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Make a Great First Impression with Customers

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

While the author of this quote is in question (it’s variously attributed to Oscar Wilde, Will Rogers, and some lost-to-history Madison Avenue copywriter), the powerful message still rings true. The snap judgments we make — about people, places, and things — tend to happen within the first seven seconds of an encounter, and those initial feelings tend to hold sway over our lasting opinions.

Consider how imperative it is for a support agent representing your brand to start off strong with your customers. From the get-go, you want those customers to realize that this support experience won’t just be good — it’ll be great. The positive impressions from this interaction will translate to the customer’s overall opinion of your brand. If that’s not enough of a motivator, keep in mind the study that found a whopping 96% of customers will leave a company based on a poor experience.

Admittedly, this is easier said than done. How can support agents make a great first impression on customers day in and day out? Here are three steps your company can take to help agents wow customers.

Ensure that your agents make the customer experience low effort.
Many managers in the customer support industry focus on delighting the customer — in other words, finding ways for their agents to go the extra mile on each and every customer interaction. And it’s true, striving to delight the customer is an important aspect of world-class support.

However, studies indicate that a company’s Customer Effort Score (which measures how much effort one has to exert to get an issue resolved) is a more reliable gauge of consumer loyalty than customer satisfaction. Research shows that 94% of customers with low-effort interactions intend to buy again from the company in question, as compared to only 4% who face a high-effort experience. While a positive agent attitude is vital, if the support process takes too much effort, the customer won’t stick around.

So how do you make things easier for the customer? Make sure your agents are well trained on how to handle pressing customer issues. Train them for speed. Whether it’s a simple payment transaction or a ticket that requires escalation, make sure that your agents know what to do. Ensure newcomers still learning the ropes have instant access to helpful resources like more experienced peers or a well-organized knowledge library, and that they know when to escalate an issue. Remember, time is money, but time is also customer satisfaction. 

Train your agents in reflective listening.
Some customer interactions require a lot of back and forth communication. It could be because the customer is facing a complex issue that requires multiple departments to resolve. On the other hand, it could be that the customer just needs to talk — and while you don’t want your agents to get tangled up with one customer for hours at a time, they do need to cultivate reflective listening skills that will not only defuse tense situations but will also (in many cases) foster customer loyalty.

Here’s one example of what we mean: Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss found, after years of experience, that when you get your conversation partner to say “That’s right,” then the tone of the interaction almost inevitably changes for the better. Why? Because when someone says “That’s right,” what they’re really saying is that they feel listened to and understood. When your agents are trained to understand the customer’s feelings, and then summarize that POV to the customer in their own words, you’re bound to see smoother, more productive customer interactions among your support team.

Personalize chat and email to the best extent possible.
One of the biggest gripes that customers have against business organizations is the feeling that they’re caught in the corporate machinery — that they’re just another ticket number, another name in the database. With phone interactions, a strong agent can overcome that kind of thinking. However, communicating via live chat or email presents another layer of difficulty in terms of personalization.

Here’s the thing: Personalization is important to most customers. One study found that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a brand if it offers personalized experiences. So the question is, how can your agents personalize their chat and email interactions?

One way to do it includes regularly checking in with the customer. Even when an agent is working behind the scenes to resolve the customer’s issue, train the agent to periodically check back in with the customer — maybe every three to five minutes with live chat (email check-ins might have intervals of several hours or possibly days). Many companies train their phone agents to check back with the customer after a few minutes of being on hold. Why not apply the same principle to other customer support channels?

If you don’t have the bandwidth to tackle these suggestions yourself (or you simply want someone else to do it for you), then be sure to check out our outsourced customer support solution here at ModSquad, where Mods make a friendly — and lasting — impression on customers.

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