TED proudly carries its ambitious slogan – Ideas Worth Spreading – for 35 years.
Over the decades, the conference has achieved global recognition and from the initial focus on technology has grown into a forum discussing all sorts of topics – from global warming to health issues.
James Cameron, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Richard Branson, Bill Gates – you can find the names of these people among TED speakers.
Of course, among other topics, TED has often given floor to speakers sharing – or, should we say, spreading – their ideas of optimizing business processes and, particularly, those related to customer service. Besides, even when the topic of the talk is not directly related to customer service, companies working in client-oriented industries might find useful and interesting ideas.
So, put your headphones on, and let’s listen.
What is the customer like nowadays?
Before digging deep into the workings of customer service, it’s better to understand what customers are like today, how they behave, and what they expect.
#1 Joseph Pine: What consumers want
Joseph Pine, an author and speaker on management-related topics, talks about what consumers really want nowadays and how they demand authenticity. The talk is fifteen years old, but it still resonates.
Key statement:“If you say you are authentic, you’d better be authentic”.
According to Joseph Pine, we are now living in the era of “experience economy” where customers value authentic experiences most of all. In customer service, being authentic may be one of the most important skills, as customers sense insincerity right away.
Video length: 14:19
#2 John Gerzema: The post-crisis consumer
This talk by John Gerzema, a CEO and social scientist, inspires a hope that the recent financial crisis has a positive side to it. Despite the direct damage, the crisis has reshaped the consumer behavior making them more thoughtful in their purchases.
Key statement“We can move from mindless consumption to mindful consumption”.
John Gerzema believes that consumers are the main driving force of the economy today, as they are becoming better organized, more attentive to each other, and more critical to products and services, customer service, definitely, included.
Video length: 16:34
Customer service best practices and how-tos
Some of the talks you will find below may seem to be far from describing customer service strategies or containing some golden rules of customer service. They may describe a crisis helpline operation or an experience of working in a shoe store. Still, each of these TED talks about customer service has more layers that you may see at first glance.
#3 Sophie Andrews: The best way to talk is often just to listen
Sophie Andrews starts with sharing her own experience of calling a helpline. She believes that the call saved her life then. People calling helplines often need to be listened to more than they need actual help.
Key statement:“Never ever underestimate the power of simple human connection”.
In customer service, being able to listen and emphasize is a great skill, especially if you work in a support team. Of course, customers want their problems resolved but they also want to be listened to.
Video length: 14:23
#4 Celeste Headlee: 10 ways to have a better conversation
Celeste Hadley compiled her list of ten recommendations to improve your conversations from her experience as a radio host. However, her tips can help anyone working with people to make communication more engaging and productive. The secret ingredient is – you guessed it – being able to listen.
Key statement:“Listening is, perhaps, the number one most important skill that you can develop”.
In customer service good listening skills help you hear what your customer is actually saying – and what they are implying, too. Thus, learn to listen.
Video length: 11:44
#5 Laura Hockenbury: Hidden costs of “service with a smile”
In her talk, Laura Hockenbury gives some examples of good customer service proving that a truly brilliant service happens when both sides show a positive attitude to each other. For people, it is important to feel that they are being served by another human being capable of understanding and emotion.
Key statement:“When we acknowledge our own and others’ humanity, everyone notices”.
The core takeaway from this TED talks customer service video is that companies might benefit from revising their concepts of organizing their team training shifting the focus to expressing human attitude.
Video length: 8:59
#6 Anna Dolce: Service isn’t the same as hospitality
Anna Dolce, an entrepreneur and hospitality expert, demonstrates that the hospitality service, unfortunately, lacks hospitality. The personnel is just going through the motions with little true care of making customers comfortable. Introducing hospitality is what makes the business stand out.
Key statement:“Service without hospitality becomes a transaction”.
Anna Dolce’s recommendations can be useful in any customer-facing business.
Video length: 17:27
Best customer service companies stand out for highly personalized approach to clients, even if serving them remotely – via email or live chat which you can easily do with the customer communication tool like HelpCrunch.
#7 David Bequette: The Customer Revolution in Customer Service
In this talk, David Bequette, CFO of a dietary supplement company, discusses the importance of building relations between businesses and customers. Service agents, being on the front line, are the most important players in this process.
Key statement:“Customer service is about building relationships”.
Great and honest relations between a company and its customers result in strong loyalty and viral promotions. It does not happen overnight but it is definitely worth the effort.
Video length: 12:12
#8 Steven van Belleghem: What if customers become friends?
