One of the most challenging (and rewarding) aspects of working with customers is that you are part therapist, part educator, and part salesperson while solving the customer’s problems!
Fortunately, there’s one easy trick you can use to increase customer satisfaction: by learning the fine art of small talk!
Nobody would argue that the quality of an organization’s products and services affects its image and reputation. However, many organizations focus on technology or product development and neglect the quality of their customer service.
And this is a big mistake!
Customer support remains one of the most important areas in determining whether a business will be successful. That’s because gaining a customer is five times more expensive than retaining an old one!
The key to success lies in good communication
It is not enough to simply provide customers with the answers they need. You need to interact with the customer on a personal level, which can be achieved through purposeful small talk.
You must develop the ability to create a rapport with the customer. The best way to accomplish this is by making the customer feel comfortable and establishing a friendly connection. By learning the fine art of small talk, you can build rapport with customers and ensure they’re satisfied with your service.
Big mistake companies make
There are still companies that believe customer service is the customer’s responsibility. But the customer isn’t the only one who benefits from excellent service—the business does, too!
To retain their customers and attract new ones, businesses must provide the best possible service. So it’s a mistake for any organization not to take their service seriously.
Some businesses have poor customer service simply because their employers don’t prioritize creating customer rapport.
Unfortunately, without the right support, customers lose motivation and frequently move on to competitors. On the bright side, this is a fantastic opportunity to make customer service your competitive advantage!
What exactly is small talk?
Small talk is the first step in the customer support process. It is where the customer-facing employee establishes the foundation for creating rapport with the customer.
This friendly opening can differ from person to person, but the most important thing is being genuine. With this method, the employee is usually relaxed and ready to meet the customer at their level.
On the other hand, fake small talk often follows a fixed pattern. The person follows a script and uses the same phrases with everyone without personalizing and customizing their interactions.
Small talk allows the company to collect information about the client to personalize the service provided in the future. By the time the customer reaches the actual transaction, everything has already been fully personalized, and the employee can focus on the actual matter at hand.
The fine art of small talk: what are the benefits?
Studies have shown that 80% of customers will not return to a company if the service they received wasn’t good.
But the truth is this: the best way to ensure your business survives and thrives—is by investing in customer care. It doesn’t matter whether you sell products or services, the quality of the support you provide plays a major role in determining your company’s success.
When customers feel important, the process is quick, and the interaction with the staff is pleasant. As a result, the likelihood of the customer becoming a long-term supporter grows exponentially. And this can be achieved easily through effective small talk!
What is the purpose of small talk?
As the name suggests, the primary goal is to create a personal connection with the customer and show them you are interested in helping them.
You should be able to read the signals from the customer so you understand the best way to approach them. Small talk can also give the customer the sense that the company is interested in them as an individual.
When there’s a connection between the employee and the client, the engagement level increases, and the customer feels heard. The staff knows the client better, and the organization benefits from this approach.
Therefore, it is no accident that some of the most successful online businesses have mastered the fine art of small talk. People like to feel important and valued, which has more than just financial benefits for the business.
Small talk creates a stronger connection with the customer by motivating them to remain loyal even if their needs change. For example, if they need to cancel an order, there’s always the possibility that they will come back because of this relationship you’ve created together.
Mastering the art of small talk might take time, but the result is worthwhile!
6 strategies to master the fine art of small talk
Effective small talk distinguishes an excellent customer service professional from the mediocre one. Are you wondering how to do it? Here are the five ways you can upgrade your skills.
1) Prepare for the conversation
The first and the most important step to the fine art of small talk is quality preparation before the conversation. This tip is particularly useful when you have a scheduled meeting or a pre-planned conversation with a customer.
If you want to handle it smoothly, take the time to prepare upfront. Write down the most useful points so that you can use them during the conversation with little effort.
The more you know about the customer, the easier it is to speak the same language. Knowing about the customer’s background, preferences, and past concerns will help you build the conversation around their needs.
This sounds like advice from Sherlock Holmes’s book, but really, success depends on this keystone. Just think about it— you can’t have a great conversation if the person you’re talking to doesn’t feel like they can trust you.
If this is not a scheduled meeting and the customer approaches the company, set a positive tone for the conversation and the relationship from the beginning.
2) Treat the customer like a close friend
The fine art of small talk lies in the details. And the most important detail is the person you are talking to, the customer.
Treat the customer as you would a close friend. Imagine the conversation as the chat you would have. What would your tone of voice and the language be like? If the customer is witty, you could share a joke or two. If the client is serious, go for the direct approach and use an appropriate tone of voice to match their approach.
3) Ask open-ended questions
Asking open-ended questions helps to start the conversation on a strong note. People love talking about themselves, so this is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the person you’re speaking with. It also encourages the customer to open up and share more information.
