Customer retention strategies for the anxious home services client

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Dealing with anxious customers can be tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. According to a survey conducted by Thumbtack, 68% of homeowners report feeling overwhelmed, confused, or stressed about maintaining their homes.

“Customers do not care how much you know unless they know how much you care,” said Damon Richards, Customer Service Expert at Forbes.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, roughly 40 million American adults—almost one in five people—suffer from an anxiety disorder. The American Psychological Association reports an increase and declares anxiety levels a mental health crisis.

Without a doubt, anxiety abounds in our society. Anxious customers present an opportunity for your home service business customer retention strategy. Home service businesses can adapt how they view, strategize, and perform customer service to anxious first-time homeowners. Customer care, education, and follow-up can help earn your trust and ease their concern.

How do you interact with a customer from the customer mindset perspective? Your customer service team must understand how to identify an anxious customer.

Identifying the Anxious Customer

Recognizing anxious customer behavior quickly is akin to quickly identifying an IT data breach. The slower a company is to react and respond, the more long-term damage will be done. Positive interactions could result in a stronger bond with a brand. Negative experiences could completely sever a relationship—the presence of anxiety is an amplifier of emotional responses, good or bad.

Here’s the tricky part for customer service managers, customer interaction specialists, and C-suite executives. With increased automated customer service, it can be challenging to identify an anxious customer early in the process.

But this difficulty can be mitigated if you know what to look for while interacting with consumers. Here are some anxious customer identifiers.

  • Excessive worrying
  • Feeling agitated
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Irrational fears/concerns
  • Hesitant/Cautious speech patterns
  • Use of qualifying words such as “maybe,” “perhaps,” “sometimes,” or “I guess.”
  • Disjointed ideas
  • Long pauses
  • Fidgeting with small objects

There are also a few things a company can do to monitor customer stress. Here's how you can discern anxiety warning signs:

  1. Run periodic focus groups. This will not help identify an anxious customer specifically. However, it can give your customer experience team insights into stressors or anxiety triggers among your clientele. Companies can keep tabs on anxiety triggers by conducting regular focus groups and be better prepared to handle them.
  2. Monitor social media closely. Keep a close eye on your social media platforms for anxious customers. But remember that it’s a fine line between responding to every troll out there versus genuinely helping worried customers. The comment section can indicate stress and anxiety and be an excellent opening for a person-to-person connection.
  3. Poll and train your customer experience team. Every company has confirmed live human beings that are part of their customer experience team. These staff members can be excellent resource for identifying customer anxiety triggers. Please listen to your customer experience front-line people, and invest in their professional development. 

Once a company has put in motion tactics to help its customer experience personnel spot an anxious customer, the focus must shift toward delivering the right customer experience to those who fit that mold.

Helping the Anxious Customer

Deep down, helping the anxious customer is the same as assisting any customer: making their lives easier by solving their problem in the most convenient way possible. The critical difference is that the experience becomes amplified for the anxious customer, giving this customer experience interaction higher stakes.

Automated customer service tools and technologies can be amazingly convenient for customers in many cases; these same tools and technologies can also significantly reduce costs for the companies that use them. But what about the missed opportunity to connect with an anxiety-riddled customer or client?

In a world of automation, how can a company that has identified its anxious customers respond effectively to deliver the customer experience they need? And what is lost when a company tosses a client or customer off to a robotic voice that’s great at providing data quickly but incapable of reading human emotion?

Unfortunately, many companies drive anxious customers away when they’re the ones that need real connection the most. Companies wrongly push these customers to robots and impersonal information centers, increasing feelings of frustration and isolation.

When a customer is stressed or anxious, chatbots, automated emails, voice recordings, and online FAQs are not the remedies they want. For all the talk about AI and machine learning, there is no substitute for real human-to-human connection when it comes to assuaging a customer or client’s anxiety level.

Harvard Business School's Michelle A. Shell article titled “Why Anxious Customers Prefer Human Customer Service,” wrote:

“As automated service processes are being deployed to engage customers, it has never been more important to understand how to balance touch and technology to deliver efficient and satisfying experiences that lead to trusting, long-term relationships. Our findings suggest that using self-service technologies in high-anxiety settings can be costly. Anxious customers left to fend for themselves are less satisfied with their choices and less trusting of the company they interact with. Merely offering access to talk to someone can restore customer confidence, improve trust in the firm, and strengthen long-term relationships.”

That’s it in a nutshell: the balance of touch and tech. Tech to handle rote data exchanges; and focused touch points between your brand and customers that need your company to step up and deliver on its promises.

Interestingly, Shell’s Harvard Business Review article revealed that just the offer of human-to-human connection was enough to make the customer feel supported by a brand, regardless of the situation's outcome.

“This implies that companies deploying self-service technologies for anxiety-provoking tasks might be able to put their customers at ease and enhance their trust in the firm with a relatively low-cost change in design. Just knowing that we can chat with another person—even if we don’t choose—seems to make a big difference,” stated Shell.

Business is built on relationships, making human interaction important within the customer service experience. While Gartner estimates that by 2026, 20% of inbound customer service contact volume will come from machine customers, "Hey Siri- fix my sink!", there’s still a need to provide a human element. A timely sales or service agent follow-up creates an excellent customer service experience and retention strategy.

Finding Opportunity in the Anxious Customer Obstacle

While increased customer service automation levels make it harder to identify and respond to an anxious customer rapidly, they also provide an opportunity. Time saved via automation can be reallocated to developing the best customer experience practices for transforming worried customers into lifelong brand advocates. Too many companies take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to the customer experience, missing the opportunity to use focused human interaction when needed most—like when trying to appease anxious customers.

There are tried and true methods for effectively transforming anxiety into a positive brand experience. Beyond simply offering the opportunity for person-to-person dialog, vital customer experience programs also train their staff to do the following:

  • Please listen first, and solve it later. Anxious customers want to be heard and know someone is listening to them before any solutions are put forward. Whether your customer experience team is on a chat, responding to social media comments, or talking on the phone, always listen before trying to solve any issues.
  • Empathize, don’t sympathize. Express empathy to the anxious customer. Let them know you understand and have been where they are, too. Don’t sympa; this implies you feel bad for them and can quickly go in the wrong direction. 
  • Do what you say you’re going to do. The root of anxiety is doubt and uncertainty. Provide the anxious customer with an increasing sense of trust by delivering on your word. Trust is the key to turning an anxious client into a lifelong brand advocate. 

Blake Morgan, a senior contributor to Forbes, had this to say about a practical, modern approach to customer experience:

“Customers come to companies during all times of their lives, both good and bad. It’s up to companies to understand their customers’ situations and reduce customer stress when it matters most. After all, the customer experience doesn’t just stop when customers go through trying times. Companies need to do all they can to be a help and not a hindrance during times of stress and hardship.”

Chatbots, AI, and voice recognition can make customer service easier to deliver and very convenient for customers. These same technologies can also make companies lazy and customers increasingly anxious. Automation tech allows more accessible data and information sharing and can save companies much money. However, these same technologies can drive a wedge between the customers you serve and your brand.

Ultimately, AI and automated customer service tools have their place and create the space for customer experience teams to have more highly targeted and highly impactful one-on-one interactions with home service customers.

Companies that can identify anxious customers quickly and achieve the delicate balance between tech and touch will keep happy customers happy and transform worried customers into loyal brand advocates. Illumine8 can help your home service company develop a successful customer retention strategy. Contact us to get started. 

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