Dave Kerpen says it’s “understandable” that a lot of people don’t think much about how to make themselves more likeable at work. After all, there is a tendency to put yourself first when trying to do your job and just take care of yourself every day, so trying to make others like you often isn’t a top priority.
Improving the Customer Experience
That’s why companies often face an uphill battle when it comes to improving the customer experience. Employees at every level may not easily embrace changing their attitudes and putting the customer first in all instances. Faced with increasing workloads and the stress that goes along with it, employees may find it tough to focus on ways to make themselves more likeable to customers, he says.
Kerpen, founder of and CEO of Likeable Local and chairman and cofounder of Likeable Media, spends much of his time helping companies train employees to develop the skills they need to better connect with customers. It’s a skill that not only leads to a better customer experience, but to better relationships with other team members and business partners.
“Authenticity is key,” Kerpen says. “If you think you can memorize a script, it’s not going to work.”
The biggest takeaway from Kerpen is that companies must create better listeners. Technology, multi-tasking and a multitude of distractions have eroded our listening skills, and that’s not something that will improve unless there is a recognition that it’s a real problem.
“I know it’s something we all struggle with. Some people will claim they are good listeners, but really, they’re not listening. They’re just waiting for a chance to talk,” he says. “I know very few people who are good listeners.”
The fallout is that customers will drift toward companies where they feel heard and give repeat business to employees who are likeable. As competition continues to increase in all industries, companies that don’t help their workers become better listeners – and more likeable – will lose out.
Helping Employees Be More Likable to Improve Customer Experience
In a new book, “The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want,” Kerpen outlines ways to help employees become more likeable to improve the customer experience. Among them:
- Learn to understand someone in three minutes. In an early encounter with someone, don’t waste time chatting about the weather. Try asking about the most exciting thing in their professional lives, a favorite charity or who has been an important influence. This can help the person not only open up easier, but it also makes it easier for the questioner to remember something important about the person and his or her worldview.
- Help people feel less lonely. Kerpen says that most people simply want someone to show an interest in them and listen. Most people, he says, want to feel connected and showing that genuine interest can help establish better relationships. Sometimes just saying, “Tell me about yourself,” can jumpstart a connection.
- Bluffing is only for poker. Kerpen is adamant that interactions be authentic, and trying to bluff to get what you want is risking the relationship – perhaps forever. There’s always a chance the person will find out you were untruthful, and it can be difficult to regain trust with a customer. He or she will simply go to the competition.
- Don’t sound like a parrot. “Mirroring” has become a popular technique to help the other person feel heard because you repeat back to the person what was just said. The problem is that sometimes this can come off as insincere. “You have to actually care about what you’re mirroring,” says Kerpen and repeat back the words with emotion and an emphasis on the important words and feelings. “Remember that people often just want to feel heard.”
- Validate. This can take “mirroring” to a whole new level, as you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and suggest you understand how the other person is probably feeling. This can be especially important when dealing with an angry customer. Still, you must be careful when using this technique and look for ways to discover if you’re picking up the right clues by saying something like, “Sounds like you’re pretty angry, eh?” The customer can then either acknowledge the feeling or admit he or she is just frustrated. Either way, you are helping the customer feel understood. When dealing with customers, it’s critical to show you’re there to help and that you care. Asking “How can I help you?” can set the right tone for the conversation, because the customer will feel you are emotionally invested.
- Forget the Golden Rule. Instead, it’s better to rely on what Kerpen calls “the Platinum Rule,” which states that you shouldn’t assume the other person will feel as you do. Instead, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about what they want and consider the issue from their perspective.
- Help people come up with your idea. Don’t try to bowl over customers with “I have an idea!” They’re much more likely to be receptive if they feel like the idea was theirs in the first place. Paint a broad picture of your idea, letting the other person fill in the details. When the customer says anything close to your idea, fully embrace it.
- Stay humble. In a world where self-promotion seems to run rampant, it can be difficult to think of focusing on someone else. But when a company is promoting a product or service, you must stay focused on the customer and keep the conversation about them.
- Be persistent. Of course you need passion for a product or service to be authentic in selling it to customers, but you also need to learn persistence. Persistence, Kerpen says, “isn’t trying things twice or three times or even four times. Persistence is trying until you get what you want or go down swinging.”
Once you have the people aspect humming, make sure your processes and tools support your employees best efforts. Download the free Process Improvement Playbook: Overcoming the Hurdles of Manual Processes in the Workplace.