The Best Customer Support is All About Real Relationships

Humans are wired for connection. We all want to feel heard, especially when we need help.

Our customers are no different. That’s why getting past the formalities to make real, personal connections with them is so important.

Quality customer relationships improve retention and referral rates, and they yield valuable insights for your company. Plus, approaching each customer as a real person instead of a statistic makes support more meaningful for both your staff and customers.

Putting authentic relationships at the heart of our customer service has worked well for us at The Receptionist: It’s a big part of how we quadrupled our client base in just 15 months.

If you want your company’s staff to make personal connections with their clients, you may benefit from some of the tactics we’ve used.

One of the crucial relationship-building skills your support staff needs is empathy. Here are four ways your support team can use it during customer interactions.

An In-House Support Staff

Outsourced customer support may seem like a great solution at first.

Dedicated support companies are typically flexible with their hours, can scale up and down quickly, and are generally more affordable than hiring in-house. They also provide a singular focus on support that you can’t get with a full-time staff that’s distracted with other work.

However, in our opinion, those benefits come at a huge cost: a disconnect between the support team and the rest of the company.

Working alongside those who build and service your product is invaluable for support staff. It gives them a personal understanding of your company’s strategy, culture, and priorities. It also lets them pass direct and real-time insights on to customers, and then back to the company.

For example, let’s say that server issues have started affecting your product’s usability. In-house customer support staff can get a firsthand look into your team’s efforts to fix things, then relay those updates to the people calling in. They can also report back to company leaders almost immediately with an assessment of customer response.

Note that you don’t necessarily have to employ a fleet of call specialists if you take the approach we do at The Receptionist, which is to expect all staff (even the CEO) to occasionally jump in on support. For more on our whole-company support approach, check out our full post on the topic.

We believe that customer service should be the core of your business. That makes it way too important and personal of a job to give to someone outside your company.

A Consistent, Easy-to-Reach Point of Contact

It’s tough to build a meaningful relationship during a one-off, one-time conversation. That’s why it’s so important that customers reach out to the same people on your team each time they have a question or an issue, and to encourage them to reach out as frequently as they need to.

For that to happen, you need to do three things:

Assign Clients to Consistent Support Staff
If you have a big company with a large support staff, you might need a method of assigning clients to certain reps so they get a chance to know each other. If you already have a smaller support staff that’s handling all the calls, this might happen naturally.

Make Connecting Easy
Make your support team easy to reach. This means no long hold lines or phone menus to get through. We feature a chat button on each screen of our software to make sure that our clients can get great support when they need it, easily.

Keep Staff Turnover Low
We all know staff turnover hurts companies: Hiring is time consuming, and it’s expensive to train new people. It’s especially tricky for support positions, which require a specific skill set and a deep knowledge base. But an often overlooked side effect of a poor turnover rate in your support department is that it eliminates any chance that your customers will connect with someone consistently.

It takes special effort to retain your customer support staff. These jobs require a lot of dealing with people who are upset or have urgent needs, so it can get stressful. You need to give your support staff all the incentives you can to make sure they’re happy. As this HelpScout article points out, that should include a clear path for advancement in your company.

Customer support is a tough job. Give your support staff all the incentives you can to make sure they’re happy. Click To Tweet

A Casual, Personal Tone

When it comes to customer support, we all expect politeness and a good attitude from our reps.

But do you really relate to someone who seems overly formal, who thanks you a little too profusely, or who seems to be reading from a script?

At The Receptionist, we encourage our reps to use a casual tone and not be afraid to get a little personal with clients.

Make it Personal

There’s a fine line, of course. You can’t make people uncomfortable or waste their time. But sharing a few details about the weather or how your day is going helps your customers see you as a real person and not just a task on a to-do list. This kind of personal sharing can come naturally when a working relationship has already been established.

Another key to making your support personal is adding real first names and even photos to communications. This goes for the actual support conversations themselves, of course, but also other communications from your company, including emails for marketing and feature updates.

These emails should show up in your customer’s inbox from a name, not just a company, and include a real name in the email signature.

Dial Down the Formality

Casual language can help people relax and connect with you. Here’s just one example of how our reps talk to clients:

Your customer support team should feel comfortable talking to your clients the same way they would any acquaintance they ran into in their daily life.

By the way, capturing that casual vibe can be tricky (if not impossible) when communicating across a significant cultural barrier, which happens a lot when support is outsourced.

Want to really boost your customer relationships? Encourage your support team to use empathy in these four ways during customer interactions.

Remember, none of these relationship-building tactics will succeed if your staff doesn’t truly care about whether the customer loves your product. And that can only happen when you hire carefully and establish customer service as a company-wide value.

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