It often frustrates us when we call customer service and are asked to dial 1, 2, 3 to infinity to connect to the right customer service agent who deals with our problem. Maybe after dialing this much, we may get an automatic voice record like 'please hold the call to connect with the available agent.' We may finally get a 'chance' to speak to the agent, or we may not!
Even if we could connect with the agent, they will ask for our ID number, phone number, security PIN, mother's maiden name and pet's name, etc., for an hour and finally, ask about the problem we are facing!
Customers want to be treated as a human with emotion, empathy, and kindness, and the brand should patiently listen to their problems according to the customer's situation and the urgency of the solution. If you make your customers feel they are just one among the millions of customers you have and can only be identified with the long list of verification details, they will feel less valued, and they can't connect with you in depth.
"To feel human is to feel heard, seen, and understood and to actualize our potential with meaning and purpose. Therefore, if a company wants to treat its customers as humans, it must hear, see and understand them, then help them connect with a deeper meaning in their journey as a client." - Amy Nguyen, Happiness Infinity LLC.
Only customers valued and treated as human according to their current situations and emotional state will return to a brand over and over.
But most of the brands get stuck on the question. How to treat customers as humans?
14 Ways to Treat Your Customers Like Humans
As the first step, companies should reframe the terms to identify a customer from an ID or ticket number or some complex data set to 'human names.'
There is no one size fits all. Similarly, customers are different, and their current state of emotion and stage in life's journey will be different. One might have the happiest day, but one might be going through hell. Often, you won't understand that!
For example, imagine you are working as a customer support executive in a bank and dealing with the loans and mortgages section. One of your bank's customers calls you, asks for a personal loan, and sobs abruptly. When you ask the reason behind the urgency, he says he needs to pay the hospital bill for his son's surgery.
What would you do? Would you say that it will take a lengthy procedure and needs hundreds of his documents to grant the loan? And, will you describe the processes in the 'banking words' you learned from the use cases during your training period?
If you understand the seriousness of the customer issue, pacify in human words and make the document process seamless since the customer is an existing customer of your bank, it will make the customer feel valued by your bank and show infinite gratitude and customer loyalty in his whole life!
There are several ways your brand can ensure that you see your customers as humans.
1. Use Human-Mindset Words
Human mindset and computational or technical words are different, and using the phrase at the wrong times will often flip the entire situation. Customers are more comfortable with human-mindset terms and are more likely to digest them to understand the communications in depth.
For example, instead of saying the words ‘efficiency, ‘potential,’ and ‘productive,’ you can use words like ‘safe,’ ‘easy to use,’ ‘strong,’ etc. Hence, use simple and easily understandable words when communicating with customers. This will make customers feel free to share their ideas and concerns with you.
2. Create Personalization With The Help of Customer Insights
Customer experience personalization can only be achieved through treating customers like human beings. Because getting a personalized experience is every customer's wish, and it lifts their experience to the next level. Gathering customer insights from various touchpoints to understand their needs, likes and dislikes will help you to curate an experience that every customer is looking for.
For example, if you are running an ice cream shop and see one of your regular customers feel uncomfortable with peanut toppings and every time they take out the peanut pieces from their ice cream, which hampers them from enjoying the ice cream. Next time, you can make a unique topping for that customer with their favorite fruit or flavor you observed from their previous purchases. It will surprise them and make them happy since they feel valued and understood by the brand.
Here, the information you recognize and track is the insight you learned from customers' behavior and actions. Similarly, you can use customer insights to offer delightful and unique experiences to your customers.
3. Treat Your Customers the Way You Want to be Treated
This is a golden rule - 'treat your customers how you want to be treated.'
To self-learn how to treat the customers as humans, employees should think about how they want to be treated. This should apply to all touchpoints, even if the customers connect through a formal email, chat message, CRM tickets, or social media. They should feel that they are connecting with humans, not a brand, and should feel a consistent and good treatment across all touch points even if they switch the communication channel frequently.
4. Recognize the Human Personality Behind the Customer
Customers are not story writers who can express their exact feelings through emails, chats, and reviews. Instead, it would help if you talk to customers face-to-face or through calls and video calls. This allows the employees to understand the genuine emotion, the intensity of the problem, and the customer's current situation.
