Recent studies show that more than 80% of global customers feel that businesses should adopt sustainable practices and that 37% of them cite environmental impact as the main factor they consider before making a purchase.
With environmental concerns at an all-time high and a worrying succession of natural disasters showing that climate change is indeed real, going green has now become a matter of urgency and businesses who fail to include care for the environment in their core values can see their reputation slowly fade.
Going green is good for business and once you choose this path, you’ll notice many positive changes, both in terms of finance and productivity. However, choosing this business model also comes with a few changes in your customer support policy and you may have to change the way you interact with your target audience if you want to boost trust.
Always be transparent and open for communication
Transparency is a good value to have in any field, but for sustainable businesses, it’s simply a must. Consumers are aware of greenwashing, and they don’t take kindly to misleading, false, or unsubstantiated claims.
Therefore, when you go green, you need to make an effort to boost communication and answer all the questions that customers may have.
First of all, you should update your website and announce which part of your processes are now green and what specifically the change involves. For example, did you change the source of your ingredients to a local, ethical provider? Do you use recycled materials in the manufacturing process? Do you offer recycled packaging?
“Green” can mean a lot of things and customers may not be happy with vague explanations. Oftentimes, brands us terms such as clean, eco-friendly, sustainable, and ethical interchangeably but they don’t mean the same things. Using them without knowing their meaning can raise suspicion and affect your credibility instead of boosting it.
Also, keep in mind that customers may reach out just to inquire about the extent to which your brand has changed and ask specific details about your sustainable efforts. Make sure your train your customer support team to answer these questions professionally, without being rushed or dismissive towards clients.
Give precise examples
Although the customer perception towards sustainable businesses is usually positive, there is a specific market segment who might fear the change because it might come with a higher price tag – especially in the fashion industry. In some cases, going green means completely reshaping your business model and raising prices. But most of the time, going green saves money.
As frustrating as it might be to lose customers based on myths and fears, try to analyze things from your customers’ point of view and address their fears.
After announcing your change, customers may call you asking how exactly going green will benefit them and if they’ll now have to pay more for the same services. In these cases, the customer service team must be prepared to give them clear, relevant examples. For example, if you changed your packaging policy and now ship items differently, you may get questions like “Is the new packaging still safe or will my order get damaged on the way?”. In these cases, the best attitude is to be professional, yet reassuring. When in doubt, always use facts to back up your claims. If you provide clear evidence that clean skincare, let’s say, is beneficial for the client’s health as well as the environment, they’ll be more likely to feel reassured.
If you’re not sure exactly how to communicate with customers, you can always follow the example of Nordic companies, which are at the forefront of sustainability. Brands like Friends & Founders, Domo Design, and Nudie Jeans are known for their transparency and environmentally-focused marketing campaigns.
It’s also worth mentioning that clients will only believe in green practices if the employees and brand representatives do too. So, if you’ll be implementing sustainable measures, make sure that they’re the first to understand the ins and outs. From adding specialized waste compactors on-premises (compactors are ‘komprimatorer’ in Sweden, one of the countries where they’re most popular), to changing the materials used to manufacture products, your team must be the first to understand your vision.
When the customer service team understands the magnitude of the change, they’re more likely to talk about it enthusiastically.
Learn how to handle complaints and skeptical customers
In an analysis called The Elusive Green Consumer, published in Harvard Business Review, authors Katherine White, David J. Hardisty, and Rishad Habib explain that customers are mostly open towards sustainable brands and happily adopt them because of social influence (other people I know shop from sustainable brands, there I will, too). However, if the consumer doesn’t have environmental advocates in their close circle, they’re more likely to look at green businesses with indifference and skepticism. Other times, their opinion of sustainable brands can be shaped by misconceptions and prejudice: for example, some men assume that sustainability is a feminine practice and avoid buying from such brands.
Although these beliefs are slowly beginning to change, and people are becoming more familiar with terms such as recycling and waste management, your customer service team might interact with skeptics, and it’s important for them to know how to handle them.
For example, if you run a catering company and recently introduced more vegan options on the menu, some customers could complain about the change and even threaten to stop ordering from you. In these cases, a patient and reassuring attitude go a long way because even the most difficult customers can turn into valuable assets. Remember, scientific proof and clear examples of how going green benefits the client are your brand’s main tools against misinformation.