Great customer service is an art form. It also takes some emotional intelligence—the ability to control your emotions and/or the emotions of others. But, it seems that more and more, those who are tasked with providing customer service are losing sight of how important satisfying customers’ needs can be—especially for building relationships. And, this is not just external customer service. Colleagues, including managers and direct reports, tend to forget that you are their client and should receive exceptional customer service when interacting.
Paul Arnold, of the Noria Corporation, wrote an article, Customer Service: What Are People Saying About You? on this topic. He mentioned that Americans are not so good at offering quality customer service. In fact, he stated that people expect to receive poor customer service because getting subpar service is the norm. However, expecting bad service does not mean we are necessarily desensitized or that bad service is acceptable. The type of service we receive will be remembered, according to Paul. Therefore, how you are treated, or treat others, will be a significant part of the relationship you establish with that person, and how the perceive your product or service.
On the other hand, blogger Matt Walsh wrote an article for Huff Post: Maybe You Get Bad Customer Service Because You Are a Bad Customer. His take, based on his personal experience, is that people get crappy service because they behave horribly. But, even so, as the customer service provider, you are the face of your company, product or service. How you treat customers will leave an impression (good or bad). Your response will either mean more business or no business for your company if customer interactions are not handled appropriately. The same goes for internal customers. If you act badly, people are least likely to want to work with you.
Earlyne Alexander, Security Programs Manager for Aviation Security Technology, states that good customer service is a combination of many traits, such as being attentive, kind, and professional. She also stated that its important to implement pleasantries. “When I walk into an establishment (if it’s not a haunted house) I expect a friendly greeting almost immediately. That’s what Walmart and some other companies understand,” Earlyne shared. She expects her employees to always provide the best customer service experience by going above and beyond the customers’ expectations, “…give a smile, or positive greeting, show them you care about their needs and that you want to help them…” she says. In contrast, Earlyne says that bad customer service is the exact opposite. She despises when she is given a nasty attitude, or lackluster service, from someone whose job it is to provide an excellent customer experience.
Although I believe that certain techniques can be taught, the foundation of exceptional customer service rests within the strength of a person’s emotional intelligence and personality. Companies who start by hiring service-oriented employees, with client-centered mindsets, fare better in this area than those companies who don’t. Likewise, companies who enforce a credo or mission to excel in customer service, create a culture around service and being client-centered. Nonetheless, if you want to improve in the area of customer service, you have to care about it and invest in it. Below are some tips to improve your customer service skills. These tips are common sense, but it’s important to put them in practice.
Be pleasant by offering a smile, positive greeting, and direct eye contact
Thank the customer for visiting or seeking your support
Ask how can you help them and give a perception that you want to help
If a customer is rude or angry, don’t take his/her bad attitude personally
Never argue with customers – if you feel yourself getting angry, you can excuse yourself and/or ask a colleague or supervisor to takeover
Don't let the customer see that you are having a bad day-again, get someone else to handle the customer if you are unable to do so
Be willing to problem-solve and offer win-win outcomes
Go above and beyond the customer’s expectations
Listen attentively to what the customer wants and acknowledge that you understand his/her request
If you are dealing with an angry customer, let him/her know you understand that he/she is frustrated and you will help find a solution
Call clients by name, where and when possible
Identify with the client on a personal level—find shared interests or common experiences
Be transparent and authentic – don’t lie or make up a bull$#!t story. If you are unsure or don't have an answer, let the customer know, but iterate that you will find out and get back to him/her with an answer
Follow up on the outcome – make sure the customer was happy with the results and that they are satisfied
Think in terms of longevity and relationship building - you are investing in the possibility of repeat busness and word of mouth marketing for your company's image, service or project