Sometimes it's more about the conversation than it is about actual service. here's 6 tips to improve your customer conversations.
Remember when you used to go to your local grocery, and had a chat with the grocer about the weather? Or when you got a haircut, and spent your time talking to the hairdresser about the local football team? Chances are, that when you needed some more groceries (or a haircut), you wouldn’t even think about it – you would go right back to those places.
People enjoy feeling that they belong, and they’ll keep coming back to places they feel welcome at, and feel familiar with. What you were getting in those places wasn’t customer service per se – it was customer conversation. Actually talking to your customers and having a conversation with them does wonders and improves your relationship (and your sales) no end.
Here are 6 ways that improve your customer conversations:
Let the customer lead
Some people are informal right off the bat, and start to tell you about their daughter’s wedding, or the last time they went on vacation. Others prefer to keep a little bit more distance between you and them, to keep things on a more formal setting. They prefer to talk about the weather, or taxes. To avoid making mistakes, the best thing is to follow the customer’s lead when they start talking, and that will help you understand how to conduct the conversation.
Of course, when you get to know the customer better, things can change.
Have a real conversation
Once you understand HOW the customer prefers to talk, have a conversation with them. Don’t look for places to ‘close the sale’, or ‘sweeten the deal’. Have a normal, casual conversation. People can tell the difference between a conversation for the sake of ‘buy this’, and a friendly conversation that you are having with them simply because you want to.
Although this is a two-way conversation, you’d rather the customer spoke, not you (it’s about them, remember?). It’s sometimes very easy, certainly in casual conversation, to slip into ‘lecture’ mode. Think about the times you talk about politics, the way that your football club should have played, why iPhones are better than Android, or why the original Total Recall film is clearly superior.
Now, while you may be right about these matters, your customer isn’t there to get a lecture. Keep things on the light side, and let your customer do most of the talking.
People buy from people, not companies. So if the conversation turns the right way, you can bring up more personal stuff – stories about your kids, the latest movie you went to see, feel around for some common hobbies and so on. When customers know personal things about your life, it contributes to that sense of familiarity we talked about, and contributes to whether or not they decide to come back.
Follow the customer’s agenda
The customer also wants to get something out of the conversation. It could be a discount, a way to spend a pleasant five minutes waiting for the rain to stop, or because they saw the final of Fringe the other day, and they are dying to tell someone about it. Now, you might have a very different agenda to pursue, and you might be trying to close a huge deal – but remember what we said at first? Let the customer lead. This applies to the agenda as well – if the customer wants to talk about the weather, trying to lead the conversation back to closing the deal will just lead to frustration, and might even cause the whole deal to be canceled.
Follow the customer’s agenda. Eventually it will coincide with yours.
The customer is your equal
This is perhaps the most self-evident of these points, but we’ll repeat it just in case. The conversation that you have with your customers should have a feeling of mutual respect. Customers aren’t above or beneath you – you shouldn’t be talking down to them (and this is true in any case, and in almost any conversation), and you shouldn’t feel like you are subservient to them, as this will almost certainly lead to resentment on your part, and the conversation will probably not go as well as you hope.