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The power of positive psychology: Flip the script on 6 customer woes

Positive psychology in customer service

When you contact a business, who would you rather get on the other end of the line: Ted Lasso or Nathan Shelley?

Even if you haven’t watched “Ted Lasso,” you can probably appreciate the difference between interacting with someone who hangs a “BELIEVE” poster on their wall versus someone who once felt comfortable berating a person for asking “…such a stupid question.”

While most support representatives would never take the Nathan Shelley approach, 68% of customers still say the service they get from businesses leaves a lot to be desired.

So, how can you be the exception instead of the status quo? In part by tapping into positive psychology. 

Positive psychology is the practice of nurturing people’s strengths and capitalizing on the good aspects of life to help individuals and communities succeed. It was a superpower for Ted Lasso, and it can be for any business, too.

Plus, it’s risky to ignore positive psychology’s business impact. After all, a negative experience with a company is more than a passing annoyance for today’s customers –– it’s the moment they could decide to walk.

Sixty-one percent of customers will go knocking on a competitor’s door after a single bad experience with a business. Two bad experiences will send 76% of customers packing. 

Fortunately, applying positive psychology tactics can help you stay on the right side of those stats and turn customer complaints into triumphs.

How to solve 6 common customer issues with positive psychology

On a customer service team, positive psychology plays out as best practices, such as demonstrating empathy, listening actively, offering relevant apologies, and being reassuring when the moment calls for it –– all strategies that tend to be mutually beneficial for customers and customer-facing employees.

“Being in a support org can be emotionally challenging,” says Justina Altiere, Vice President of Customer Experience at OpenPhone. “You’re dealing with upset customers, recurring bugs that happen, and you’re there to help smooth over the relationship with the customer. This can be a draining job for some people to have, and the use of positive psychology can really help.”

Read on to uncover practical ways to apply positive psychology principles for six common customer issues –– and help your customer-facing employees thrive along the way.

Issue #1: Tackle recurring bugs with active listening

Ah, recurring bugs –– the bane of every rep’s existence. 

It’s a familiar scenario: There’s a bug in your software product. The engineering team is working on it, but it hasn’t been fixed yet. Customer after customer after customer contacts support to inquire about the bug.  

And so your customer-facing employees become robots, churning out the same canned response about said bug. 

A little active listening can bring a sense of humanity back into the mix. Active listening –– tactics that help a listener understand the true meaning and motivations behind someone’s message –– gives customer support representatives the puzzle pieces they need to craft personalized responses.

And those personalized responses help customers feel seen, heard, and cared for. 

Remaining non-judgmental, asking open-ended questions, remembering details –– and, ultimately, following through –– are all part of active listening. 

Make it easy for representatives to advocate for customers by setting up direct lines of communication between customer support and other relevant departments –– whether that’s product, engineering, or any other team. Slack group channels labeled by team often work well.

It might seem pretty obvious, but listening is a skill that’s so fundamental –– and taught so early –– that it’s often half-hearted or forgotten altogether.

Issue #2: Tackle wrong expectations with an apology, reassurance, and empathy

Sure, most of us strive not to overpromise and then underdeliver, but it does happen. Every once in a while, that “we’ll resolve this issue in two days”- promise turns into five days with no resolution in sight.

This is the time to fall on your own sword with an apology and some reassurance: Proactively apologize to the customer and reassure them this is not how you operate.

Beyond that, let your empathy show. Acknowledge that not meeting the expectations you set likely had a domino effect for them, disrupting other timelines they were working against and expectations they might have set with others.

Pro tip: Let technology help you manage customer expectations

Set realistic expectations with your customers –– and initiate a conversation with them when you fail to do so –– with the help of your business communication system. 

OpenPhone makes customer follow-ups and behind-the-scenes internal collaboration easy with features like pre-drafted scheduled messages and shared inboxes for calls and texts.

Issue #3: Tackle feature requests with relationship-building

Anyone who’s worked in a customer-facing role at a tech company is likely no stranger to feature requests. Even for companies outside tech, having an open-door policy on product feedback from customers is standard. 

Yet, customer support representatives don’t typically moonlight as engineers, and they have variable levels of influence when it comes to which new features get prioritized –– and which ones never see the light of day. 

You get the picture: Managing customer expectations around feature requests can be challenging, to say the least.

But rather than looking at these requests as annoying sidebars –– and sending templated “thanks, I’ll pass it along” responses –– use them as opportunities to deepen relationships with customers.

Put on your active listening hat and genuinely hear what each customer wants. Is there another way you can help them solve the problem they think a new feature will solve? Is there an existing feature they’re unaware of that could help?

Beyond that, be honest and transparent about the status of each request. And when a new feature is on its way or officially rolls out, take the extra step of closing the loop with customers who asked for it.

