By Cindy Thornthwaite:
Customer Service can be tricky and often times a very hot topic, especially in the workplace.
As someone who is both a customer and a Customer Service Rep, I try every day to treat my customers the exact way I would want to be treated! I know if those customers were not coming through the door – I’d be on the unemployment line!
The key to becoming a great and compassionate Customer Service Rep is to actively listen, listen, and listen to your customer. Don’t try and anticipate your customer’s needs – let them tell you what they want. You may think that anticipating their needs is working in your favor, but it actually does the complete opposite. From a customer stand point, you don’t know me, you don’t know anything about me or my situation, so don’t assume you understand my needs. Ask me what I need or how you can help, allow me to share with you my wants/needs. All of your “assuming” just keeps me waiting longer for you to accommodate me and my needs. Sometimes, I don’t have that extra time to wait for you to try and figure it out.
Every day, on my travels, I see inexcusable ways to treat customers. When a customer leaves your business in tears, unsatisfied with your service, and with the feeling they would never return, you, my friend, are dangerously close to being unemployed. The soul reason most businesses are here, is to service the consumer and to provide them assistance and resources that match their current situations. What if you make them so upset they never return? And not only do they not come back, they tell their friends and family to avoid your office at all costs. “Trust me”, they say, “You will want to drive out of your way in order to avoid that place!” Then those friends and family tell their friends and family and so on and so on. In reality, how long do you think it will take for the customer to stop coming back? How long before management states they can no longer justify keeping the doors open? Do you think they will just transfer you to a new location? Guess again, you will be joining those individuals on the unemployment line. And trust me, from someone who has been on the unemployment line, you don’t want to be there.
But, how do you really convince those Customer Service Rep’s that they could lose their job? It’s difficult to say the least. Some are in plain denial with the belief that would never happen. Some feel you are just being overly dramatic, others just plain think you’re crazy. But, unfortunately it does happen. Sometimes, they just have to actually have it happen to them before they would ever believe it could come true.
When a customer enters your business you should always greet them with a smile and make eye contact. Who doesn’t like to be greeted with a smile? And when you look your customer in the eye, they feel like you are really listening. I have always had this great ability to remember my customers by name. Just something I am good at, not everyone can, and that is alright. But if you can, please greet those individuals you do remember, by name. What a wonderful feeling to walk into a place of business and have someone smile at you and say, “Hello, Cindy, how are you doing today?” Right away you are putting that customer at ease and even if they are coming because they need to exchange an item or to discuss something uncomfortable, you can instantly diffuse even the most difficult individual. Just by smiling, looking them in the eye, and saying their name.
During my short four month employment at McDonald’s, I received several compliments from customers and management regarding my smile. Several times a day I would have an individual at the drive-thru window say, “I love coming through when you are working just to see your smile.” All individuals enjoy being greeted with a smile. It makes them feel welcomed. And that’s what you want, correct, your customers to feel welcomed!
Greet your customer upon arrival, ask them how you can assist them and then LISTEN. Shut up, don’t talk, and listen! You may be surprised at what your customer actually needs. The one thing they don’t need, you assuming what they want/need.
The best Customer Service is the Customer Service that allows that individual to receive and acquire the product/service they WANT.
Many of my colleagues and friends describe Customer Service as:
“Providing excellent service with a smile!”
“Helping me with what I need and being as prompt and polite as possible. Not having side conversations with other people. You are being paid to do a job, not chat with your co-workers. Do that when there are no customers about!”
“In order to give customer service you must first listen to what the customer needs or wants.”
“Listening, don’t know that there can be much service without listening.”
“I would say that it is pleasantly greeting the customer and listening to what they have to say, asking questions that can help find out exactly what it is that the customer wants and doing what is possible to meet the customers’ needs in a timely manner and to make them happy. In the end making sure that the customer is happy or that you have done everything you can to help customer.”
“Listening to the customer like listening to your mother!!”
“You need to let the customer know that they have your full attention and are there to help them and do it in a polite and friendly manner.”
“No matter what the customer should always feel they are right!”
“It means being treated professionally and with respect. It means being looked at in the eye knowing the person trying to assist me is listening and will be kind. Whether I am right or wrong I want to be treated fairly and with a smile on their face.”
“Good customer service means making the customer’s best interest and well-being your own best interest and well-being. Unfortunately, most people who deal with the public are only worried about their paycheck and care very little about people or individuals, at least where I live and from my experience.”
As you can right from the mouth of your customers – they value being appreciated and listened to. Try to follow the steps below to increase your Customer Service Skills:
Step 1 – Greet the customer by looking them in the eye and smiling. Make sure it’s a genuine smile and not forced. Get up and walk toward the customer – Never expect the customer to come to you!
Step 2 – Ask the customer how you can be of service to them today. STOP talking and listen!! Determine what their needs are and how you can be of assistance from this point on.
Step 3 – Do everything you can possibly do to accommodate their needs and requests. If it something outside your job duties – find a supervisor and ask them to assist the customer.
Step 4 – NEVER, NEVER let your customer feel that they are ‘putting you out.’ Even if they are – even if they are causing you to be late for break or lunch – even if you are ready to leave – even if you have tons of work waiting for you – NEVER, NEVER let that customer feel they are ‘putting you out.’
Step 5 – Ask questions along the way. Don’t stop talking to the customer, make small talk if there is a wait time. Silence can be very awkward!!
Step 6 – NEVER, NEVER stop smiling or looking your customer in the eye!!
Step 7 – Once you have satisfied your customer and supplied them with the service they were seeking, ask them if you can be of any other assistance to them. They may want something more but wasn’t going to ask because they felt they had taken up too much of your time already.
Step 8 – When you have made that customer happy and they are ready to leave – thank them for coming in. Everyone likes to be appreciated. Tell them to have a good day and come back again. And SMILE!
Step 9 – Start all over again with the next customer!!
If you are unsure of how to treat a customer – put yourself in their shoes and decide at that point how you yourself would want to be treated. You may surprise yourself and end up treating that person even better than you would hope to be treated.
Remember, if you want that customer to return and if you want to stay employed, treat that customer with the utmost respect and professionalism so they will return!