When I was in college, I spent four years as a barista at a corporation that drilled a number of mottos into our brains. One that has come to mind time and time again as I work hands-on with customer support teams across the world is to “anticipate needs.”

Ideally, brands can anticipate needs early on in their interactions with customers and avoid customer support complaints; but since we don’t live in a perfect world, things happen and some customers will need a little extra TLC to bring a smile to their faces. Here are four easy ways to anticipate customer needs and boost your customer support team’s efforts in the meantime. (The following examples highlight these tips in the context of Twitter, but the principles can be applied to all facets of customer care.)
Give your customer support team access to information they can use to help solve customer problems Click To Tweet

1. Know your customers

Get specific – this is about more than knowing the personas behind your purchases. This is about knowing the interactions your customer has had with your brand in the past and if there have been any previous issues. Give your customer support team access to information they can use to help solve customer problems and the resources they need to take action when possible. Airlines reference frequent flyer programs, allowing them to quickly look up passengers the minute they receive a question – is your team storing that information in a safe place? If your agents are able to access customer transactions in a database, providing this identifiable information each time the customer will allow your agents to tread lightly when necessary and easily reference previous interactions, both purchases and support-related conversations. The most efficient customer support teams have a wealth of resources available that allow them to quickly identify VIPs and know if a customer has reached out about an issue before. Knowing your customers empowers your customer support team to take action on their behalf, like this little bit of surprise and delight from the team at Lyft:

customer support

2. Identify trends and create a plan around them

Support needs fluctuate throughout the year, changing with the season and with product updates and announcements. Whether it’s a push from your marketing department or a holiday-related influx, customer support team leaders need to be in the know about what trends to expect based on historical data. A few questions to ask of data analysts: Does your brand’s in-app chat have different volume trends than you see on Facebook? Are any topics of conversations on Twitter unique to that channel? If your brand is prepared to provide support to customers around the time of a product release or new marketing effort, you’ll clear up customer questions and concerns faster than if your customer support team is inundated with requests about issues that are unfamiliar to them. When Dropbox recently announced their decision to sunset two of their popular apps, they were prepared to address questions and welcome feedback, all while maintaining quick response times; such as this three minute reply, thanking a fan for his kind words:

customer support

3. Provide self-help resources

This fall, I was lucky enough to travel out of the country with some friends and had a few questions about how using my phone outside the US would impact my bill. Knowing that T-Mobile provides awesome customer care via social, I reached out via DM with my questions. The T-Force rep who replied to my question not only answered my initial question, but also provided me with more resources that ended up answering questions that I would have the following month, when traveling to another country:

customer support

By understanding that a customer who asks a question about traveling to one country might have that same question for other trips, the agent was able to address my immediate need and provide me with a useful resource for later. If your brand has a self-help resource that isn’t easy to navigate or is hard to find when a customer visits your website in need of assistance, you will want to be very proactive with letting customers know that this aid exists.

4. Think like a customer

Discover has made quite a splash with their “We treat you like you’d treat you” campaign and their social customer care is no exception. Adding names or initials to the ends of social customer support replies is an easy way to start forming a uniquely personalized support relationship. While maintaining a professional online presence, the team at Discover still engages in personalized and fun conversations with their customers:

customer support

If your customer support team can use your brand’s product or service, they will be able to answer questions with expert hands-on knowledge. While it’s not always practical or possible to get your entire team using the products or tools your brand provides, allowing care teams to experience time in your customer’s shoes will add a layer of empathy that can’t be faked.

Ready to take your customer support to the next level? Show your customers that you’re wild about them.

The difference between a good customer care interaction and a great customer care interaction is that a great interaction happens when your customer feels that you actually care. If customers are reaching out to your brand, it’s because they want to be heard. If they aren’t reaching out directly, they’ll be thrilled when you reply to them anyway with helpful guidance and support. Amidst the holiday rush, brands that take the time to “be human” and to make casual conversation with their customers are participating in low-cost, high-impact customer engagement, which often leads to higher customer satisfaction and retention. Don’t feel the need to jump into every trending topic or try too hard to use a tone of voice that isn’t genuine – your impact will have a far greater reach if you authentically wish your customers a happy holiday season or tell them sincerely how much you care. The team at Arby’s looks forward to meeting customers with a smile in-store and online every day and it shows:

customer support

So this holiday season, pause for a moment to breathe, take time to reevaluate your team’s workflow and resources, and celebrate your team and your customers. And from my team to yours, have a great holiday season!

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