Handling Common Communication Hurdles with Customers

Customer Service
May 2, 2024
Handling Common Communication Hurdles with Customers

Navigating communication challenges with customers is essential for smooth operations. Empathy is key: it can soothe difficult situations or prevent issues from arising altogether.

Let's explore five common customer communication problems and how to resolve them, including real-world examples from support teams across various industries. By the end, you'll have practical ideas to tackle similar challenges in your own business.

Unresponsive Customers and Missing Information

Many support teams struggle when customers reach out without providing enough information to resolve their issues. Here's how you can tackle this challenge:

  1. Clearly lay out the action needed in one or two sentences in your email.
  2. Streamline the email by removing any information that isn't immediately relevant.
  3. Use a friendly and personalized tone, making it feel like a warm request from a real person, not an automated message.

Following these three principles significantly increases the likelihood of a timely response. Additionally, consider promoting more self-service options and pushing requests to standardized forms that gather necessary information upfront to prevent these situations from arising.

Telling Customers No

Sometimes, you just have to say no. Customers may request features that your company can't or won't build, even though those features might benefit them. If such a request diverts your team from higher priorities, it simply can't happen.

Many support agents feel uncomfortable in these situations, but here are a few steps to make these conversations less awkward:

  1. Set clear expectations. While many brands emphasize the importance of customer feedback, avoid issuing blanket statements about customer requests. Make it clear that each request will be examined and evaluated to see how it fits with your overall direction.
  2. Ask investigative questions. Don't take customer requests at face value. They make suggestions because they have a need they hope you can address. Dig deeper into that need with questions, and you may discover a completely different, feasible solution.
  3. Don't give false hope. Sometimes the answer really is no. In such cases, make it clear and explain why. Instead of simply saying, "We won't be building X at this time," try, "We won't be building X at this time due to limited development resources. We've chosen to focus on Y and Z, which we believe will offer greater benefits for customers and align more with our company's mission."

Mistakes Happen: How to Apologize Effectively

Everyone makes mistakes, including companies. When your brand makes an error, whether on an individual customer level or more publicly, owning up and apologizing sincerely can be challenging.

Here's how IPSY, a monthly makeup subscription brand, handled a public mistake effectively. After sparking outrage by accidentally including an offensive line in a Pride celebration video, they issued an apology to their millions of Instagram followers:

This example shows the importance of acknowledging mistakes, taking responsibility, and addressing the issue directly with your audience.

Owning up to and apologizing for a big mistake like this takes courage, but it often leads to a far greater level of respect and authenticity from your customers.

Troubleshooting with Non-Technical Customers

If you've ever had to explain what an internet browser is to someone, this one's for you.

While it might seem surprising to some, many customers are still non-technical. Whether due to age, lack of access, language barriers, or other reasons, these users find even intuitive software difficult to navigate. As a result, conversations with non-technical customers often lead to frustration for customer service agents.

Here are a few steps to ease these interactions and improve the customer experience:

  1. Be patient and empathetic. Non-technical customers might appear frustrated or upset...and they often are. Struggling to use your product can lead to feelings of incompetence or inadequacy. If you've ever felt this way, you know how frustrating it can be. Recognizing that your support team can guide customers towards mastery can help reframe the situation and foster empathy.
  2. Avoid assumptions. Most of your customer base might understand terms like "clear your cookies and cache," but such phrases sound foreign to non-technical users. Avoid jargon or acronyms, opting instead for metaphors and step-by-step instructions.
  3. Use a variety of tactics. Tailor your approach to different learning styles and preferences. Instead of a one-size-fits-all strategy, consider employing various methods, including GIFs, video walk-throughs, bulleted instructions, and more.

A great example of this in practice is Asana's knowledge base. While this project management software can handle a multitude of tasks, its help center makes different options clear from the first click. By offering courses, video tutorials, and a "learn the basics" section, Asana has created an accessible knowledge base for all users.

Talkative Customers

Some customers just love to chat, don't they? While giving every customer the time they need is ideal, in reality, long calls or chats can make it hard to staff appropriately and provide support to other customers.

If this sounds familiar, your support team may need training on how to lead and end a call effectively. Here are a few tips:

  1. Ask direct questions. Open-ended questions give chatty customers opportunities to go off on tangents. While these questions can be valuable for gathering feedback, they also extend handle time. Instead, ask direct questions that address the core issue.
  2. Carefully redirect the conversation. Redirecting a customer can be tricky, but your support team should feel empowered to guide conversations back on track. For instance, imagine you work for a pet toy manufacturer. Bob calls in, and while you're pulling up his account and making small talk, he says, "It's rainy here in Seattle. My knee's acting up—it hasn't been the same since I injured it playing football for USC. That reminds me of when..." Bob's story might be great, but it's likely not relevant to his call. An expert support agent should find a moment to step in with something like, "I'm sorry to hear about your knee, Bob. I see you recently ordered our robo-fetch machine—is that why you're calling today?" When done warmly and helpfully, redirecting conversations can steer the dialogue back to the issue without negatively affecting the customer.

By following these strategies, your support team can handle talkative customers efficiently, maintaining productivity and positive customer interactions.

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