most vital of fields and is currently helping businesses and their customers manage everything from getting help to support with isolation during the pandemic. Over to you Helen!
Once upon a time, it was all about customer service. Then that morphed into customer experience. However, it’s 2020 and I’d like to see a new way of looking at how businesses and people interact – the human experience.
Put simply, we all need to be interacting with each other on a human-to-human level. Not just as businesses and customers. Our way of communicating needs to evolve so we can adapt to a post-lockdown world.
Why do businesses need to change though? Well, for decades businesses and organisations have crafted scripts for front-line staff and sales teams to use when engaging with customers. Scripts help you stay on point. But human beings aren’t chatbots, and inevitably, if you’re unprepared for a non-scripted question, front line staff can end up feeling flustered. You can plan as much as you like – people will always come up with something you haven’t thought of. But traditionally, there was no allowance made to step outside the box, adapt the flow of conversation or deviate from the process. This led to the people feeling like they weren’t being listened to and led to the legendary phrase, “the computer says no!”
Over the last few years, there’s been a noticeable shift in organisations stepping away from scripts. Providing opportunities for employees to make judgement calls, adapt communication styles and fully identify what the customer is looking to achieve.
However, the outbreak of COVID 19 has highlighted the fact that firms still have a long way to go when engaging with customers and understanding what they want.
Almost overnight, the lives of every single person in the UK, and indeed the world, have changed. These changes impact our lives in so many ways resulting in all of us being potentially vulnerable.
Now is the time for organisations to empower teams to engage with customers on a human level. It’s time to emotionally connect with individuals. The primary aim must be to fully understand how this situation is impacting them. We can’t begin to help them until we know what they are facing.
That means taking the time to identify the circumstances that are affecting and influencing their lives. This could be financial challenges, bereavement, changes to their mental and emotional health, deterioration of a pre-existing health condition or simply an intense feeling of claustrophobia and extreme anxiety brought on with lockdown.
In order to connect emotionally, sometimes, this may involve us showing our vulnerability.
With this current situation, we are all now facing many changes and challenges in our own lives. It is highly likely that we are experiencing the same emotions and difficulties as our customers.
So how does a more human-focused strategy work? Asking open questions is crucial to gaining information and trust. One of the most important questions to be asking customers currently is: “How is this situation impacting you?”
Questions like this can seem close to getting personal – but in these times, I’d argue that this isn’t a bad thing. They can also be useful to consider asking yourself:
When asking questions, we need to allow time for people to consider the question and answer. These may be questions they’ve not been asked before.
Listening is the most important skill we can develop in our lives.
It’s vital we listen with an open mind and try not to judge other people’s situations and behaviours. We also need to resist the urge to offer solutions or make things better. For many, they aren’t looking for advice. They just want someone to listen.
Make pauses a regular part of the communication process. Pauses are valuable in allowing others the opportunity to speak. Many people are uncomfortable with silence and will speak to fill the gap.
Listen for emotions. Customers may verbally express how they’re feeling, or these may come across in their voice. We are all experiencing this situation in different ways. For many of us this will include very different and intense emotions to normal. We may not always know how to respond to these emotions or put them into words.
How we engage and respond to others through this current situation can make a real difference. We need to be supporting those in need and those experiencing the darkest days of their lives. This can only be achieved with the human touch.
As well as being an award-winning customer service specialist, Helen trains businesses large and small how to help and support vulnerable people. You can find out more about her work here: https://www.helenpettifer.com/
We’re going through our digital Rolodex and asking some of our favourite TV and broadcast experts to give tips and advice and articles to help you throughout the COVID 19 pandemic. Find out how to get help for free at https://www.resolver.co.uk/