January 25th, 2013 by Leonard Klie

If dealing with customer support leaves you crying, are you likely to do business with the offending brand again? I’m guessing the answer would be a resounding “NO!,” so did we really need a study on the emotional aspect of customer service? Not really!

But don’t dismiss the study, conducted by AchieveGlobal, a workforce development firm, as completely useless just yet. What surprised the heck out of me, given our I-want-and-need-it-now attitude toward everything, is the fact that one three respondents to the survey said they preferred being treated well over having their issues immediately resolved.

The study, titled “Why Your Customers Stay or Stray: Insight From Global Customer Experience Research,” also found that the behaviors most irritating to customers stem from detached emotional awareness and connection. Forty-six percent of respondents noted that agents who are rude, short, nasty, unhelpful, or impatient did the most damage to the customer experience. Using a canned script in dealing with issues (17 percent) and saying “no” or “I don’t know” (16 percent) also ranked among the top customer experience failures.

Again, not exactly earth-shattering news, but it does attach a number to the obvious.

“No matter where you are in the world, a positive customer experience is marked by respect, simplicity, solutions, and responsibilities,” said Sharon Daniels, CEO of AchieveGlobal, in a statement. “Delivering on these simple but critical expectations should be central to any company’s business strategy. Consumers are emotional beings, and training customer-facing employees to recognize emotions and respond in a concerned, effective, and professional manner is essential to owning the customer experience.”

Daniels further explained that slashing prices and holding special promotions might be good for getting customers in the door, but an inability to connect with them on an emotional level could irreversibly damage the relationship. Not surprisingly, the consequences are often negative posts about the company on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and, in extreme cases, abandoning the brand altogether. Half of respondents said they would walk away after one bad experience, and 93 percent are gone after three bad experiences.

Again, the research tells what many of us already knew, but it is a message worth repeating.

I wrote an article earlier today for our magazine Web site about a study that CFI Group did recently that found overall customer satisfaction with contact centers climbed slightly in 2012. This by no means  suggests that the contact center experience is great. Satisfaction reached 77 points on a 100-point scale.

When I was in school, a score of 77 equated to a C, and if I brought home those kinds of grades, I’d be grounded for at least a month. As I reflect on these contact center scores, I can almost hear my mother’s disapproving clucks.

And while we can’t ground all of our contact center managers—those prisoner ankle bracelets can be very expensive and hard to monitor—there are a few things we can demand of them instead.

“Understanding that emotion—the human connection—is at the heart of the customer experience is key to building customer loyalty and advocacy in today’s socially connected and ever-evolving world,” Daniels suggested.

I’d say it in even simpler terms: Let’s only hire caring, sympathetic agents who will always answer the phone with a smile.

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