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How I Learned About the Best Croissants and Moroccan Food in Queens

In early February, I wrote about the powerful micro-connection I had with an agent at Atlanta’s Hartsfield airport.

It was clear to me – based on that experience and several others – that this airline is very focused on in-person interactions. But, I wondered if this would translate to the phone. So, when I needed to change a flight to arrive earlier to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, I called the 1-800 number and waited to see if there was a micro-connection worth talking about.

Yup, the airline nailed it there too (or, all the feels again, for my friend Gary). Here’s what happened.

Yes, You Can Create Happy Customers Over the Phone

Nora greeted me by name (I love how the airline recognizes my phone number), and when I explained I wanted to move to an earlier flight, she responded, “Of course, I can do that without charge because of your status.” And she started the process.

In the past, the agent might have said something like, “It will be just a moment while my computer processes the request,” followed by silence. Instead, Nora took the opportunity to engage in a short conversation about amazing food options in Queens near LaGuardia. She said, “If you have time, you must go to this little French bakery to get the best croissants outside of France. And then, down the street, go to the best Moroccan restaurant in the city – I know, I’m Moroccan!” But she didn’t stop there; she also gave me the bus number that would take me there!

That, my friends, is a micro-connection at its best. It was less than a minute, yet was relevant to why I was calling and about a topic that most people who travel are interested in – where to eat when I get there. Even if I wasn’t interested in going to eat in Queens, the topic was safe, pleasant, and left me touched that she was willing to fill the silence with a genuine conversation.

Three Steps for Using Micro-Connections to Help Your Teams Create Happy Customers Over the Phone

So, how can you help your employees be their authentic selves and deliver a truly genuine micro-connection experience on the phone? Here are three things I’ve seen work well, both as a customer and as a customer experience consultant:

1. Fill in the blanks

Define the most common silent periods during phone interactions with your customers – when the computer is processing, when they are waiting for an answer from the manager, or when there is some other necessary wait time. Then, find the employees who are naturally filling it today with customers, in a way that speaks to your brand, and ask them to coach their peers to create these authentic moments too.

2. Collaborate on small talk topics

Ask your front-line team to brainstorm with you the ways  they can use to fill the empty space. If you run a call center for a retailer, how about discussing the latest fashion trends? If you deal in electronics, the best new app is a great topic. Hotel reservations? Something about the restaurant in the hotel they are choosing or a local attraction. I promise your team will come up with a variety of creative ideas to engage your customers.

3. Practice

Yes, everybody hates a role play, but do it anyway. It may take the non-naturals a few tries to make this feel genuine. Don’t forget to encourage them to let their own personality shine through and make it their own. No one wants a robot on the other end of the phone.

And those are three ideas to help your people create happy customers over the phone. Now I’m off to enjoy the best Moroccan food and croissants in Queens! After I’ve done my little food tour, I’d love to hear about the best over-the-phone micro-connection you’ve had (or the worst – we can learn from those too).

Leave a comment on my LinkedIn post, or leave one below.

March 7, 2017


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