Customer Experience News & Trends

The customers who need your personal help most

Some customers need your attention more than others – and helping them will ensure your company succeeds. 

Anxious customers – those who are worried about an outcome, want something out of the ordinary or are just natural worrywarts – need to talk to you. To you. Not your self-service options.

And it’s especially important in anxiety-invoking industries such as healthcare and finances, where customers have extra reasons to be anxious.

Yet, far too many organizations steer all customers toward self-service and away from the calming voices and reassuring words of customer service professionals, according to recent research from Harvard Business School.

Some companies “are funneling nervous customers to self-service technologies – kiosks, websites, and smartphone apps – isolating them at the precise moment when they’re most keen for connection,” say Harvard researchers Michelle Shell and Ryan Buell. “It is clear that these technologies are less expensive to offer than human support. But what’s less clear is the toll these self-service interactions may take on customers.”

Bad gets worse

The researchers found that anxious customers who use self-service tools weren’t happy with their experience even they got what they wanted when it was over.

Then guess what. They were dissatisfied and trusted the company less – only adding more anxiety to the next time they have to deal with the company.

The surprising fix

Researchers found there’s a low-cost fix – a simple change – that can reverse anxiety or prevent it altogether: Offer customers access to a person who can help for the asking.

“We found that when people had the ability to connect with another person – either an expert or a peer – the deleterious effects of anxiety were offset,” Shell and Buell said.

Now here’s the kicker. Very few customers took companies up on the offer to get out of self-service and on to personalized help. Just having the option to chat with a professional or peer helped ease their worries.

Even better, the “someone’s available now” option increased customers’ trust and improved their perception of the experience.

3 tips to make self-service feel more personal

To ease anxiety and give the customers who need your help the most personalized attention, try to:

  1. Make it easy to access a human. Truly easy. Make a phone number, email address or chat box easy to see on every self-service page or portal you have. Staff your customer service operations so there’s a person who can take the call, email or chat within minutes of a request.
  2. Reach out. Most CRM and sales software offer the ability for pop-up chat boxes after customers have been on the site or a particular page – say a FAQ or self-help page – after a certain amount of time. Use those to offer self-helpers personal help. In the same notion, if customers are visible to employees at any time, offer help when it’s obvious they’re stumped. Simple, effective, but not always done.
  3. Slow down. Many customer service pros are ready to help, then rush through the helping process because they feel the need to move onto the next customer or task. Emphasize a priority to see customers through all of their questions, concerns and anxieties before even thinking about ending the conversation.

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