Understanding the fundamental requirements will help in offering the right solutions. And this is the right way to understand the 'person' behind the customer.
5. Often Surprise Your Customers with Personal Touch
Maybe a tiny detailing from your side can surprise your customers. For example, if they once called you for clarification and after a few days, they called for another requirement. You pick up the call and remember their name and purchase details even before they share them with you. It indeed will surprise them.
Similarly, sending personalized notes and invitations and helping them in their buyer journey by understanding their unique taste and preferences will make them more comfortable being in touch with you.
6. Listen to Them and Make Them Feel You Care About Them
David Banks, the Marketing Director at Bell Flavors & Fragrances, said in a Clootrack study - "Consumers today expect brands to talk with them, not at them. They expect brands to know who they are, know what they like, and ultimately provide a value proposition that is unique to them."
There is no better way to treat the customers as humans than by showing them how much you care for them. To better understand customers, brands need to listen to customers keenly. Before jumping to the company policies, listen to them and understand their requirements and what job they need to do with your help.
7. Design Customer Experience Outlines
Outlining the entire business process with a customer from start to finish will help employees understand what customers probably would do in each step.
Understanding each point, including pain points and the frictions in their journey, will help brands avoid painful situations, what needs to be kept as it is, and what needs to be amplified to increase customer satisfaction. The customer journey mapping process can help with this.
8. Focus on Customers' Needs and Pains
Building a business around products and services and focusing on customers are the two choices available for the company. But long-term success can only be achieved with the latter.
Steve Jobs conquered the market not because he offered top-notch products but because he provided products that directly fit into customers' needs and pain even before they identified!
Hence, listen to customers and let them speak their needs, wants and concerns. Then build products and services around that instead of simply offering products by guessing what customers would like.
9. Walk in Customer Shoes
Often walk in customers' shoes and walk with them to understand their issues and concerns naturally. This will let you know the problems from human perception, not a ticket issue you received on your CRM. And talking with them by clearly understanding their issues with the same intensity will make them feel more comfortable connecting with you.
10. Don't Let the AI Take Care of your Customer Service
Do not hide behind AI and chatbots. Customers want to speak to humans and be understood by a human. Why?
Because they know only humans have hearts and brains that are flexible and vulnerable to emotions. Only humans can understand another human and empathize with the same sentiments. If your chatbot triggers a cold message without affection to a customer who sent a message to customer service for quick help, I bet the customer won't choose you ever!
11. Train Employees to Delight Customers in Each Touch Point
Train your employees to be empathetic to customers. Since we all are humans, it's pretty effortless to empathize with each other. Empathy plays a central role in understanding customers rightly and offering the best possible solution customers are looking for.
Hence, paint it on your office walls, let the employees read it consciously and unconsciously every day, and add it in the job description that you are looking for empathetic people. Again, mention it in the induction manual and discuss it in scrums because it matters!
12. Create a Pleasant Company Culture
If a company has to deal with so many angry customers in a day, then it's not about the customers; it's about the employees who frequently fail to provide the right solutions and behave according to real-time emotions and situations.
An employee frustrated with the work culture, internal work pressure, and underpaid can't greet a customer pleasantly. If the employees are treated well, and their feelings are valued, they will do the same for customers.
13. Participate Customers in Your Campaigns
Try to involve your customers and clients in your social media and ad campaigns. You can use their videos, images, and voice clips to make your ads more lively and convincing; at the same time, customers will feel that the company values them and will feel honored.
For example, do you remember Dove's 'real beauty' campaign featured their customers in ads? The company said, "always feature real women, never models."
14. Break your Company's Rule if Required
Many companies have rule books that may seem engraved in stones and are not ready to change for customers in any worst scenarios and situations. Similarly, some customer service executives are pledged to go with the case studies and rules they learned during training. It will work in some situations, but do you think it is good to always stick to the rules and not be flexible?
Imagine one of your company's rules will ruin a customer's or their family's life. Would you go with the rule or break the rule for that customer? You strictly should not, right?
Break or change the rules as per the customer's situation because they are human and not a character you read in the case study.
