Make a Success of Customer Service

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.” – Jay Danzie

We know that a significant portion of a business’ success rests on the way it treats its customers. In order to make a success of customer service, not only should the service team possess some essential skills, but these skills must be inculcated in everyone working in the organization. The foundation of top class customer service is the experience customers receive at every touchpoint in the company – the feeling of being valued translated through every interaction they have with the company. However, ‘being nice’ to customers is a lot more than greeting and smiling – it is about having a set of skills that would convey the company’s dedication to them, each time. The fact is that these skills are not limited to one industry or only to the customer service teams. Any company that trains its employees and reinforces these skills through example, would reap the benefits of these skills – both short term and long term. What skills do you think your employees have to make a success of customer service? Do they utilize these skills or do your customers leave interactions feeling frustrated enough to resolve never to come back? It would be a good idea to monitor regularly this aspect of your business.

The first skill should actually be a given – active listening skills are quintessential to the customer service job (and to any job or relationship). Without knowing how to listen, there really would be no sense in even discussing the other required skills. Service representatives must listen to not just the verbal portion of the communication from customers, but also know how to distinguish tone of voice, pitch, and body language. It is a combination of all these that make up the entire communication from a customer and ‘an ear’ for all is what would make a service representative truly attentive and cognizant of what a customer would like to convey.

Close on the ‘heels’ of active listening, is the ability of service representatives to speak and convey their thoughts clearly. Most companies use a call centre as the first point of contact for their customers and hence the representatives must have polished verbal communication skills to ensure that they sound convincing, knowledgeable, and make sense to the customer. Verbal communication is a combination of good diction, voice modulation, and the ability to sound convincing even without a rote script. Customers hate the robotic manner of greeting and the ‘standard’ sentences that call centre representatives often use. The sentence “This is XYZ how may I help you?”is actually annoying when the representative comes across as bored and thoroughly uninterested in the person on the other side of the line.

As mentioned, rote scripts and set ways of attending to ‘routine’ queries, is highly frustrating for customers. In order to make a success of customer service, the representatives must have empathy – the ability and skill to understand the emotions and feelings underlying their words. By viewing the issue from the customer’s perspective a representative would be better equipped to show concern and a genuine desire to help. Even the most disgruntled and irate customers tend to listen to representatives that appear to understand their ‘pain’. Empathy as a characteristic is the best for any customer service person, but this skill can be built and developed through proper training and ongoing coaching.

Technology is ubiquitous now and hence without proper knowledge of computing skills and the latest data entry and management software, a customer service representative would be below par in serving customers. Even if it is the most basic of computer ‘programmes’, the fact is that without an understanding and knowledge of its usage, service representatives would be unable to retrieve and track customer data. As companies become larger and take in more customers, manual tracking and accounting of the customer base is no longer possible. To do their job well and to make a success of customer service, basic computing and data retrieval skills are essential.

The ability to remain calm and composed even in the face of trying situations and the toughest customers, is another extremely vital skill for customer service representatives. The truth of this job role is that despite the best efforts to keep all customers happy – this will never be possible. There will always be some customer who believes that your company is out to get them and is least concerned about their problems. They would display these feelings through brash and angry behaviour, which is when it is hardest for customer service staff to keep their cool. However, given that no two customers are alike and that each customer would view the company’s service depending on their individual expectations, it would be imperative that customer service staff understand this ‘subjectivity’ and remain calm even when faced with customer ire. It is not the easiest thing to do, but with regular training and coaching, service representatives can increasingly build on this skill and become a lot better at managing their own emotions with respect to tough customers.

To make a success of customer service, we know that it is important that service staff treat all customers with respect and use their discretion to provide spot decisions, with the aim of alleviating a problem. However, they must also keep in mind the needs of the business, company rules and guidelines, and the proper procedures within which they need to function. If representatives feel that some guidelines may be too stringent and come in the way of truly serving customers, they must bring it to the notice of their supervisors / managers, but must never flout the rules. This is extremely vital from the point of view of protecting the company’s interests.

Among the top complaints from customers, wastage of their time due to slow action, seem to top the list. Customers seem to have a diminishing amount of time at their disposal and hence do not want to waste it in waiting to receive service. Keeping customers waiting is possibly the worst kind of customer service and is often one of the reasons that customers seek new ‘partners’ who would respect their time. In any case, it is not professional to keep customers ‘hanging’ and waiting for something that is their right. It erodes trust and over time leads customers out of your company, for good. The worst part is that such customers hardly provide feedback – they just leave and make their dissatisfaction known to their circle of friends, associates, and many more sets of people.

There are a number of other skills that help to make a success of customer service and the importance of each would depend on the company and its representatives. Skills such as product knowledge, organizational and interpersonal skills, the ability to understand customers and their co-workers – are just some of the other skills that would enhance service levels in any company.

Customer service representatives must understand the critical role their job fulfils in their own and the success of the company. It should be their onus to continually upgrade their skills and the company should be responsible to provide the opportunities to them. Utilizing these skills can take your company’s average service skills to the level of being best practices for any industry. Make a success of customer service, and your customers will reward you in manifold ways.

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