The 4 Types of Customer Interactions Explained

The 4 Types of Customer Interactions Explained 

When a customer communicates with a brand, whether by interacting with its collaborators or customer service team or by interacting through other channels such as social media and emails, we call it Customer Interaction. 

There are many ways a customer can interact with a brand, but all are essentially grouped into 4 types of Customer Interactions, namely: 

  1. Stabilizing 
  2. Critical 
  3. Planned 
  4. Surprise

The 4 Types of Customer Interactions Explained 

Stabilizing Customer Interactions 

It’s the type of interaction people have when first coming in contact with a brand at the beginning of their relationship. From the brand’s perspective, in this type of interaction, the focus is on customer retention. 

We call them stabilizing because they consist in stabilizing actions, meant to consolidate the brand’s relationship with the customer early and prevent customer loss. Since it’s in the early stages that this relationship is at its most fragile.

The keys in these interactions are: 

  • Education  

Customers always have some expectations when interacting with a brand. Realizing that, brands early on Educate their customers on their product, their service, and their experience, setting the bar for customer’s expectations. That also allows them to avoid (some of) the customer’s disappointment and prevent losses. 

  • Competence 

The point of educating the customers is to make sure that their expectations are realistic enough to be met. That proves a brand’s competence. After setting the bar for their expectations, the customers want them to be met, under the pretense of possible disappointment if it doesn’t happen. 

  • Consistency 

It’s not enough to meet customers’ expectations sometimes; brands must make an effort to meet them consistently. That consolidates the image that the customers have from the brand, cultivating the desire for more interactions. 

Critical Customer Interactions

This type of interaction usually happens when there’s a situation outside of routine. Situations like questions, complaints and special requests, that aren’t completely unexpected and require that the employees are trained to deal with them. 

We call them critical because depending on the company’s response, which can be good or bad, the customer will have an according lasting impression. They are memorable and determine how the customer sees the company from then on and how he talks about his experience. 

The key point in this interaction is: 

  • Opportunity 

Brands need to keep an eye out for the moments where there’s a need to go beyond the standard routinary procedures in their interactions. Employees need to recognize those moments and adjust their approach to one that is adequate. They are opportunities to leave the customer with a good memory of their experience.

Planned Customer Interactions

Planned interactions are generally those started by the brand. The intention is always to generate more profits, either by up-selling or cross-selling. We have all had this type of interaction, where a brand emails or calls us with an offer that seems designed for us. 

These interactions are planned based on analysis of customer preferences and purchase patterns, using metrics and data analysis tools. 

The key to this type is: 

  • Appropriateness 

This is what makes an email from a Louis Vuitton store collaborator much more favorable than a call from a company’s telemarketing team. Since LV customers have their data registered according to their tastes, a “new in-store” type of email usually is appropriate. While telemarketing calls are often random and out of context with each customer, thus inappropriate. 

Surprise Customer Interactions 

This type of interaction, like the critical ones, cover outside of the routine contact. Only this type is actually unexpected, to the point where the brand and its employees don’t have any protocol to deal with the situation and have to improvise when it happens. In this category are all types of unforeseeable issues. 

They are also memorable, and though not always solvable, employees have to leave the interaction on a positive note as they are usually threatening to the brand’s profitability and reputation. 

The key to this type of interaction is: 

  • Empathy 

Customers expect to be understood and put first whenever they need to deal with a brand. Empathy allows the brand and its collaborators to put themselves in the customer’s place and think of ways to alleviate their frustrations or compensate them for bad experiences, either with gift-cards, gifts, or other damage control tools. 

The 4 Types Of Customer Interactions – Summary 

Type of InteractionInteraction Key-PointsExample
Stabilizing -Education;-Competence; -Consistency.-Email with purchase and mailing details after online purchase.
Critical -Opportunity.-Complaint/Support call from the customer. 
Planned -Appropriateness.-“New in store” / Sales emails. 
Surprise-Empathy.-Call customer services over technical defects in the product. 

 Why is Customer Interaction Important?

Customer interaction is an essential part of customer experience. The way a brand interacts with customers determines, in large part, the brand’s reputation and the potential to profit from the same customer and people related to them. 

All customer interactions are of vital importance for a brand’s success. Here’s five reasons why customer interaction is important: 

  • Customer Satisfaction

Customer Interaction influences customer satisfaction. Even if a brand’s product is good and the purchase process is seamless, if customers have to deal with bad interaction with the brand, that immediately clouds their perception of the brand and their experience. 

  • Profitable 

Good customer interactions can generate profits for a brand. The more happy customers are with their interaction with the brand, the more they will feel motivated to continue purchasing from that brand. The contrary is also true. 

  • Reputation 

A brand’s reputation is built on the customers’ opinion of it. Their interactions with the customer determine how they will be perceived and talked about by customers. 

  • Additional Data 

They are good sources of data about customers and operational procedures. These are essential information for a brand’s growth and evolution, which can also improve customer experience. 

  • Employee Motivation 

Employees who, based on their training and skills, are able to provide good customer experience, can gain motivation from that fact to continue to do better. Another reason, is the fact that good customer interaction reduces the friction caused by angry customers, motivating employees to do well in their tasks. 

So, how do you create a good customer experience?

How to Create Successful Customer Interactions? 

To create successful interactions with your customers, you should focus your efforts on the following steps: 

Train Your Employees 

When interacting with a brand, the customer is essentially interacting with the employees. Therefore, you need to train your employees the best possible, as they are your brand’s face.

Build Customer Interaction Checklist for Multiple Departments

Even though the training should prepare your employees for all interactions, you must provide a set customer interaction checklist for each department, so they have a properly designed map to orientate them. 

Consider Multiple Channels 

Customer Interaction usually happens in multiple channels, whether digital or physical. For that reason, all the efforts to improve customer interactions should consider those channels for a universal customer experience. 

Humanize it 

Although training, checklists, and set planning helps your employees with being consistent in their interactions, customers still want to feel that they are interacting with the brand’s human aspect. Instructing your employees to be natural and empathetic is advised to guarantee that your interactions don’t lose the customer experience human element

Highly Recommended Article: 15 Interpersonal Skills for Customer Service

Adjust and Evolve 

Evolution is essential in all aspects of the customer experience. Always seek to evolve and adjust your customer experience according to the customers’ new expectations. Be careful with this aspect as too much adjusting to expectations and forceful evolution might raise the expectation bar to unachievable and unrealistic points. 

Is Customer Interaction The Same as Customer Service? 

Customer interaction is all types of communication between a brand and a customer, regardless of the touchpoint or phase of the customer experience, the customer is at. Customer service is all types of interaction done with the purpose of giving support to the customer before, during, or after the purchase. 

Further Readings

3 Types of Customer Interactions Every Customer Experience Manager Must Understand. KINESIS CEM

4 Types of Customer Interactions to Plan For. LINKEDIN 

Emidio Amadebai

For the past 2 years, I have been working as the head of Customer Experience, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Finance at an international pay as you go solar home system company working in rural areas in Africa. After my previous 7 years working in B2B, IT&Telecoms industry, as a Service Delivery and Project Manager, having worked with Vodacom, Huawei, and other multinational companies. My job is to make sure we improve the lives of thousands of families, with access to electricity, utilities (radio, TV, lights), doing our very best so that they get the best-in-class customer experience, and succeed in acquiring the products for themselves.

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