Companies that provide a “high-emotion service” face unique challenges when dealing with customers, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article. Even before a customer service rep takes a call, the customer may already be feeling fear, dread, anger, depression … any number of negative emotions.
What is a high-emotion service? As you would expect, they relate to life-altering events such as birth, marriage, chronic illness and death. Stepping into a funeral home to arrange services for a loved one, meeting one-on-one with a doctor for test results, or conferring with a divorce attorney are classic examples. But even services related to buying and selling a home, repairing a car or booking an airplane flight can elicit strong emotions.
In its study, HBR noted several reasons why consumers become intensely emotional when dealing with company representatives. First is fear of the unknown — consumers may not be familiar with the service. Factors such as cost and uncertainty and the involvement of a loved one may compound emotional feelings. A lack of control and the sense of having to deal with significant consequences if something goes wrong heightens anxiety. Not knowing the intricacy of the service is also stressful, as one feels at a disadvantage. An extended duration of time over a series of events also presents opportunities for things to go wrong, and stress levels to go sky-high.
To better understand the environment of high-emotion services, HBR researchers studied a group of cancer centers with positive reviews to learn how they successfully connect with clients. Cancer treatment is often a long, stressful and life-changing experience for patients, and presents a unique set of challenges for providers. In its examination of these centers, researchers identified four guidelines for organizations “that can help positively influence expectations and perceptions of quality and value, enhancing customers’ satisfaction and loyalty.”
These types of successful organizations:
- Identify emotional triggers.
- Provide an early response to customers’ concerns.
- Empower customers’ sense of control.
- Hire and train people who have the ability to communicate.
The first step, identifying emotional triggers, requires a deep understanding of customers’ concerns. This information can be gathered through surveys, interviews, focus groups and controlled customer-service experiments.
Early response to heightened emotions can also improve services. Knowing each step of the journey, proving a plan of action and immediate feedback keeps the customer informed and reduces the sense of fear and anxiety. For example, one healthcare center provides patients with a treatment plan one day of seeing specialists, most often within a week of being diagnosed with cancer. Patients have a peace of mind, because they don’t have to endure weeks of seeing specialists to form a treatment plan.
State-of-the-art cancer treatment centers keep patients informed through the process and during remission focusing on keeping their emotional state in balance. Other clinics target body language and use empathetic communication to foster a sense of understanding and competency.
Customers receiving high-emotion services must be given a peace of mind and a feeling of control. Leading cancer centers have provided a direct point of contact for patients to guide them through the journey. Mobile technology also serves as a resource of information in addition to the face-to-face contact patients receive. Sidestepping service gaps can also help the course in customer service.
Hiring and training people who have the ability to communicate effectively is also important. Staff should be able to work in a stressful environment and be able to instill a level of confidence. They must have a high emotional capacity, be resilient, compassionate, and value teamwork. Management can also serve as role models in the delivery of customer care. Professional development should be part of the culture when offering high-emotional services.
Understanding these four principles will not only help others within high-emotion service industries, but also those who work with customers in less stressful environments.
The post High-Emotion Services and the Implication for Customer Service appeared first on Call Center Insights.