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Top Customer Service

Updated on September 30, 2015
Service Please.   .   .
Service Please. . . | Source

What does it mean?

I ran two family businesses simultaneously for a number of years, and later on I managed the Customer Service Department for a huge company. Good Customer Service was my best tool.

To be good at the task one has to be able to interact with customers, and to revel at the challenge of keeping both parties appeased, maybe even happy. Both bosses and clients can at times be quite testy.

Some see it as a 'soft job' and easy to learn as you go. They may well be right too. Many have done it, especially when working their own business. One tends to learn pretty fast, if one is burning with the desire to make that business a success. At times, however, they may have found it quite difficult to appease difficult customers.

As always, training makes learning much easier when done in an organized fashion and delivered by an experienced tutor.

Learning never ends. There is always something else that you can learn that will make your task better and more of a delight.

Quote by Walt Disney.
Quote by Walt Disney. | Source

As a Customer Service Officer, you need to be tough yet sensitive, honest, yet good at acting, and be well versed in many other skills to boot.

"Yes, Sir!", "No, Sir!" and 'Three bags full, Ma'am' is nowhere near enough to cut it, as a good Customer Service Officer in a quality establishment.

A wise employer will give much thought to choosing a Customer Service Officer/Manager. That person is crucial to that business. S/he can drive away business by the barrow-load, or s/he can attract customers like a magnet to iron

Now let us picture a family business that is growing too much for one family. It is going well, so the family decide to expand.

They prepare a list of skills that they know from experience are absolutely essential to the position. You will need to be able to demonstrate your proficiency in each. Maybe you can even add to the list, and that will be super. Good chance of winning a coveted position.

Top of the list would no doubt be - LISTEN CAREFULLY to the customer.

Active Listening
Active Listening | Source
Customers can have Bad Days too!
Customers can have Bad Days too! | Source

Listening Skills

Often a customer complains, only because they don’t know how to handle a frustrating situation.

If you are patient and sensitive to their needs, you will take the time to dig under the surface and discover what the core of the problem really is. You need to really listen and to work out what is not being said. You need to be attentive and patient.

Example: Customer, sounding irritated: ‘I have been over each and every shelf for boys’ shoes over size 13 and cannot find any. Don’t you realise that boys can be very tall even at a young age, and a tall boy usually needs a big shoe?’

You as CSO (Customer Service Officer) ‘Yes, some boys do tower up high, don’t they, even before they have reached their teens.’

Customer nods approval. You are agreeing with her view on that part of the statement, and that is at least one bonus point in your favor.

‘This department has become so packed with stock, that we have not been able to double up when an item can be fitted into two categories Ma’am. So we have put that size with the men’s shoes, which is 4 aisles down.’

‘We have put a notice at the end of that aisle but I guess we did not make it prominent enough. I am sorry for your trouble, Ma’am.’

‘I shall make a note to add another notice to ensure that it is easily noticed.’ Please make a note for yourself to ensure you do make the necessary changes to that notice. ‘Would you like me to lead you to the men’s section Ma’am?’

Now, you tell me. How can a client remain gruff and angry at such a response? Only one that has a different, hidden agenda, and that is not your business. Your business is to satisfy the genuine customer, and you would have given a full and effective response.

It may take some time to do the above, but good customer service beats quick shoddy customer service every time.

That client will leave the shop feeling she has been acknowledged and given assistance. It is what will keep her coming back.

If you want feedback, and incidentally, reinforce the benefits of your good service, you could hand the customer a card with a short survey about the experience. Include an ssae [stamped, self-addressed envelope] or else offer a discount on her next purchase if she brings it filled-in. Chances are she will return it to you filled in.

Why Customer Service - It costs you five times as much to win a new customer than to keep a current one.

Service given with a smile. Pixabay: Pub Domain CC02
Service given with a smile. Pixabay: Pub Domain CC02 | Source

Customer Service On The Phone.

It is common for a customer to quickly regress to impatience or even to angry frustration when speaking to a Customer Service Officer on the phone. The reason is simple. That customer has probably been stewing for a while on an annoying glitch - as he or she sees it - in what your company does or does not do.

It may be a small glitch, or maybe even less, but the Customer has had many a frustration that day and that small glitch tipped the balance.