Pro tip: Document feature requests to improve customer follow-up

Given the volume of feature requests that often flows from customers to customer support reps, keeping track of everything –– and following up with customers on their specific requests in a meaningful way –– can feel next to impossible. 

Make life easier by creating a database and logging all feature requests there. 

OpenPhone customers have access to custom contact notes where they can make a note in a specific customer’s profile whenever that customer requests a feature. All those asks are well-documented and visible to the entire internal team, so customer follow-up becomes simpler, as you can filter your contacts using tags.  

Issue #4: Tackle double charges with an apology and reassurance

Let’s say a customer canceled their subscription but continued to get charged. Or a pesky, accidental double charge snuck through the system.

An immediate apology and reassurance that a refund will be processed (and details on when it will be processed) are both in order as a means of rebuilding customer trust.

Errors like this offer chances to turn negative experiences into positive ones. By fully delivering on the basics and, when it makes sense, delighting customers with freebies and goodies to make up for your shortcomings, customers will walk away on a high note.

Remember, positive experiences tend to pave the way for increased spending: 70% of customers say the quality of the service they receive from a business drives their purchasing decisions.

Issue #5: Tackle poor first impressions with empathy

It’s tricky to recover a relationship when you get off on the wrong foot. 

Whether a customer experiences a long hold time, can’t seem to get help with their issue, or gets a representative who woke up on the wrong side of the bed, a poor first impression isn’t great –– but it also isn’t everything. 

Justina suggests taking these two steps to get the customer relationship back on track –– and to up your game on first impressions in the future:

  • Call in senior management: If that first conversation is going south, escalate it to a vice president, director, or manager who can deliver an apology, smooth things over, and offer a fresh start. 
  • Level up your coaching: Have representatives train on positive psychology-inspired practices, like showing empathy, active listening, apologizing, and being reassuring, so they’re more confident when it comes to turning gray skies blue.

Less than 30% of representatives feel like they have the necessary internal support to be successful in their jobs. Refocusing on coaching –– and applying the same positive psychology principles internally as you do externally –– is low-hanging fruit.

After all, happy reps will leave positive first impressions –– and happy customers –– in their wake.

Pro tip: Let your customer communication platform help you make a great first impression –– every time

Technology can help make customer communication seamless. OpenPhone customers have all kinds of features at their fingertips to help them make and keep a good first impression. 

From ring groups to warm transfers to team collaboration tools, it’s easier than ever to reduce wait times, personalize messages, and review team habits as a way of identifying areas that need improvement. 

Issue #6: Tackle delayed resolutions with empathy and active listening

Let’s say your dog walker doesn’t show up one day. You come home to you-know-what all over the floor –– and a rambunctious pup who used his pent-up energy to chew up your favorite shoes.

You call the dog walking company looking for an apology, a refund, and some reassurance that this won’t happen again. Instead, they put you on a long hold, transfer you to multiple people who don’t know your story, then frantically suggest sending a different dog walker out now…at 5 p.m.

It doesn’t exactly make you feel heard or inspire confidence in their future services, right?

It’s natural for people to want their problems solved as quickly as possible. Delayed resolutions cause frustration and lead customers to question whether the company they’ve bought into actually values their business and time, says Drew Schuffenhauer, Support Manager at OpenPhone.

But, he adds, showing empathy, asking clarifying questions from the beginning –– and taking action to make up for it if things go awry –– can turn the situation around. 

“Sometimes I think because we’re trying to resolve as much as we can as quickly as possible, we jump right into things,” Drew says. “Maybe if we had taken a second to make sure we fully understood [the situation], gathered all the information we needed, and clarified anything as necessary, then started the process of actually addressing the issue –– even if that takes an extra message –– it ultimately creates a better experience.”

If the dog walking company had listened attentively, genuinely sought to understand the situation, and offered an appropriate make-good for their mistake, you’d probably give them a second chance. 

And if they then mailed you a handwritten apology note and a gift certificate for a carpet cleaning service, even better.

Thread positive psychology through your customer experience with OpenPhone

Customers crave these positive psychology practices: empathy, reassurance, being listened to, and well-placed apologies. They want to know they’re more than just a cash machine to you.

Before you bristle at what could be perceived as the touchy-feely-ness of it all, consider the fact that 62% of customers feel emotionally connected to the companies they buy from repeatedly. 

A sense of humanity and the ability to turn around negative experiences help drive these emotional connections. And the technology platform you use to communicate with your customers can truly make or break their experience.

OpenPhone’s calling and messaging functionality, CRM-like capabilities, and team collaboration features empower you to create positive experiences for your customers every day. See for yourself –– start your free seven-day trial now.

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