Perks of Treating Customers like Humans
In this fast-moving world, most employees focus more on their to-do lists than on building and maintaining relationships and connections. With this mindset, they unconsciously forget to see customers as humans and see them as prospects, milestones, or obstacles in achieving their sales and ROI goals.
But, people need to understand that a successful business is run in a relationship-first environment, not ROI. And the organization that prioritizes making the connection and relationships instead of 'deals' will win in the market. For building a human relationship, the ultimate mantra is to 'treat customers as humans with emotions.
Check out the benefits of seeing your customers as humans:
1. Builds Positive Brand Image
A company that goes the extra mile for its customers will always have a special place in customers' hearts. To offer an experience that has a human touch and life, companies should align themselves as a human in customers' minds with emotion and kindness. Because we can't predict how much our small actions will be significant in a customer's life.
Let's take an example of a boy who lost his father and wants to claim his father's insurance policy since he needs to give the money to his mother for her living expenses. When he called the insurance company executive, they tried to prove that he could not claim the money and explained hundreds of reasons they couldn't give money to the customer's son and wife. Also, the executive talked in a harsh voice which even worsened the grieving days of the policy holder's family.
Now, let's take another real-life example of a man, Kirk Alexander, from Salem, Oregon, who daily ordered pizza online from Domino's every day, which is the only reason he is alive!
Sarah Fuller, the general manager in the Salem region of Domino's, noted that Alexander didn't order any pizza for the last 11 days. She felt terrible and asked the delivery driver to check in his neighborhood. He realized that the lights were on, the TV was playing, and the neighbors hadn't seen him much outside those days. The driver immediately called 911, and they came and found Alexander suffering from severe health issues. They immediately shifted him to the hospital and saved his life!
See, there is one heartwarming action from a brand and another brand that left customers in lifelong suffering. Domino's created a positive brand image with their kindness and the mindset to go the extra mile for their customers!
2. Increased Trust in Customers
Treating as humans and talking like humans to humans will naturally generate trust in customers' minds towards your brand. Using natural human languages and being a friendly help hand will make them feel free to share what are the bad or negative experiences they faced with one of your teammates, what changes they expect in your following product or service update and how your product or service uniquely helps the customer in making their life easier.
Listening constantly like this, improving, and amplifying the good points will lift your customer experience from good to fantastic.
Tesla has earned the trust of its customers since they consider their customers as humans. Because driving a car should be comfortable and tension free since there is an element of risk in uncomfortable driving. Different human has different physique, and they have other choices. Tesla understands all unique preferences of individual customers and personalizes the car seat, driving style, steering wheel, braking, mirror location, and radio presets based on each customer's personal preference. That's what makes Tesla unique and trustworthy.
3. Your Customers will Become Your Fans
When you are good and kind to your customers, you will have fans, not just customers. What do fans do?
They will not just stick to your brand but get excited about it every time! And they know about your brand and like to research every aspect. They just spread the word of your positivity unconditionally to their friends and family. And it is proven that many customers buy a product and choose a brand when their friends and family recommend it.
We all are fans of at least one brand. For example, we all have at least one friend who is a fan of Harley Davidson! What about Apple phones that stir the tech industry in their every release?
4. Happy and Satisfied Employees
Dr. Laura Honos-Webb, the Psychologist, Author, and Speaker, said, "Doing something nice for someone gives the brain a serotonin boost, the chemical that gives us that feeling of satisfaction and well-being."
Being kind, empathetic, and seeing one's problem solved from your side will contribute to employees' positive mental state and happiness. Also, employees will feel mentally healthy and able to deal with more customers with a positive attitude. This will contribute to high productivity and efficiency, and it's overall good for your company's bottom line.
It doesn't require a tedious procedure for your organization to decide to treat every customer as human and communicate with them based on their emotions and situations. It can generate excellent results for your brand.
Gathering trust and customer loyalty not only relies on offering the best quality products. It also includes the overall experience and treatment a customer gets from your brand at each point of their journey. If customers feel that they are not taken for granted, they are the most valued customer, and their feeling matters to the brand, it will lead them to be lifelong consumers of your brand. Also, it will help you to establish a place in the market and customers' minds. And, with their word of mouth, their friends and family will find you the best option, even without expensive marketing campaigns.