You simply can NOT solve the problem for your caller while she/he is in that state, so the best method is to first calm down your customer, using the J curve method.

Imagine there is a big J curve in the air in front of you, and you are both holding on to the shaft. You slither down some, and your caller will follow, a bit more and more until you are down to the arc at the bottom where you can both sway on a see-saw, matching push for pull etc. . . When you get there, you can exchange information without barriers.

So, you really need to LISTEN very carefully. From time to time you do the vocal equivalent of nodding your head by simply voicing the "Hmm. ." or " Yes, of course". When your caller stops, give it 2-3 seconds before you speak.

If you have questions, you can pose the first one, and wait for the answer before you speak.

As soon as possible you need to say something like "I can understand why you are upset" or "I can see where you are coming from" or "Of course you would be upset" choosing what best fits the context.

Next, you need to reassure your caller that you will do your best to help and that you can help.

It is only when your caller is open to your offer of help that you can start resolving the issue, in the usual manner.

When you feel that you have exhausted the subject, do not taper off the conversation until you have ascertained that the caller is happy with the result, and that there is no other issue you can help with.

Maybe your company has a short survey that comes after the end of the conversation, in which case you could mention this and ask whether your caller can stay on the line for that, if they have a minute to spare; or maybe you can direct your caller to a short survey on the net.

Find whichever way is applicable to establish that the issue has been resolved.


The Value of Customer Service : If I do not take good care of our customers, someone else will.

My Shoppers, My Business
My Shoppers, My Business

My Customers are My Business.

When it comes to important points that you need to explain to your customers, ensure it is clear, simple, and leaves nothing to doubt.

When talking to a customer, ensure that you relay the message to the customer very clearly. If you are discussing a service that allows for optional extras, you will need to state what is included in the standard price and what attracts an extra charge.

Example: When I handed some shirts to the hotel laundry service to be washed and ironed I was told that if I wanted a conditioner to be added to the final rinse it would be "included" in the final bill.

I thought that meant that it would be included in the standard charge, yet there was an added charge on my bill. It was not much and I did not protest, but it did leave me feeling disappointed and put upon.

As a CSO, I would not like our customers to leave our establishment with that feeling. I’d want them to feel satisfied and happy with their purchase or service.

Exceed the Customer's expectations.

I took my family to Sunday lunch at a busy family restaurant. The place was full and there was a long queue to order.

Then a waiter came round with a large tray of piping hot pizza slices, offering us a slice and a serviette. Aha. . .the joy of an unexpected freebie. And the pizza was mighty good too.

Nobody complained of the wait after that.

Big or Small, It is still the Be-All and End-All of a business.
Big or Small, It is still the Be-All and End-All of a business. | Source

Value All Business

New customers are not likely to trust you with a big order until they have your measure so be aware that even the smallest order is valuable. The service you give to a small order should be the same as that of a large one. That customer will go away impressed and guess what s/he would be telling friends?!

Do – keep in mind the customer’s name if it is given, and use it when addressing that person in the same format it was given to you..

Do – offer any additional service that normally goes with a sale of that item, so long as you specify any qualifications eg: “Once you have tried this washing powder to your satisfaction Ma’am you may want to consider buying in multiples to save yourself some money.”

Good Service is Good Business.

How it Works.
How it Works. | Source

What Resources do You Have?

When a customer wants to discuss how does this item works, can you explain it to their satisfaction?

Not every single team member is going to know all the intricacies of each item you have for sale, and you as a CSO would find it difficult to keep up with each item that is added to stock. Most customers will find that understandable.

You, as CSO, need to know who to refer to for the information the customer needs. You need to ensure that the sales person does have the right information, is available, and able to satisfy the customer’s query. There is not much that is as irritating to a customer, than to be shifted from one person to another repeatedly.

If this is not possible at this time, you need to be able to think on your feet, and find a way of satisfying the customer, not by attempting to do yourself what you are not equipped to do [explain how that item works] but by offering an acceptable alternative. You can ask what time would it be convenient for the sales person to ring back. If that is not acceptable, would your customer like you to send a copy of the brochure, or an email with a link to complete information about the item? Give the customer all the choices you have at hand.

After that issue is settled, do not forget to again apologize that you could not respond with the right information today and ask whether there is something else the customer would like help with.

