Why customers will spend more if you start with a smile

I met Richard Shapiro at a recent CX Meetup in NYC and was reminded that he talks at length about high quality customer service in his book, "The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business." As Internet talk of automated chat and messaging bots hits a fever pitch, I found this portion of his book prescient and, with Richard's permission, wanted to share it with you. -Karl

It all begins with hope.

It may sound obvious, but if you wish to make a human connection with a customer—in person, on the phone, or online—then the most important thing to remember is each individual’s humanity. Human beings come to you with hope in their hearts. They need or want something they haven’t found elsewhere, and they hope you have the answer. Perhaps they are looking for the perfect Valentine’s present, a watch for their son’s graduation, or a gift for friends who just moved into a new home. Your job is to give them hope that they’ve come to a place where their problem or desire will be addressed in a helpful, friendly manner.

Giving customers hope is a key to gaining their trust and providing a customer service resolution."Hope" can be defined as the expectation of a future positive or constructive event. We always hope for the best. When your kids are born, you have hope they will be healthy and live long and happy lives. Then they grow up and you hope their happiness will continue. Even in instances of serious illnesses, human beings rely on their fundamental need for hope as a way to maintain focus and keep their spirits up. That’s why you must offer hope at the start of any relationship if you want that relationship to be sustained over time.

Offering hope begins with a welcoming smile. A smile is so important in business that a 2004 psychology study actually identified the value of a smile in dollars and cents. Participants were found to be willing to pay twice as much for a drink after being exposed briefly to photos of happy, smiling faces. The pictures were mixed with images of grim and frowning faces, and they flashed by so fast that the participants were unaware of the effect the smiles were having. As Roger Dooley wrote in his Neuromarketing blog, "I think the study does show that even a tiny elevation of mood, so small that it is imperceptible to the subjects, could affect their spending. This means that the manager who trains her employees to smile is on the right track."

When providing customer support, imagine yourself as a happy cat, with a HUGE smile.I coach frontline associates to smile by asking them to imagine how they would greet their best friend after a long vacation. That’s the kind of eager smile that can raise your customers’ spirits and make them feel truly welcome. Smiling works in telephone greetings, as well, because callers can "feel" your enthusiasm over the phone. Smiles are so powerful that human beings can sense a smile just by the sound of your voice.

Welcoming sales associates will smile first and then introduce themselves by name. Even if associates wear name tags, an introduction is always important. In a contact center environment, it’s helpful to train phone agents to introduce themselves twice—once at the beginning of the call and then again later in the conversation. Contact center customers frequently don’t hear the agent’s name at first or they quickly forget the name because they’re preoccupied with their reason for calling. So it’s a good idea, after hearing the reason for the call, for the phone agent to say, "Once again, my name is Mary, and I will be happy to help you with that."

One of my favorite recommendations for giving customers hope is for the frontline associate to include the key phrase "I can help you with that." Help is a broad concept. It might be that the associate needs to check with another employee or supervisor, get back to the customer later with additional information, or even refer the customer to a competitor who might have exactly what he or she is looking for.

If you want to stay human with your customers, get on live chat and start talking to them...

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Richard Shapiro

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Richard R. Shapiro is Founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) and a leading authority in the area of customer satisfaction and loyalty. For 28 years, Richard has spearheaded the research conducted with thousands of customers from Fortune 100 and 500 companies amassing the ingredients of customer loyalty and what drives repeat business. His first book was The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business and The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business, was released February, 2016.