In chess and in business, psychology is an invisible power. Those who know and those who use it the right way can beat their opponents and taste success.
If you thought psychology is an abstract power that is restricted only to medical sciences, you got it wrong. It is equally important to our everyday communication with friends, peers, and even customers.
Unlike in the previous decade, when most of the communication was happening in-person and in physical environs, today, most of the communication happens online with AI-based chatbots, E-mails, social media, live chat, etc. There is huge explosive growth in the volume of online communication.
Now that creates a huge opportunity as well as a challenge for businesses. For businesses, the challenge is real and critical since they also have to train customer support agents to communicate in the right manner. As a business functioning in the modern world, if you want to sell more, you must know the psychology behind every customer decision.
Customer psychology is not an abstract discipline, but a well-defined field of study that helps businesses and their marketers understand:
- Who buys their products,
- What cues trigger a buying consideration,
- How to purchase decisions are made,
- Who buys what kind of products, and
- How products or services are consumed.
If these tenets are known and applied to customer communication, it can do wonders for the growth and customer loyalty of a business. Unfortunately, most startups and one-person companies fail to understand these tenets and make mistakes that slow down their growth.
As a business owner, you must understand the psychology behind customer communication. There are some do’s and don’ts that one must follow. Here is a brief look at them:
First, let’s run through a list of DO’s to follow in customer communication.
- DO begin with a customer sentiment analysis
- DO include open-ended questions
- DO make communication easier
DO begin with a customer sentiment analysis
A customer sentiment analysis is a method of analysis that is used to understand customer sentiments in communication. The analysis is done on customer feedback, opinions, suggestions collected from the web, social media, email, chat, and similar sources.
Sentiment analysis is usually done with the help of Artificial intelligence or Machine Learning. They help segment and label the customer sentiments into positive, negative, or neutral. Based on the labeling, communication can be fine-tuned to better resonate with customers’ wants and expectations. In a way, sentiment analysis is the first step towards understanding what form of communication customers prefer the most.
When there is a detailed understanding of what customers want and how they want it, it becomes relatively easy to dole out the right kind of customer service. For example, some informed customers would prefer self-service modes like FAQs, demo videos, and help guides. Some others would expect the warmth of a phone call wherein step-by-step instructions are provided by an expert customer support agent.
Sentiment analysis can help you understand these untold expectations of customers so that future communication can be designed to suit them. It also gives the support agents a direction of how to move their conversation during the various stages while communicating with a customer.
DO include open-ended questions
An open-ended question is one that bestows the respondent with the liberty to express their feedback in more elaborate terms. The feedback need not be restricted to one-liners, YES/NO, or short paragraphs. Open-ended questions invite the customer to write longer reviews and take on what they think about a product or service, their personal experiences, and any information that the usual mode of feedback gathering does not collect.
Open-ended questions bring out the tiny cues of customer psychology that your business might never unearth otherwise.
Some examples of open-ended questions are:
- What prompted you/ your company to look into this?
- What are your expectations/ requirements for this product/ service?
- What process did you go through to determine your needs?
The beauty of open-ended questions is that they do not restrict customers. It gives them an open slate and endless space to vent out bad experiences or share positive feelings that the business can absorb, and take action on if required. Open-ended questions also help understand how diverse groups of customers want to communicate, like do they prefer short forms of communication or personalized lengthy ones.
DO make communication easier
There has been explosive growth in the volume of digital communications. However, it is not always easy for customers to get in touch with businesses. The online medium often proves to be a bane as businesses are able to use websites as a storefront and avoid direct confrontation of irate customers.
For those businesses for whom customer-centricity is a serious affair, there is a pressing need to make communication easier. But, from an economic standpoint, it is not feasible to set up a sizeable customer support team.
It is here that chatbots come into the picture. Chatbots can replace human agents and orchestrate initial conversations with customers. They can solve basic queries with reasonable ease, thereby making communication easier for customers. A business that is easy to reach and communicate with is definitely one that will retain its customers’ loyalty.
Just like the DO’s to be followed, there is a list of DON’TS your business should steer clear of:
- DON’T listen with an agenda
- DON’T make assumptions
- DON’T think customers are always right
- DON’T listen with an agenda
DON’T listen with an agenda
It takes two to tango, so does proper communication. Customer communication is definitely not a one-lane street. The conversation must flow both sides. That is why it necessary to listen to customers with interest to understand their problems rather than have an agenda.
For example, a customer who is calling to understand how a product works must be given a demo of the actual workings. The timing is wrong and so is the customer’s readiness in the sales cycle.
Hence, the need to keep away any other agenda and focus on solving the customer’s problem.
DON’T make assumptions
At the root of every miscommunication, of every misunderstanding, is an assumption.
Assumptions derail communication, even those that are done with the best intentions. Especially while communicating with customers, it is necessary to get rid of the temptation to assume that you know their problems and offer pre-emptive responses.
The need of the hour is active listening. Active listening ensures that the customer’s side is properly understood, and a suitable solution is provided. This also eliminates the need for the customer to repeat their issue from scratch. The end result is a quicker resolution, which will definitely make the customer feel at ease.
Also, assumptions can curtail a customer conversation that could otherwise provide detailed insights into the customer’s experience. Giving them the opportunity to express themselves without labeling them based on assumptions can make a huge difference to customer communication.
DON’T think customers are always right
Yesteryear marketers and business leaders swore by the oath that customers are always right. However, as times change, we must understand customers can be wrong about their understanding of the product or service. There can also be scenarios when customers go overboard and turn unruly to take advantage of the adage that “Customers are always right.”
Sticking to this obsolete tenet is a sure recipe for disaster. It invites unnecessary business commitments that you may not be able to deliver.
To make sure that customer service is provided in the right context to the right degree and within the capabilities of the business, it is necessary to say NO to customers when they are wrong. Customer support agents must also be trained to make them understand that the customer need not be right always. This will help the business avoid unnecessary confrontations.
Let’s say for example, if the customer is not satisfied with the design, and says, ‘This new Design is terrible, change it’. In this situation you can ask for an explanation and try to understand the reason, also if the demand is unreasonable then instead of saying direct ‘No’, you can say that we’ve changed the design to accommodate new features, which makes it easy for our users to navigate.
Communication in a business environment is difficult and complex, especially when you deal with customers of varying temperaments and backgrounds.
Understanding the psychology behind what they want to communicate, why they are reaching out, and how they expect it to be resolved can make a huge difference to customer loyalty. These hacks can come to your aid for that purpose.
In a way, these are not just plain hacks that help in the short-term. If practiced with intent, they can help the business set up sound practices for the future that will set the right tone for customer communication. A tone that has minimum friction, minimal misunderstanding — just the right degree of communication necessary to keep customers happy. Along with keeping customers happy, it will also ensure that the business is able to deliver on its promise of customer experience.
Good customer communication is a prerequisite for great customer experience. Without it, customers will soon jettison the business and switch to competitors.
Ashwini is passionate about Business, Entrepreneurship, E-commerce, emerging technology, and Digital Marketing. She is working with Acquire as a digital marketing expert. She is a free soul and adventurous scholar who spends her free time with herself, loved once, music, as well as watching & playing sports. She is ocean addicted and on roads being a thrill-seeking traveler to get new experiences as she looks at life as our very own works of art.