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Step Away from Your Customers; You’re Smothering Them

A white paper bag with an American flag representing customer suffocation.

Adebisi Adewusi

January 18 2020

Treating customers with attentive care generally increases consumer satisfaction and positively impacts brand perception. But research indicates that high service attentiveness can actually backfire and lead to negative customer outcomes. High service attentiveness refers to a company-initiated engagement that customers perceive of as unsolicited, undesired, or excessive in frequency and warmth. In this article, we look at how consumers react to brand attentiveness and how you can avoid going overboard.

Customer marketing challenges and opportunities

The Asian Market: Be Mindful of Interdependent Self-construal

Asian consumers see themselves as members of a group rather than as individuals. Therefore, an outsider (individuals with whom they have not established relationships with) showing extra care may be seen as a ploy to get more tips or impose additional charges and result in negative consumer response. If you’re doing business in the Asian market, here are some things to keep in mind when being attentive.

  • Limit Customer Interaction: While human touch is at the heart of western customer relationships, in other parts of the world, it’s sometimes best to limit interaction with consumers throughout the service experience. Train front line employees to avoid constant inquiries about customers’ feelings, needs, or satisfaction levels, and maintain a balance between interacting with customers and keeping a comfortable distance.
  • Don’t Be Too Familiar: Over-familiarity can turn an excellent service experience into an annoyance. Make sure your frontline staff are aware of and respect customers’ boundaries. While it’s okay to be friendly and engage in light conversation, stay away from terms of endearment and tread lightly when expressing friendliness.
  • No Flattery: Stay away from profusely flattering Asian consumers or doling out over-the-top compliments. If you really must pass a compliment, don’t overdo it. Understand the unique needs of eastern consumers and leverage cultural sensitivity in your customer service to gain a competitive advantage.
  • Use In-Groups: Many Asian consumers have a strong bias toward in-groups and trust them more than strangers . An in-group is a group of people who identify with each other based on a variety of factors including race, religion, or geography. Research suggests that it can be helpful to guide consumers to perceive of customer service agent as in-group members by establishing interpersonal links.

Stay Away from Unsolicited Care

Checking up on your customers at regular intervals isn’t always a good idea. Studies on high service attentiveness found that unsolicited contact can sometimes trigger suspicion of a hidden agenda. Below are some attentive behaviors that consumers often see as unsolicited care.

  • Pushy Associates: Don’t make your sales associates stalk customers under the guise of “How may I help you?” 89% of shoppers are put off or bothered by in-store sales assistants. Allow consumers to serve themselves through simple browsing or in-store technology, and give them access to the information they need to make the right buying decision. Employees should never pressure anyone to make a purchase. Rather, they must be genuinely helpful, hang back until needed, and add value to the customer experience. Train sales assistants on how to read your customers when they first walk in the door to determine how they should be approached.
  • Frequent Customer Service Calls: Contacting consumers multiple times to inquire about how they feel about your service can be intrusive and annoying. Be in touch only when necessary, such as after the resolution of an issue. When contacting consumers, be respectful of their time and keep your conversation short. Bear in mind that when customers need your help, they’ll contact you.
  • Too Much Information: In general, communicating with your customers is great, but too much communication translates into noise. Engage with consumers sparingly, sending personal and relevant messages based on customer data and offering them the ability to choose their preferred messaging frequency.

Be Genuine

Consumers frown at high attentiveness when it’s obviously geared toward a sale or some ulterior motive instead of genuine concern. When your attentiveness is seen as genuine, you create deep relationships with consumers and increase customer stickiness. Some tips to enhance your attentiveness:

  • Being Authentic: Ditch service scripts and cliché responses by encouraging customer service reps to be their human and empathetic selves during interactions. Customer service reps should be transparent, open, and honest when engaging with consumers, focused on delivering relevant, engaging, and satisfying customer experiences.
  • Care About Your Customers: Show your commitment to genuine attentiveness by viewing every interaction as an opportunity to strengthen the customer relationship. Treat consumers as individuals, develop policies that reduce friction for them, and provide frontline staff with a single customer view so they can deliver a good experience quickly and efficiently.

How consumers view your attentiveness is a strong contributor to whether you receive a high or low customer service score. Remember that cultural constructs strongly influence how consumers perceive attentive behaviors. Invest in cultural awareness and skills training to ensure service employees are sensitive to your customers’ needs. Lastly, leverage interpersonal interactions and relationships to ensure premium customer service delivery in the international market.

This article was originally published by our friends at PostFunnel.

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