Think of customer-facing employees as your first line of defense. If they are skilled enough, they will be crucial to winning the battle - after all, every client-facing interaction is a battle - a battle to close a deal. If you snooze, you lose! Needless to say, consumer-facing employees must have exceptional interpersonal and people skills, because even if they are not very knowledgeable in technical matters, they will still know how to keep the customer smiling and satisfied, simply with their words! Remember, people may or may not remember what you say or do, but they will definitely remember how you made them feel!
Customer-facing is just that - all those business touchpoints where your customer is directly interacting with your business - whether physically (in a co-working space, for example) - or digitally, perhaps through something like live chat customer support.
To an extent, technology can be implemented to handle customer-facing touchpoints. However, consumer-facing essentially includes the presence of an actual person with the right skills to address the customer.
You can take the help of customer support software to be an accessory to your customer-facing touchpoints. However, their impact would be limited because each customer is different, and has unique issues/complaints. Besides, each customer wants to feel important.
This is why we say that customer-facing is at the very heart of CRM - and that is why, we believe that successful customer-facing activities are possible only when you have the right kind of people handling these client-facing touchpoints.
So in what ways do customer-facing processes and business-facing differ from each other? Let’s take a look!
The focus: While decisions on a customer-facing experience are made based on interaction with customers, and by including their opinions and input, business-facing process decisions are made based on industry analyses, market research and so on.
Skill-development: As we have already mentioned before, a customer-facing role requires people skills. These include good communication skills, effective listening, problem-solving, how to be approachable and friendly, the ability to be patient and so on. So, while technical skills take a backseat in a customer-facing role, they become more critical in business-facing processes. For example, statistics and research, engineering, accountancy, etc., are some client-facing skills that become more important in business processes.
Delivery of service: Understanding and registering customer requirements correctly and relaying them to other departments in the company comes under the domain of customer-facing experience processes. Processing these orders and making sure that the promises made by the customer-facing team are fulfilled fall under the responsibilities of business-facing operations.
Marketing vs. Selling: Marketing activities come under business-facing processes. Marketing strategies may or may not involve interaction with potential customers. When they do, it has more to do with research than anything else. Selling is usually a customer-facing experience, although not necessarily always. Remember, even customer support can help you close sales if you do it the right way!
Behavior: Needless to say, how you behave will not impact the business’s brand image when you are in a business-facing role. But, on the other hand, everything - from the way you dress, to the way you say goodbye will directly affect brand image. That is why, employees in customer-facing roles usually have more grooming and appearance standards than in business-facing roles.
Planning and strategies: Planning in business-facing roles usually involves company growth and development. Planning in a customer-facing role usually consists in strategizing the best ways these company-level goals get translated into service and support to customers.
Now that we know how customer support is important to your company’s brand image and for better sales numbers, here are 10 very important skills your customer-facing team must have:
1. Courteous Speaking
No matter what, or however rude the customer maybe, you simply cannot afford to be harsh with the customer. Your customer may be absolutely wrong and illogical in what s/he is saying, but you have to treat them with the same respect as you would any other.
Remember, your customer has paid for your goods/service. Your goal is to make sure that s/he keeps coming back to you for those goods/services instead of going to your competitors. Hot retorts, rude replies, or losing your cool at your customer will simply push them away - and why not? Why would they tolerate being spoken to rudely when they had paid money for these services?
2. Staying Calm
To be courteous, you will have to remain calm. Being courteous when you are yourself in a rager will not be possible. After all, if you have lost your cool, but are using nice words, you’re only going to sound fake.
Close your eyes, breathe a little, and let the customer vent. Carefully listen to everything that the potential client or customer is saying - ignore the rude bits and focus on what the person is actually trying to say. That’s what you need to address - not the taunts or rude remarks. Who knows? Perhaps your own calmness and objectivity may result in the customer being warmer towards you!
3. Active Listening
A lot of problems can be easily solved simply by listening to the other person. Often, we merely ‘hear’ the other person and not ‘listen.’
What is the difference?
