Authenticity--It's What Customers REALLY Want
| Published: January 12, 2015 | Comments
While New Year’s resolutions often get a bad rap, beginning a new year is a great time for businesses to take some time to reflect on how their business fared in the prior year and create a road-map for where they’d like their business to go in the year ahead. There are numerous e-books, articles and blog posts published that delve into the trends of the prior year and predictions about what lies ahead. One trend that has been gaining steam is authenticity. While not a new, it is a topic that customers raise over and over when talking about customer service.
Authenticity goes beyond whether or not a product is “hand-made” or “natural” or “locally sourced.” While these are also important factors for customers, what they are most wanting from companies is to be treated as an individual in an authentic way. Customers are increasingly wary of unsolicited sales pitches and canned messages. We hear a lot about the importance of customer loyalty for a business’s viability, and authentic connection is one way to keep your customers happy and loyal. Getting to know a little something about the customer that isn’t related to selling or upgrading helps humanize the connection between employee and customer so that together they can arrive at the desired outcome.
Perhaps the desire for authenticity remains strong given how much technology controls our lives. As customers increasingly favor self-service options and have more virtual friendships than real, when they do finally connect with another person, via live-chat or phone, they want it to be personalized and real.
One company that has had great success with empowering employees to go “off message” and connect with customers in meaningful ways is TELUS International. The company has implemented a “Moment of Truth” approach to customer service. They insisted on buy-in for every agent and leadership team, so that there was a sense of shared ownership in the success of the program.
The impetus of this program was to empower agents to solve customer issues as they fit and document their decision-making process for later review and evaluation. By allowing agents to interact with customers “off script” they are better able to understand what the customer’s needs are and together work on finding the best solution.
While strategic business decisions are often based on logic, rational analysis and emotional detachment, when it comes to delivering customer service, emotional intelligence is what matters most in delivering an authentic experience. Simply put, emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and appropriately respond to one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. Being able to appropriately understand and respond to a customer’s emotional needs leads to better experiences for both employee and customer.
Emotionally intelligent customer service agents are better able to identify the customer’s needs and guide them to the service/product that best suits his needs. These agents aren’t pushy or aggressive with their sales techniques, instead relying on their ability to listen to what the customer is saying and provide service that is authentic. Don’t underestimate the profitability associated with emotionally intelligent employees. The women’s cosmetic brand L’Oreal found that its sales agents selected for their emotional intelligence each sold $91,000 more per year than agents hired through more traditional hiring practices. Even better, the emotionally intelligent agents had a 63% lower turnover rate in their first of employment.
While some people are more naturally emotionally intelligent, it is a skill that can be taught. With the right hiring and training practices, you can ensure your customer-facing employees have the best possible skill set to deliver exceptional and authentic customer experiences.
Emotional intelligence is an important skill for employees to have as it leads to customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction leads to repeat business. Repeat business leads to higher profit margins.
Customer value authenticity and can sniff out phonies fairly easily. Many of us have encountered the agent with the saccharine greeting or query. It’s off-putting. Customers want more than friendliness, because friendliness can be faked. When customers feel an authentic connection to a brand or product their satisfaction levels increase.
Creating meaningful, personalized and authentic experiences for customers will continue to be a focus for companies throughout 2015. It’s what customers want, and it’s in companies’ best interest to cultivate and train their employees to be able to deliver authentic service.
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