Six Ways to Influence the Interaction

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The goal of every customer interaction is to have a positive outcome, keep the customer’s business and have them tell others about their great experience. As a customer facing team member, you’re the front line in that regard. You can have a positive effect on the frame of mind of each customer and the eventual success of the transaction. Influence is part of leadership ability and leadership skills are stepping stones in any career path. Smart companies encourage career development and smart employees jump on a chance to learn. Customer service professionals who master the art of influence are going to be the most successful in their current role and in building business for the company that employs them. Let’s look at six strategies you can use to be proactive, transfer a business-friendly attitude to your customers, influence the interaction and jump-start your leadership abilities.

 Practice #1 ~ Influencing with Mood
A good attitude is important to customer service, but so is mood. What’s the difference?

  • Attitudes are normally permanent.
  • Moods are usually temporary.

It’s possible to have a great attitude yet temporarily be in a bad mood. A mirror reflects back a smile and in many cases the customer will mirror how they are treated. You influence the customer by being in a good mood. Let’s look at a few examples of mood transfer.

  • Joe [grumbling]: I feel like I’ve been working for a month without a day off. Oh, great. Here comes another customer call. Just what I don’t need. Good morning. Sport Tech. This is Joe.
  • Customer [peppy]: Hi, Joe! How are you today?
  • Joe [lamenting]: I’m terrible! My girlfriend just broke up with me and my dog ran away this morning.

Joe needs to resist the temptation to share a flood of negative personal news and reflect a good mood to the customer instead of a negative one. Let’s try again.

  • Joe [upbeat]: Good morning. Sport Tech. This is Joe.
  • Customer [peppy]: Hi, Joe! This is Mary Johnson. How are you today?
  • Joe [upbeat]: Well, I’m doing fine thank you, Mary. Nice of you to ask. What can I do for you today?

That’s much better. You have the power and the influence to transfer a good mood to your customer. Working with happy customers makes the job more enjoyable.   

Practice #2 ~ Influencing with Confidence A customer needs to feel confidence—in the product, in your company and most importantly, confidence in the person who is helping. A lack of confidence may result in lost sales. Let’s see Joe handle a customer call without projecting confidence.
  • Joe: Good morning. Sport Tech. This is Joe.
  • Customer: Hi Joe. I need your help. I’m looking at your website and trying to understand the difference between the three watches in the top row. I can’t decide which I want to buy.
  • Joe: Well, the first one is $69, the second one is $89, and the third one is $109.

DUH! The website told the customer all that Joe. He completely missed the opportunity to influence a sale with this call. Let’s see Joe do this the right way, influencing this customer with confidence.

  • Customer: What’s the difference between the three digital watches in the top row?
  • Joe: We sell a lot of these watches. First, let’s talk about how you’re going to use it. Will this watch be for you?
  • Customer: Yes, and I need the stopwatch feature.
  • Joe: All three watches have the stopwatch feature and each has additional features as the price goes up. For example…

The confident customer service rep is like a consultant to the caller. Exude confidence in your products, your company, your services and in yourself. The customer feels that confidence and responds. Well done, Joe.

Practice #3 ~ Influencing with Patience Our aging population means more of your customers are likely to be senior citizens. The best way to help many of them is to be patient. This same principle applies to customers using English as a second language and to people with certain disabilities. Let’s see this done ineffectively, without patience.

  • Shawn: Good Afternoon. Sterling Card. This is Shawn.
  • Customer [senior citizen with voice tremor]: Hi Shawn. How are you today?
  • Shawn: I’m okay. What can I help you with?
  • Customer [voice shaking]: I need to order a second credit card for my daughter. She’s going through a divorce and her accounts are all tied up in court and I want to help her out.
  • Shawn [eye-roll]: What’s your account number?
  • Customer [voice quaking]: Oh, I don’t have my glasses, Shawn. Could you hold on while I get them?
  • Shawn [sounding annoyed]: Yeah, but hurry. I’ve got other calls coming in.

Not only was there no sympathy, no empathy, no attempt to build rapport, but Shawn had no patience with this senior citizen. This interaction could have been done so much better.

  • Customer [voice shaking]: I need to order a second credit card for my daughter. She’s going through a divorce and her accounts are all tied up in court and I want to help her out.
  • Shawn [smiling]: I see. I’m sorry to hear about her problems. Let me see how I can help. Do you have the account number on the card?
  • Customer [haltingly, sounding stressed]: Oh, I forgot to bring my glasses to the phone with me. Could I ask you to hold on while I go get them?
  • Shawn: I’ll be glad to and while you are locating your glasses, I’ll try to find your account by your zip code. What is that, please?

Shawn’s patience, empathy and understanding was sensed right away by her customer, who immediately relaxed. This was, for the senior, a stressful situation. Your call times are important, but your organization’s first priority is excellent service given to its customers. Well done, Shawn. 

