Customer Experience News & Trends

4 ways to master the ‘art’ of customer care

Customer care is both art and science. You probably have the science under control with policies and processes. But have you mastered the art?

Companies that elevate customer service to an art form have a business advantage.

Executives believe that, too: Most CEO’s rank customer service and care as their second biggest priority, just behind growth. And service is how they plan to grow business, a Gartner study found.

The art of customer care is often a result of the things that are more difficult to measure — such as the personal connections, genuine concern and empathy that is shared between front-line service pros and customers.

Efforts build loyalty

At Aegon, an investment agency, leaders and customer service professionals have put the art of care at the forefront of their efforts to build loyalty and satisfy customers.

And it has worked: They’ve improved satisfaction levels and turned their Net Promoter Score on its head, removing almost all “detractors” — unhappy customers who might spread bad word of mouth — and increasing the level of “promoters” — enthusiasts who refer others to the company.

Here’s how their program works:

1. Build the program

Most customers were satisfied with experiences with Aegon and its employees. So leaders wanted to up their game with customers who didn’t have an ideal experience.

They created a program called “Aegon Cares,” which focused on direct contact with select groups of customers — those who had a problem that was fixed and those who indicated they were upset with a process (but there was nothing to fix).

They added a question at the end of regular transaction surveys, asking if customers would like a follow-up call.

“If there was a concern, and the customer agreed to a call, we had a new opportunity to show we cared,” said Iain O’Connor, senior manager of customer experience and insight, when he spoke at CXFusion in Las Vegas. “And we’d know who’d be best to make that call back.”

2. Build the team

The best person to make the call came from a chosen group of front-line pros.

“They already had a solid background in customer service,” O’Connor said. “So, to train them, we’d have them listen to calls that turned out well to kill any apprehension they had about calling customers who were already a bit upset.”

The key to the training program: Aegon made it less structured because the work the Aegon Cares Team was expected to do was meant to be less structured.

There was no worrying about scripts of any sort. Instead, Aegon gave them tips to improve their listening skills, such as paying attention for emotions so team members could respond to those first before fixing the issue. Leaders also emphasized the need for employees to listen longer and closer to customers so those employees were ready to adapt to changing situations and emotions.

3. Make the call

When customers indicated in their post-transaction surveys that they’d take a follow-up call, the duty was directed to one of the Aegon Care’s reps who was best equipped to handle either procedural concerns or problem resolution.

Reps made the calls when they had a break in demand.

But, O’Connor admits, it wasn’t smooth sailing from the get-go. Some supervisors didn’t support it. They claimed that something else took priority over the outgoing calls almost always. So they preferred reps not start making them.

To counter their concerns, O’Connor and his management team kept an eye on what results they could quantify to prove that the program worked. This won over those who were reluctant to give up the resources: More than 60% of the detractors became promoters after a follow-up call.

4. Make it easy to make it special

Not all customers were easily pleased. And some customers deserved something special for their troubles or continued loyalty.

So Aegon made it easy for service pros to improve relationships. Reps had the ability to click on a page in their dashboard and click to order flowers, theme baskets, doggie toys, candy or wine for customers as an apology. They also would add a personal apology note.

It goes over extremely well. Aegon knows this because many customers post their surprise gift on social media after they receive it.

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