Ever feel like the human connections in customer service are at risk? Even with advancements in artificial intelligence, combined with more use of chatbots and pre-recorded messages, creating strong, human connections with customers reigns supreme when it comes to customer loyalty.

I got a call the other night from the Red Cross. As a regular blood donor, I get calls with incentives (t-shirts and the like) to schedule an appointment at a blood drive in my area. On this particular evening, I was making dinner, so it was a bit unusual that I even picked up the phone.

The gentlemen that called me began with what I’m sure was a scripted introduction. As we got into our conversation, I would tell him what I was doing – chopping onions, slicing potatoes, and so on. I was making breakfast for dinner, with the usual fried potatoes, scrambled eggs and toast. I mentioned how much my husband loved it when I made it and the Red Cross rep – let’s call him David – joined me in my cooking conversation. Apparently, breakfast for dinner is one of his favorites, too.

David kept going through his script, though I noticed that he was great at making it more personal and adding his own touches. Then there came a point in the conversation where he needed to look up blood drives in my area on the computer. And it was s-l-o-o-o-o-w!

While we waited for the computer to catch up, we went on to more cooking and food-related subjects. Apparently, David is a 40 year old man who, despite his age,  can eat whatever he wants, and besides breakfast for dinner, he LOVES barbecue. How did I get that information? David had a gift of connection. I felt like talking and he went with me. We ended up laughing and sharing a few quick stories during what could have been a frustrating wait for technology. (I must admit, I was hoping that David’s service scores weren’t getting “dinged” by our lengthy conversation.)

In the end, the blood drive list came up and I scheduled an appointment to give a pint. (Of course!)

According to recent research from Accenture, 83% of customers prefer to talk to customer service PEOPLE over trying to get customer service issues solved through digital channels. Companies that continue to emphasize human connections in customer service – even if they increase their use of automation and take advantage of advances in technology and artificial intelligence – are sure to notice a positive difference in their customer satisfaction scores.

So how can you ensure your team is making a human connection with your customers?

Have a Mantra. We like to emphasize that customers are “people, not problems.” While it may sound a bit trite, haven’t we all been on a call or a meeting and just wanted the customer to GO AWAY because they’re being challenging, difficult or annoying? Of course! During those times, it helps to remember the human factor. There are a million different reasons that a customer might be upset, and if you can remind yourself of their humanity, it’s usually easier to provide better service. “People, not problems” is short and easy to remember. Feel free to use it!

Train on Soft Skills. Training on skills like composure, compassion and customer focus works. Your team can only deliver service that creates a strong human connection if they’ve been trained to provide it. This also ensures consistency, so customers don’t experience different levels or styles of service with different staff members.

Huddle. Having a pre-shift or morning “huddle,” i.e. a quick 10- to 15-minute team meeting, ensures that everyone is on the same page, knows what’s up for the day, and feels prepared. You can sprinkle in tips for managing difficult customers and share day-to-day examples of strong customer engagement, emphasizing creating the human connection in customer service.

These tips come from our book “Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan.”

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Lori Jo Vest is the co-author of “Who’s Your Gladys?” and “Taming Gladys!” Learn more about Lori on LinkedIn: Lori Jo Vest, Consultant/Author

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