Let’s break down one of the most disingenuous phrases in the English language:
We appreciate your business.
That, along with all the variations you hear at the supermarket, on a flight, or at the end of an argument with your cell phone company, should elicit much skepticism.
Who is “we”? How do you know you appreciate my call if you don’t know what it’s about yet? If you say the same thing to every customer, how I do I know it’s genuine?
If your customer interactions resemble pre-printed platitudes plastered on your Chinese takeout bags, consider adding more “I’s” to your customer support team’s vocabulary.
“We” is, of course, an acceptable default pronoun, but it’s unsatisfying and rage-inducing when tied to mediocre, frustrating lines like this:
- “There’s nothing we can do about that, ma’am.”
- “We’re sorry to see you go.”
- “We’ll have to check with a supervisor first.”
When a situation escalates, you have to be able to convey empathy and personal responsibility right away. “I” isn’t a magic pronoun, but it does pair well with a confident and empowered support team:
The case for the first-person singular
1. Reps get to take ownership of customer relationships.
For longer-to-resolve cases
When cases get long and require multiple team members (and departments) to collaborate, it’s great to have the initial support rep checking in, taking responsibility of seeing it through and closing it up.
“Hey, here’s the latest update I have for you – our engineering team is working on setting up your…”
For follow ups
After closing a case, sending a personal follow up is such an authentic way to show your customer you’re invested in their success.
“I know you were having trouble with X last month. How are you doing with it now?”
For future engagement
Your support rep – the one who helps customers use your product – is as important as the product itself. Sometimes when customers come back to customer service, they request a specific rep with whom they already have a relationship. a trusted primary touchpoint at the company.
2. Reps get to build brand equity in their own way
This is a big one. It’s much better to have customers speaking to a person rather than a faceless entity. Great personal interactions make a really powerful impression that advertising and marketing can’t get anywhere near.
Building strong, individual relationships with customers requires individuals.
3. Reps get to make the call on tough customer situations
The best, most effective use of “I” is one where they have their company’s support in making on-the-spot decisions without having to ask for approval. They get to gauge a situation and use their best judgment to gauge a situation in context.
If it’s an angry customer, it might mean offering a refund, credit or situation appropriate compromise.
Of course, context is everything. “I” is a totally useless pronoun if it’s followed by “don’t know” or “have to go check.”
So it’s safe to put the manual down. Some customers need more attention, others are just fine helping themselves to self-service. Some love a long, meandering product chat and others a quick fix NOW. It takes a team of empowered individuals can judge how to build up each of those relationships.
(Especially when you hire the right ones.)