If you’ve ever tried talking to someone through a video chat service like FaceTime, Skype or Hangouts, the first time can be a little uncomfortable. Conversations that were once audio-only are now suddenly visual, where you can see all the expressions on the other person’s face -- and vice-versa.

Contrast this with the average customer service interaction and it’s almost as though the reverse is true. When customers used to have an issue with a product they purchased, for example, they might have physically returned to the company in question and sought out the expert at their local shop. Now, however, they’re more likely to be reaching out via phone call, text, e-mail or social media post -- none of which allow a service professional to “read” the customer as they could in person.

The good thing about this shift is that technology allows us to be more immediate in everything from marketing and selling to servicing customers. It also allows organizations to gather all kinds of data in tools like Service Cloud that help them manage their processes for greater efficiency and to analyze them at a micro level. The downside, of course, is that when you never see your customers in person, it might occasionally be harder to make them feel as though you really care about them.

One possible solution to this is making a greater effort to complement the technology and the data with a creative visualization during every single service interaction. This is a kind of mindfulness you don’t necessary get through going off and meditating somewhere. It’s a skill you develop by practicing it in “real time,” when customers are urgently looking for assistance.

Of course, some service agents might be grateful they don’t have to see their customers’ angry expressions all day long, but when you remember their needs and feelings are genuine -- and that Service Cloud offers capabilities to turn their day around  -- you’ll realize how important it is to “see” things from their point of view.

Rather than just trying to visualize customer service agents in a single way, behave more like a movie camera and imagine all the various angles that could create a more holistic picture of how your customers are thinking and feeling:

 

Close Up

 

When a text message comes in, the phone rings or a social media post pops up, it’s kind of like a customer coming up from behind and tapping the agent on their shoulder. Turn around and face them, at least in your mind.

Depending on what they’ve written or their tone of voice, what do you think their eyes and mouth are doing? They might be glaring, for example, and gritting their teeth if they are really upset that their product or service isn’t working. That means it’s going to be more critical than ever that you have all their account details and history at your fingertips, rather than make them recite them all back before you can even get to whatever’s bothering them. It also means they want to know they have your full and undivided attention -- even in a digital interaction, customers can often sense when agents are looking through multiple screens or scanning for files rather than listening and acting responsively.

There will be other service engagements, however, where the customer’s tone might evoke an image of someone looking resigned, or almost defeated. Don’t let the lack of anger make you complacent. This could be a customer who can’t wait to get this issue resolved so they can find a competing product or service and end their relationship with your firm completely. This may be where you need to get more details as their issue is resolved in order to offer discounts, promotions or upselling opportunities.

 

Pan Out

 

When a customer feels “in your face” -- even over digital channels -- it can be difficult to notice anything else. Allow your imaginary movie camera to widen the shot, however, What’s happening in the background where they’re working?

Some customers may be reaching out for help while looking at an e-mail from their boss, for instance, who is looking to quickly resolve a series of mistakes or missteps they’ve made. That means you have an opportunity to not only fix their problem, but to look for ways to go over and above by assisting them in achieving their business goals more quickly.

Another customer might be sitting in an office with the rest of the lights on their phone blinking madly with orders, complaints and other issues from their own set of customers. They might be having troubles with their products and services because they’re too busy juggling multiple tasks and putting out fires. Beyond resolving their immediate issue, what kind of resources can you offer to help them avoid their next one?

Then there is the customer who is not in their office at all but in a cab or walking briskly through a convention centre. This is a good reminder that they may not be in a position to find additional information about their account or product, so making strategic use of Service Cloud data will prove your firm will make the process as easy as possible.

 

Jump Cut

 

A service interaction is kind of like a scene in a TV show or movie -- except that agents don’t get to see what happens when the camera does a “jump cut” to the next scene.

Based on what you’re hearing or reading from customers, however, what do you imagine they’ll be focused on as soon as this moment of troubleshooting is over? Your job is getting them to that point as quickly as possible, and looking for anything -- including cross-selling a complementary product -- that will make them more successful once they’ve arrived.

One final thing to visualize is the customer you almost never see or engage with directly because they’re using a self-service tool. Customers in these scenarios are at even greater risk of feeling alone or abandoned when they run into difficulties, so the customer service team needs to be thoughtful about how they will step in and lend a hand when the need arises.

Visualizations might seem a little forced the first time you try them, but they are an exercise in helping a customer service team think about customers as individual people, rather than a queue to get through. And the better at these you become, the more likely you’ll be visualizing the faces of happy, satisfied customers in the future.