Customer Service Basics

Excellent customer service should be the number one priority of any business. Studies show that over 65% of people leave due to bad customer service, and that 80% will tell others if they have a bad customer experience (where only 10% brag about a good one).You can market, brand, and sell the product with gusto, but it won’t work if customers are dissatisfied with the service. You would be fighting a current of negativity, and you won’t win.

I have many years of award winning experience working in world-renowned universities, resorts, theme parks, and country clubs, including training and supervising front line staff – so I’ve become somewhat of a self-proclaimed expert. Here are some tips and insights to my customer service pet-peeves.

First Impressions

Very cliche’, but you only get one chance to make a first impression. Impress customers right off the bat with a smile, open body language, positive verbal tone, and a friendly greeting. Smile when you answer the phone, smile when someone walks in, smile when no one is watching you. Not only will your customer service have a better first impression, but you’ll find that you’ll start to enjoy your work more!

Professional Attire and Uniforms

The appearance of the full time non-uniformed staff sets the standard for the company’s brand. An employee that appears sloppy and lazy in their professional appearance presents the image of not being able to adequately perform their job responsibilities. It is necessary to define and enforce a professional dress code in order to better win the respect of valued customers.

A study at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School showed that the best marketing tool was professional company uniforms. They are noted as more successful than internet, television, radio, billboard, and yellow pages advertising. Uniforms are perceived to be more professional and welcoming than casual wear in front line positions. It also builds the impression that all of the staff is working together as a team, which tremendous positive effect on staff morale and unity! Illustrate a more professional and hospitable brand by having a uniformed polished first impression.

Communication Breakdown

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo EmersonNonverbal Communication

An individual’s nonverbal communication is what truly communicates what they feel and are thinking. Remember the 55-38-7 Rule. Studies show that only 7% of what you are communicating is the actual words that are being spoken. Your posture, facial expressions, and gestures all account for 55% of what is interpreted. And the rest is all about your tone. If you were already smiling (see first impressions), your tone will automatically be improved. Try it. Smile and try to sound grumpy. You’ll look ridiculous.

There are some key elements of interpersonal communication to remember:

  1. Listen. Try avoid jumping to any conclusions and make sure that the other person is completely done talking before you continue. This will avoid any misunderstandings later on in the conversation. Also try to recognize any potential internal or external obstacles that may prevent effective listening. An internal obstacle for listening would be preoccupation prejudgment, lack of effort, not recognizing diverse listening styles. An external obstacle includes overload, complexity of issue, or noise.
  2. positiveverbalcommunicationParaphrasing / Summarizing. This illustrates that you were paying attention and provides an additional opportunity for them to clarify any misunderstandings. But make sure that it is done gently and not condescendingly. Similarly, try to convey your message in multiple ways. Always try to include all the information that is necessary to make yourself and your message understood. Repeating and illustrating it in different ways can help ensure that your message got through. Overall, it is important to be clear about the call to action and responsibilities. Everyone has different levels of responsibility and accountability, so make sure to be very clear as to what will happen next – even it they need to do something – while trying to avoid being too dictatorial. Make sure they understand the time-frame and all of the components of what will happen.
  3. Ask & Encourage: Ask questions to direct the focus on the key issues and encourage them by illustrating that you are interested in what they have to say to build rapport. This helps build the relationship.
  4. Use your customer’s name. This alerts your listener that you are talking specifically to them and encourages them to concentrate more on your message. Using their name also makes them feel valued and appreciated, and increases the chances that they are listening.positivewording
  5. Adapt your message to your listener(s). Make sure that your message is relevant and easy to understand for your audience. Components of your message may be particularly important to certain groups, so adapting your message to emphasize these elements will better draw their attention. One of these components includes avoid using negative words or phrases. See the image to the right for examples on alternatives to these negative words or phrases to avoid escalating the situation.

Overall, just remember that we are all unique and come from diverse backgrounds. We all want to be treated with respect – regardless of the situation. If a difficult situation arises, just remember that typically an upset customer is usually angry at the organization, product, or service that you represent – not you personally. So just do your best to stay positive, acknowledge their feelings, determine the cause of frustration, and give them two options as a solution so they feel empowered – and you have the control of what you can and cannot do to assist.

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