We’ve identified 5 emerging trends in consumer engagement to keep your customer experience strategy up-to-date. 

1. Give people undivided attention 

Gift people your attention. Most encounters are brief. You can focus during that brief exchange or lunch conversation. Everything will be waiting for you at the end. In most cases, that call can be returned later and that social media post doesn’t need to be commented on anyway. I know. We have a lot to do, but there’s a difference between juggling three projects on a deadline and engaging with a client wanting an update on their order. Be aware of all the things that might distract you during a conversation and commit to putting them aside, or at least out of sight for each conversation. Lean in. Focus on their face, Listen to the words and don’t just wait for your turn to talk.

Giving people our undivided attention is like hand-written thank you notes. They’re both appreciated for two reasons: They’re personal and most people won’t take the time to do this for you. Attention is a gift that our customers love to receive. Give it generously.

2. Be extraordinarily responsive 

Create systems and expectations in your organization around responsiveness. Just as franchise restaurants might have a standard that all food is delivered within 3 minutes of being plated, or phones are answered by the third ring, you can decide that all emails are responded to within 24 hours or phone messages by the end of day. Customer responsiveness is either a priority or it’s not.

There will always be extra-ordinary circumstances, but policies, standards and targets are the only way to assure compliance. We have to create a culture of extraordinary responsiveness. Word will get out and that will enhance your reputation or brand (Which is essentially the same thing.)

And remember, it’s not about the policy — it about the people. It’s not about the returned call — it’s about our customers feeling valued and respected, and nothing is more important than a strong reputation of treating our customers well.

3. Avoid the word ’no’ 

Where you can, replace your internal policies with guidelines. Train your people on appropriate decision-making and not just policy-quoting. Help them understand what a good decision looks like with in the context of your business model and give them more freedom to say “yes” to unique requests or scenarios. That can be scary, but it can all pay huge dividends. You can be the hero for your customers, instead of just another door shut in their face.

And even when you have to say no (and there are plenty of times when you have to say no) offer an alternative. Say instead: “Let me tell you what I can do.” Trust me. It’s SO worth it.

When we were kids, we accepted the fact  that the word “no” was a big part of our lives. But as adults, we seek out, and buy from and stay with, those who tell us “Yes.” Just sayin.

4. Don’t be hard to reach

Provide access to as many REAL people as makes economic sense in your business — and you have to weigh the cost of frustrated customers.

At the end of virtually every frustratingly long voicemail menu, after the recorded voice has given us nine different department choices, and sub-sub-menus we hear: “If you’d like to speak with an operator, press “0.”

There it is. After you’ve exhausted all the other options, online, on the phone, there is a real person available. It just took a while to get there. It shouldn’t have. Expectations for access have changed. If others are easier to do business with, they will get the business that you’ve lost.

The fact that we even have a term for “real people” is almost ludicrous. But there it is. We all want the option of talking to “real people.” Find a way to help your customers bypass the garbage and get to a real person so they can have an intelligent conversation. Hire them. Schedule them and make them available.

Often, the increased business and loyalty from your happier customers will more than justify the staffing needed to keep those “real” customers happy, loyal and coming back! Just sayin.

5. Don’t make us wait

Take time to walk your customers’ path and recognize where your bottlenecks are, where your wait can be long and actively and strategically work to reduce it. You have to create the internal flexibility to shift staffing policies and even your delivery model when circumstances dictate. Have the flexibility to reassign staff to the phones during busy times. Open another lane. Explore outside vendors for expedited shipping or delivery (there’s plenty out there.) Go through your online buying process and see if you can reduce the process by a few steps.

Customers will vote with their feet, their money, and their time for the companies that they enjoy working with. Those that waste their time and cost them time, will too often lose their business…in time.