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Want happy customers? Listen, relate and resolve their challenges with humanity

An exceptional customer experience (CX) helps consumers remember a brand, particularly if they’ve made a connection with a helpful employee who listened attentively and then met their needs.

Consider the difference between a) being caught in a chatbot loop where getting to a customer service agent seems improbable and b) getting through to a helpful brand representative in a matter of seconds. In the latter scenario, the agent veers from a script, truly hears the reason for the call and provides the resolution the customer seeks.

Today's customers crave personalization. For that to happen, employees must be engaged and empowered to provide personalized interactions, which, in turn, elevates the brand. This three-sided synchronization is what we call the Happiness Trifecta of employee, customer and brand experience.

Let's focus on what it takes to deliver excellent CX that equates to happiness.

Focus on the human touch

Our study, Channeling Happiness: The 2022 State of Consumer Experience Report, found even when interactions are digital, human response remains consumers’ preferred interaction type, compared to self-service, by a 2:1 margin, although self-service is improving. In fact, 76% of consumers prefer human response over bots.

As the complexity of a consumer’s needs increase, they want a human being — whether a digital or live agent — to exhibit humanity, particularly when needs are emotional and sensitive. Bots are fine for simple interactions like answering basic questions but lack personalization. They can tell a customer how many loyalty points are in an account. But if, for example, a patient gets his or her medical claim denied, they want a sympathetic agent on the other end of the call to explain why and offer options for payment.

Regardless of the channel, empathy helps ensure brand success because customers feel heard and are more likely to rate the experience as positive, which increases contact center agent and brand success. The human touch also helps build the notion of individuality, making customers feel more valued and less of just another number.

Give agents the freedom to show humanity

Customers are evolving and so are their issues and concerns. As a result, sometimes the scripted answers just won’t cut it. So how can organizations keep up? By taking a more consultative approach to your call center support teams. Specifically, consider giving agents the freedom to think beyond the immediate issue facing the customer and allow them to also explore more “big picture” solutions.

To create experiences showing that customers matter, brands should empower customer service agents to go off the script rather than provide canned responses and spend the time needed to resolve the issue. Using Zen-like patience and empathy, agents should put themselves in the customer’s shoes and consider what resolution would make them happy. This involves critical thinking to solve problems on their own.

For instance, they might provide a discount or other incentive to encourage customers to return. Or agents might make recommendations on how customers can get more out of their brand relationship. The best agents are empowered by the brand they represent to proactively offer solutions or upgrades that exceed expectations customers didn’t even know they had.

Embrace frustration to improve operations

However, there are times when consumers are less than pleased with situations or outcomes. Learn from them to make future interactions better. Try to diffuse them by showing empathy.

Although being on the other end of the phone or chat might be tough for agents, embrace angry customers since they are the ones who will ultimately pave the way for improvements.

Create an environment in which customers feel comfortable providing feedback and knowing it will lead to improvements. Go the extra mile by following up with a heartfelt “Thank you and we’re sorry to have disappointed you. Please give us another chance in the future.”

The value of creating connections

While problem-solving is critical, how brands make customers feel drives their behavior down the road.

People do not want to be sold to — they want connections that make them feel heard. They want employees and brands to drive them back through exceptional interactions that make them happy.

Attain the Happiness Trifecta by hearing, understanding and valuing customers.

Doing so helps make employees feel the same. And when both occur, brands succeed.