Humanizing Customer Care

  |  June 7, 2012   |  Comments

Three ways to ensure your customers feel like you're treating them as a unique individual, and not just another notch in the brand belt.

There's a recent insurance commercial that shows a husband whispering on the phone in his living room late at night. His wife comes downstairs and thinks she has caught her spouse on the phone with another woman. She grabs the phone and asks what "she" is wearing, before receiving her husband's reply of, "Uh, khakis." The husband is actually on the phone talking with his insurance agent! What's the point of this commercial, besides the humorous twist? That the agent is willing to go above and beyond, and in doing so, is showing just how much he cares about his customers.

Just as it's essential to remember your employees are people, it's just as crucial to treat your customers as human beings. In the above example, the insurance agent was in full customer support mode even in the wee hours of the morning - khakis and all. Obviously this commercial is a little extreme, but it exemplifies how to make your customers feel like they're being cared for around the clock - which, in turn, creates loyalty. After all, they're looking for a connection to your brand and your brand isn't anything without that bond.

Here are three practical ways to ensure your customers feel like you're treating them as a unique individual, and not just another notch in the brand belt.

  1. Be high-tech while staying high-touch. Your inbox can be overwhelming and it's easy to create an auto-reply so you don't lose out on a connection or spend all your time answering questions. However, these first impressions to curious and eager customers can be the connection that keeps them coming back. Instead of auto-replying with a generic message about someone being in touch shortly, get creative. Set up a fun response that makes your audience feel like you've started a conversation, and they'll appreciate (and connect to) the fact that your brand is confident and creative in its tone and voice. More tips about this here.
  2. Tag team. It can be draining to respond to individual inquiries from customers, which can end up being reflected in your messages. You might be answering the same question all day, or drawing a blank. So how do you avoid making your customer feel like they caught you at the end of a long day? Recruit the team! Involve everyone in replying to customers - make a rotation schedule so no one gets too tired of the support role. This will keep the replies more conversational, since they're coming from different areas of the team, and it won't be an unbalanced scale of work. Thus, your customers and your employees will be happy. Win-win!
  3. Value their time. It's a big deal when customers show their loyalty. Don't let this enthusiasm die out - reel them in and keep them in. Show your own loyalty to your audience by giving away products. They enjoy your work, so why not reward them with swag? Giveaways and contests are always a great way to start showing how much you value your customers' loyalty. And if you get enough of a following - and cash flow - these can become an established niche in your brand.

Remember, each customer is a unique person who needs just a bit of special attention, and these are three easy ways to make them feel good without consuming too much of your time. But don't worry - you don't have to sport khakis while applying them. Unless that's your thing, of course.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laney Whitcanack

Laney Whitcanack is Federated Media Publishing's chief community officer. Prior to joining FM, Laney co-founded BigTent in 2006 and focused on innovating online and offline ways to connect people with communities they care about. She spent the decade previous to BigTent coaching and training hundreds of community leaders, in the U.S. and Mexico, most recently as the director of community programs for the Coro Center for Civic Leadership.

A published author and speaker on entrepreneurship and community organizing, Laney received the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2008. She is currently a board member of Zeum: San Francisco's Children's Museum and The Princess Project and is involved in even more community groups after the birth of her daughter, Campbell, last year. Laney has a B.A. from UCLA, and MBA from the Simmons School of Management, and an Ed.M from Harvard University.

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