Practice #4 ~ Influencing with Benefits Features are designed into a product or service by the company. Benefits are its uses that the customer values. Here is a customer service person talking only about features.

  • Joe: The digital watch on the right side of the screen has a stopwatch and it’s got day and date and year. It’s got a stainless steel case. It’s…
[The customer starts looking bored and begins to tune out what Joe is saying.] Remember this: Features tell. Benefits sell. Benefits tell your prospect, “What that feature means to you is this ______.” Instead of just listing the features, Joe needs to relate the features to the customer’s needs. There’s an easy way to do that by inserting the words “and what that means to you is.” Let’s see this influence of benefits applied in action.

  • Joe: That digital watch on the right at $109 has some great benefits. It has a stopwatch and what that means to you is that you can time anything from a hard-boiled egg to your commute. It also has an alarm and what this means to you is no more forgotten call-back times.

See the difference? Customers buy because of benefits. By relating those, you are influencing a successful outcome in the interaction.

Practice #5~ Influencing by Building a Relationship An automated attendant may be efficient for a company, but you know you’re not dealing with a human because the “human element” is missing. Sadly, the human element is missing from interactions with some live customer service professionals, too.

  • Joe [blandly]: Good morning. Sport Tech. This is Joe.
  • Customer: Hi Joe! This is Mary Johnson. On your website you have a section on antimicrobial biking shorts. A friend of mine told me about them and she just raved about them.
  • Joe: Okay. What’s your customer number?
  • Customer: I’m not sure.
  • Joe: Have you ordered from us before?
  • Customer [sounding annoyed]: Yes, I have.
  • Joe: Okay, then it’s the first two letters of your last name plus the numbers from your street address.

Joe added nothing over an auto-attendant in that interaction. Let’s see that one done better.

  • Joe [enthusiastically]: Antimicrobial biking shorts. Those are very popular right now. You’re making a really good choice.
  • Customer: When my friends first told me about them, I thought it was a great idea!
  • Joe: You know, every few years a product comes out that really catches the public’s attention. This year, it’s the antimicrobial biking shorts!
  • Customer: You wonder why nobody else has thought of it before!
  • Joe: Well, it’s an idea whose time has come. Let’s get those ordered for you!

A few friendly touches change an impersonal exchange to a warm one, even with a brief one. You’re building a bond and being unmistakably friendly and influencing the interaction. That can result in repeat business and extra revenue from referrals. Well done, Joe! 

Practice #6~ Influencing with Full Attention There are many distractions in any workplace and to give great customer service we need to pay attention and focus on customer needs. Here are a few of the distractions that you might encounter in your workplace. 
Distraction Type A (Handled Poorly)

  • Shawn: When the monthly bill is ready, do you want me to bill your daughter directly, or should we send the bill to you?
[A coworker nearby announces a collection for pizza delivery for lunch and Shawn is distracted from the caller’s answer while she makes her contribution.]
  • Shawn [returning to caller]: Oh, I’m sorry, sir. I missed that. Can you start from the beginning and repeat everything you just said?

Distraction Type B (Handled Poorly)

  • Joe: Well, another nice feature is the countdown timer. You—
[Joe’s cell phone chimes for an incoming text message. He reads it and stops talking to the customer.]
  • Customer: Hello? Hel-lo! Did we get disconnected?

The lesson here is that we know there will be distractions during our work day, but there are better ways to handle them as we influence with attention.

Distraction Type A (Handled Well)

  • Shawn: When the monthly bill is ready, do you want me to bill your daughter directly, or should we send the bill to you?
[A coworker nearby announces a collection for pizza delivery for lunch and Shawn signals a quick “wait” to the coworker, while never taking her attention from the call.]
  • Customer: I suppose a separate bill to her would be best.
  • Shawn: I’ll mark your records and that’s the way we’ll do it.

Distraction Type B (Handled Well)

  • Joe: Well, another nice feature is the countdown timer. If you need to make a call in 15 minutes, set your watch and in 15 it will signal you and you make the call on time.
[Joe’s cell phone chimes for an incoming text message. He ignores it and continues talking to the customer.]
  • Customer: That’s a feature I definitely can use!

Your full attention influences the interaction in a positive way. Giving a customer anything less than full attention creates a poor impression.

Strategy Summary Customer Service Professionals regularly encounter opportunities to contribute to their team’s success. One of the indicators in that success is a consistently positive customer experience. Front-line agents who go well beyond the good service a customer expects will exemplify their own excellence and add to the great success of your business. Consistent use of our six strategies will develop expertise in positively influencing the customer interaction.

© We encourage you to distribute this message to colleagues. When you’re ready to empower your staff with proven customer service and team building skills, please let us know.