When we ‘hear,’ we are only picking up sounds. When we ‘listen,’ we understand these sounds. No wonder then that so many people end up facing friction in relationships - be it personal or professional. If you are not actively listening to your customers and only hear them to end the conversation faster, you will never be able to give them the right solution. Moreover, active listening also means listening to find a solution, not just listening to deliver a good counter-argument!
Now here’s where things can get a little tricky. You have to listen actively and be patient, but not spend all your time on one customer! A customer-facing agent who is good at what s/he does knows how to gauge maximum information from minimum input.
Not just that, s/he is also well-aware of the processes, protocols and has at least a basic knowledge of the technical aspects of the business. s/he knows people in different departments and the points of contact of different issues, thereby quickly and accurately managing tickets and complaints.
5. Feedback Acceptance
Let’s face it. Customer-facing roles dont have the luxury of time. If a customer suddenly pops up saying “hey, there’s a frog in my soup”, you are going to have to solve it right there. You can’t excuse yourself saying, “I’m afraid of frogs.” Your fear definitely may be a legit concern - and in other roles, it could even be accommodated. But when you are in a customer-facing role, your phobia simply cannot be respected at all times!
So, be ready for feedback. You may not be great at communication, or diction, or problem-solving, and your supervisor has to tell you so in as many words. You cannot get offended by that! The business’ goals supersede everything else.
6. Sense of Humor
While we say ‘sense of humor,’ we don’t mean you should go ahead and crack jokes at everything. The customer is pissed off- and if you don’t take things seriously, s/he’s only going to get more mad.
That said, there can be times when a sense of humor can prove to be a great accessory to good customer-facing activities. However, to make the correct use of humor, you have to consider a couple of factors:
- the temperament of the customer
- situational cues
- seriousness of the discussion
- position or background of the customer
- the people who are around
7. Pre and Post-sales Customer Interaction Techniques
We all know why client-facing skills are critical to a pre-sales interaction for a better customer-facing experience. From informing inquisitive customers to actually closing sales, your communication and interpersonal skills are essential. But it doesn’t end there! There are always post-sales interactions too - and while these may not be crucial to closing sales, they definitely are if you want your customers to think your business is excellent!
Post-sales consumer-facing interaction gives you a very fertile ground to generate a great brand image for your business. Don’t just wait for someone to come and raise a complaint to you - go out there and initiate a conversation with your customers. Show them you care! You’ll be glad you did.
8. Personal Touch
Very challenging - we know. But it can prove to be a game-changer if you did it right!
Let’s retake the example of customer support. Now, obviously, you are going to have 100s of customers to deal with - many angry, a few not so. It may be very hard, but you have to make sure that you approach each of these 100 customers with a fresh and proactive attitude. The lesser you make him feel like just another customer, the better you are at what you are doing. Your customer does not want to feel like one of the other 100 - that’s not what he paid for!
So make sure you approach each conversation with fresh zest, and a genuine smile. If you master this, you have mastered customer-facing!
9. Social Platform-savvy
It’s the social media era! And if you are not there, you are, well, not there. Your customers may want to get in touch with you anywhere, anytime! As such, if you are going to be all snooty about it and expect them to drop a full-blown email, and wait seven business days for a response, you will easily lose your customers.
10. Dedicated to Company Values
Empathize with your customers. Speak for them. Think about their best interests. However, never let down your company!
Going out of your way for your customers does not mean bending over backward unreasonably. Here are a few things to keep in mind in good consumer-facing roles:
- Maximum solutions at minimum cost to the company
- Never speak ill about your products, services or company.
- Admit to your company’s mistakes, but don’t agree that your company is an evil mastermind.
- Always reflect your company’s values in your tone, behavior and mannerisms.
Above all, be passionate about what your company is selling.
You may be tempted to automate all your business processes - including customer-facing activities. That’s great! However, remember that there are some things that can never be automated - and a human touch is one of them.
Today, when everything is about automation and AI, customers may feel a bit tired of replying to automated messages or template emails. As such, giving a personal touch to your consumer-facing processes can be just what it takes to give you a powerful edge over your competitors. So get out there and get started on improving your customer-facing experience - we hope, our input would be of some value to you there.
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