Expanding on the idea of the previous TED talk on exceptional customer service, this video discusses the possibility of customers becoming friends of a business. While such cases are rare enough, especially in large companies, the business can work towards making a customer feel cared for.
Key statement:“If you do business with the heart, you will have the most loyal customers in the world.”
Video length: 11:05
It is all about treating customers as mere sources of revenue or as human beings to be respected and understood. The difference is enormous, and the most important thing is that your client always feels these nuances.
Great customer relations translate into great customer satisfaction – it’s essential to measure this parameter, as well as your customer support team’s performance with reports.
Your team is your main asset
Customer service is always a game of two players – agents and customers. An effective customer service team is a huge step towards your business success and customer satisfaction.
#9 Patty McCord: 8 lessons on building a company people enjoy working for
Patty McCord who used to be the Chief Talent Officer of Netflix gives a powerful talk on the importance of treating employees from the position of trust. Loosening the requirements and restrictions and relaxing the control over your team can result in an improved efficiency.
Key statement:“When the managers have built great teams, customers are really happy. Those are the metrics that matter”.
In customer service, establishing a healthy environment in the team is critical. The job is stressful enough, and trusting the agents and treating them as equals can prevent them from burning out.
Video length: 5:03
#10 Diana Dosik: Why we need to treat our employees as thoughtfully as our customers
In her TED talk, Diana Dosik notes that companies invest lots of money, time, and effort in researching customer experiences and building exciting customer journeys. At the same time, employees do not get the same attention. This situation has to change.
Key statement:“Companies today just can’t afford that kind of ignorance of what their employees do and why. And, particularly, employees won’t tolerate that, either”.
Understanding the employees pays back with motivation and loyalty and, therefore, better productivity and efficiency. Any employee who feels respected and cared for will treat the company and its customers in the same manner.
Video length: 9:49
#11 Tamekia MizLadi Smith: How to train employees to have difficult conversations
Tamekia MizLadi Smith gives her TED talk of confidence in customer service stressing the importance of training the personnel properly for exceptional and non-routine situations. Poor training will surely lead to escalations that could be avoided if the service agent had the required knowledge and understanding of the situation.
Key statement:“People are more likely to share information when they are treated with respect by knowledgeable staff”.
Training human beings to communicate with human beings must be done by human beings – this is one of the central takeaways of this TED talk reminding us that no customer service training software can teach us why our work is important.
Video length: 8:10
How great customer service pays back
Setting up a stellar customer service is an investment. When you invest, you always want to know whether your investment is going to bring returns. Well, this investment, if done wisely, definitely will.
#12 Lisa Ekstrom: How I Stole Great Customer Service with Pride
Lisa Ekstrom, head of the customer service department at Scandinavian Airlines, tells the story of how important it is to focus not only on unhappy customers but on happy ones, too. She points out that there are lots of great customer service techniques out there that you should not be afraid to try and adopt in your business.
Key statement:“You have to create a company culture where you are brave enough to stick out your neck and do something you haven’t done before”.
In customer service, you do not need to reinvent the wheel – just look around to see what works for others and make it work for you.
Video length: 14:58
#13 John Boccuzzi: I was seduced by excellent customer service
John Bocuzzi, a marketing expert, gives a real-life example of how exceptional customer experience can beat all other marketing techniques. At the end of the day, it’s experience that matters and makes customers come back for years and years.
Key statement:“They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel”.
Customer experiences may either kill your business or boost it. This is why it is so important to focus on the staff who are in direct contact with customers – and they might become your best brand promoters.
Video length: 8:20
5 key takeaways from TED talks on customer service
Summing up all the insights from the TED talks on excellent customer service, we can single out the most important concepts that can help you build a great marketing strategy where the focus is on the customer:
- Know your customer (tip: today, customers are not what they used to be)
- Learn to listen.
- No matter how difficult the situation is, remain human.
- Treat your employees with the same care as you treat your customers.
- Do not be afraid to try new techniques.
From the practical aspect, we also recommend that you set up your customer service on a solid foundation of effective and reliable tools. When your work processes are intuitive and streamlined, your customer support staff will be able to focus on their primary goal – making customers happy – without worrying about the technical side of it.
At HelpCrunch, our main objective is to create a customer service environment that enables great communication, both reactive and proactive, and allows measuring your effort in hard figures and visual graphs. Give it a try – but don’t forget that a truly great customer service is about care, empathy, and, most of all, trust.
Check these 7 elements of topnotch customer service management to make sure you're nailing it.