The impact of customer service psychology on consumers

Mar 4, 2020
min read
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As a customer service employee, your daily goal is to achieve one single thing: customer satisfaction. And every customer you deal with is - I presume - a human being. 

Every person consists of their own delicate balance of complex emotions and ways of thinking. This is all created by the DNA they received from their parents, their upbringing, their environment, and current life events.

This means that some of your customers are going to be easy going and cheer up your day, while others may make you want to quit your job. Having a strong understanding of your customer's emotions and thinking patterns, you will have an easier time helping them.

This is where customer psychology comes into play.

No reason to panic, though. You really don't have to be a psychologist in order to achieve customer satisfaction. However, a basic understanding of psychological behavior can definitely benefit your work and turn you into a top performer.

First impressions can last a lifetime

Have you ever heard of the Halo Effect? No, I'm not talking about the Beyoncé song. But if that's what's in your head for the rest of your day now, you are more than welcome.

The Halo Effect is actually a bias based on thoughts and feelings that everybody has towards either people or brands. The reason it is so valuable is that once you have received a halo, it sticks with you for quite some time.

Think about it, when somebody you meet for the first time has a good energy and gives you a positive feeling, you will give him or her the benefit of the doubt easier than you would to somebody you didn't immediately hit it off with.

Whether this is fair or not, doesn't really matter here. It's a basic human instinct and you will have to use it to your benefit.

You can establish a positive halo by creating a positive first interaction. When you are aware that you are going to communicate with a new customer, make sure to really take your time and give it your all to make the best out of the interaction. It will create brand loyalty and can empower a strong and age-old form of marketing at the same time: word of mouth.

Why emotional intelligence is so important for customer satisfaction

In the introduction of this blog, we discussed human beings and their wide range of emotions. Since you are dealing with people on a daily basis, you will have to be able to deal with those emotions accordingly. Being able to be aware, understand, control and express emotions is called emotional intelligence.

Knowing when to be patient, when to show empathy and how to recognize frustration. These are all examples of emotional intelligence that will make your life much easier.

But beware, you always have to match emotional intelligence with technical knowledge of your product. I'm afraid you can't sweet-talk your way out of everything.

The hierarchy of needs in customer service

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy theory is one of the most well-known theories in the field of psychology. This theory goes in-depth on when people have specific needs. The pyramid, as can be seen in the image below, works from bottom to top.

People start seeking out love, esteem, and self-actualization only once their basic needs such as food, water and rest are met. Their ego simply doesn't weigh as heavy on them when they have to worry about these basic needs.

By Mahesh gowda p m - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

You obviously can't directly apply this exact hierarchy of needs to customer service. If a customer is grumpy because they didn’t eat that day, that’s not something you can do anything about. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a similar hierarchy of needs in place.

The bottom part of the pyramid, for example, could be a complete failure of your product, which causes your customer to suffer serious financial implications. The higher you go, you’ll notice the needs are less about survival and more about feeling appreciated and the human ego.

You will notice that a lot of times, your customer’s technical issue can easily be solved. But they may have needs at the top level of the pyramid. Show that you care about them and make them feel valued. This gives the customer the feeling of familiarity, which they will link to your brand.

The age of instant gratification

Instant gratification is a big theme in modern-day psychology. This is the instinct where we want our desires to be fulfilled as fast as possible. It is viewed as the main reason why getting a lot of likes on an Instagram post feels so good. 

You can trigger this primal instinct for your customers as well. A lot of times, it’s something a lot of your customers are (possibly unknowingly) looking for from your customer service team. Many of your customers understand that you’re not always able to respond to every request instantly. But not everybody is as understanding. This means you have to be quick on the draw, every single time.

But as you know, maintaining a low response time is easier said than done. Especially when you want to offer quality customer service with relatively limited resources.

A great way to tackle this issue is by installing a live chat function on your website. This makes it easier for customers to reach out to you. If possible, install a chatbot or flowbot, this will automatically generate the answers your customer is looking for. Even outside of your business hours. 

The psychology of reciprocity in customer service

Robert Cialdini’s book, ‘The Psychology of Persuasion’, is an important book for all marketers that want to incorporate customer psychology into their marketing strategy.

You can learn a lot from this book, but an important lesson I would like to point out is the art of reciprocity.

Since the term itself is difficult enough, let’s keep the explanation simple and plain. When people receive something, they want to give back. This is instinct is really hard to ignore, it's classic human nature.

This also works when within customer interactions. You need to be a real giver in order for your customers to cooperate better.

Try to find ways in which you can give your customers something that will make them want to give something back, preferably their loyalty. You can do this by sending them a card or a small present for example. Discounts don’t work here, as a discount isn’t really a present. Your customer will still have to make a transaction there. A present is a small investment but can be effective in the long run. 

Maximize availability on all channels

The first step customers have to take when they want to reach out to you is actually finding you. This is so obvious that it can be tempting to even consider this step at all. Let alone as something you should consciously develop from a customer experience perspective.

But it is crucial.

Customers are increasingly looking for your company in different places. They want to be able to find you on WhatsApp, Facebook, and WeChat, but also via traditional channels such as phone and email.

There are a lot of companies that miss out on valuable customer interactions here. The amount of companies that spend serious time and money on their social content but don't take the time to follow up on comments, for instance, is staggering to me.

Imagine this. You decide to go fishing one day. You block your schedule, prepare your fishing rod, drive towards the lake and eventually start fishing. However, when after long hours a fish finally decides to bite, you choose to ignore the fish.

This situation is an equivalent of what a lot of customer service teams on social media look like today.

If you do manage to be available on many channels, your customer's trust will grow. We know, it's difficult to monitor many different communication channels, especially with multiple customer service employees. That's why you can use an omnichannel inbox to manage all incoming conversations. With this tool, you can answer all communication channels you can think of in one clear tool.

Shared inbox
Trengo's shared team inbox for all communication channels

Show your customer they really matter

At the top of Maslow's pyramid, it is all about self-actualization and, to be plainly honest, the human ego. This is where people get the desire to be valued and accepted. Solving your customer's problem is a top priority, but giving them a feeling of being important can't be underestimated. Especially when you have competitors that offer the same product and have the ability to solve the same problems, you need to excel in this field.

This especially rings true when you have an angry customer on the other side of the line. In that case, you are in serious trouble when you don't have the ability to get a real human connection with your customer.

If you don't have the solution to a problem at hand, give your customer the impression that it is a top priority for you. Explain to them, explicitly, that you fully understand their problem. Also, tell them the exact steps you are going to take to try to solve their problem.

By the way, this doesn't mean you should promise them anything you can't actually promise. Trust me, it will backfire with brutal force. Show dedication, but be honest too.

Think about what your friends or relatives usually complain about when it comes to customer service. In most cases, it is about the employee being unfriendly or hard to reach. Even when their problem is solved, which was the only goal at first, it still leaves them with a sour taste in their mouth.

You don’t have to be a psychologist

Don’t worry, you don’t have to know every single thing about customer psychology to help your customers sufficiently. It is important to understand the complexity of human beings, though. A basic understanding of your customer’s needs and where they come from can help you to improve their experiences.

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