Also, everyone likes to be admired. The fine art of small talk is a great way to make the person you are talking to feel important. Complimenting the client is the simplest way of generating positive emotions. A genuine compliment can make the person you are talking to feel important.
Here’s an audio tutorial on 20+ effective probing questions you can ask your customers. Check it out!
4) Get rid of distractions
Ensure the customer knows they have your undivided attention. It’s a good idea to eliminate any distractions so they see that you’re fully engaged in their story. Close unnecessary tabs on your computer, put away distracting devices, and give the customer your full attention!
If appropriate, be sure you’ve got pen and paper ready (or, even better, the appropriate software open) to take down notes. You might realize something useful or relevant later on. Active listening is the key to the fine art of small talk!
5) Be empathetic
By showing empathy towards customers, you’ll be more likely to understand the challenges they’re facing.
Make the customer feel heard. Everyone likes to be taken seriously, and the prospect of speaking with someone who appears to care about their situation will make the conversation seem much more positive.
The best way to do this is by listening carefully and giving them the time to share their story without interrupting. If the customer feels you’re really listening to what they have to say, there’s a much greater chance that the solution you provide will meet their needs.
6) Show enthusiasm
People love talking about themselves, so the chance to have the floor is a golden opportunity for the customer to feel important and be the star of the show.
Take advantage of these opportunities by showing enthusiasm when the customer asks a question or makes a point. This shows that you’ve been paying attention and are more likely to increase the chances that your response is met with a positive reaction.
Small talk topic ideas
Focus on what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Marketers can take a tip from comedians and be more aware of the power of delivery and its impact on the person listening.
The goal of small talk is to provide a pleasant experience for the customer and make them want to come back in the future. Be understanding, be empathetic and take the time to really listen – it makes a world of difference when you’re trying to brighten someone else’s day!
- Books, podcasts, movies, tv shows
- Travel experiences
- Food, cooking, restaurants
- Hobbies and passions
- Career goals and job responsibilities
- Favourite sports
- Plans for the holidays
- Weather and climate
- Personal or professional goals
- Favorite local hangouts
- News, current events
- Entertainment industry
Topics to avoid:
When it comes to small-talk in customer service, it’s important to avoid controversial or sensitive topics. That means steering clear of things like politics, physical appearance, religion, and age. Stick to topics that are PG-13 or lighter, and you’ll be fine.
It’s also important to avoid sarcasm or inappropriate humor when talking with customers. People may not always be in the best mood when calling your company, so being polite isn’t just a good thing to do – it’s crucial for coming across as professional!
Examples of questions you can ask:
- Where are you from?
- What’s the weather like there?
- How long have you lived here?
- What do you like the most about the area/city/town/etc.?
- What are the top things to see and do here?
- Do you have any recommendations or tips for things to try?
- What are the “holes in the wall” that everyone needs to check out while they’re here?
- What’s been the highlight of your day (week or month) so far?
- How are the holidays treating you?
- What’s a typical day look like for someone in your line of work?
- Any books or podcasts you’d recommend I add to my audio book playlist?
- What kind of music are you into these days?
- How long have you been a fan of the team/league/sport in question?
- Who’s your favourite player and why?
- Why did the team win the big game last night/weekend/season etc.?
- How did you get into your line of work?
- How do you like working in this industry?
When to avoid small talk
Small talk is an effective and easy way to establish a connection with a customer. However, it’s not the only way, and sometimes, it might not even be the right choice.
If you see the customer is in a rush, the last thing you want to do is to distract them with casual conversation. And the tone of the small talk doesn’t have to be the same for all customers. If you see someone who is very formal and wants to jump straight to business, the best choice might be to get the formalities out the way.
Also, the customer may not always want to chat. Don’t force the issue if the person on the other end gives one-word answers in return. Some people don’t see the need to make small talk with their service provider, and that’s fine! Sometimes the goal of the call is simply to take care of business, not engage in friendly conversation.
While you should never avoid small talk altogether, it’s important to know when it’s appropriate and when it’s better used as a backup plan instead.
If all else fails, remember that smiling goes a long way. A simple smile can also help you build rapport and create trust.
So when should you avoid small talk? It depends! And because each situation can vary, the best way for you to deal with the situation is to assess the circumstances and the customer’s response.
To jump straight to business, you can ask questions such as:
- How may I help you?
- What brings you here today?
- What can I do for to you?
- What are the problems you are experiencing or the issues you are having?
- Do you have any questions for me?
- What information do I need to help you with the issue/inquiry?
- Is there anything else I can help with today? (This is typically the last question asked unless the caller requests something additional.)
Actions speak louder than words
Treating customers well is not just a matter of being polite. It’s about being effective, too. Your goal should always be to provide the consumer with the most satisfactory outcome possible. By following these steps, you will master the fine art of small talk in no time!