Research shows that emotion influences purchase decision six times more than rationale.

Sometimes you sell a plant, and sometimes you plant a seed: Connecting to your customers on an emotional level is the key to establishing or breaking a lasting relationship with your business.

Look up to the rainbow, and smile.
Look up to the rainbow, and smile. | Source

Stay Positive

Your main task is really to keep all your customers happy, even the ones that you could not provide with what they wanted from your establishment.

How do you do that?

Firstly, by acknowledging their need and the fact that you could not be of service this time around. Are you out of stock? Shame, but . . .

After that comes a happy note. Then you can advise that you will probably have the items by such and such a date. If you are not sure, suggest that the person can inquire say. . . . in a week or two – IF it is convenient, or would they like you to inform them when the stock is in?

  • True, but depressing language: "I am sorry we have no stock at present; it is back-ordered and should be in soon."
  • True, but upbeat: " Mmm. . . We are just waiting for it now. It will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and send it to you then, or I can let you know as soon as it hits our shelves."

Your language here, is focusing on the solution, on what can be done rather than what you cannot give the customer.

Even if the customer cannot or will not wait for the stock to arrive, s/he will be very much aware that you have tried your best to help.

Consistency creates Assurance: Every business process, step, or communication must create a positive customer reaction each and every time.

Your cue,  Customer Services Officer.
Your cue, Customer Services Officer.

Acting Skills

Most customers will take their cue from your attitude and if you show a willingness to help, they will react positively .

But of course, there are a few odd ones here and there who have had a bad day, or are inveterate complainers. There are those who happen to be grumpy that day and others that are the ‘barnacle’ that seem to want nothing more than to pull you down. They too are customers, but it is mighty difficult to make them happy!

If you want to get better at being a Customer Service Officer/Manager, then you will need enough basic acting skills to maintain a cheery and polite persona in spite of dealing with people who may be just plain difficult. Keep cool. Learn to act according to the guidelines you have learnt, and not in a personal, emotional manner.

You will also need to learn that what such a difficult customer [in your heart you will know whether you had really done all you could to satisfy this customer] hurls at you need not hurt you or depress you. It is just something you have to cope with. Do not dwell on it. Accept it, just as you accept the smiles and the thanks of other customers and behave accordingly.

That reaction is the product.

At times it gets hectic!
At times it gets hectic! | Source

Time Management Skills

Sometimes spending more than the average time with a customer ends up in a sale, yet even when not, you know that the customer will give you a good rap with friends and neighbors. As you become more experienced, you will get a feeling of how long that should be, especially if you have others waiting for your attention.

If you realize that you just cannot help that customer, the best solution to the problem is to get the customer to someone who can.

Any business, no matter what it is, lives or dies by the customer reactions it creates.

Happy Shoppers = Good Business.
Happy Shoppers = Good Business. | Source

© 2015 Marie L Boler

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    • MarieLB profile image
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      Marie L Boler 2 years ago from Yamba

      Hi Adrienne,

      Thank you for stopping by and I am glad you liked the way I looked at this important skill - that of a CSO.

      I was not home so I received all your msgs at once, & it is fortunate that I replied to the other one first, cause I then found your feedback regarding finding stuff on HubPages.

      I am so sorry you were having so many problems. I do apologise. I gather you are not registered on HP, but as you say HP wants anybody and everybody to read the stuff we put out there. I am sure they do not wish to make it difficult. It is a pity that I cannot get more details from you, eg: were you at a private or public computer, and, in what way was it so difficult? Nonetheless I will certainly pass it on to Admin. I am sure that they will be interested in getting any feedback.

      I also need to explain that I am responding here & not on the George Clooney site, because the system would not allow me to put in two comments. So this time I took the opportunity to reply on the same window.

      Please don't give up on us. There are heaps and heaps of really good articles here and the topics are so varied that you will surely find some you really like.

      Thank you for your feedback and I will pass the note along as promised.

    • profile image

      Adrienne 2 years ago

      Quite a distance from a big movie star to being a customer service officer. .LOL!! But you;ve pictured it well.

    • MarieLB profile image
      Author

      Marie L Boler 2 years ago from Yamba

      Hi Jenny,

      Glad you liked what I wrote. I draw a lot on my own experiences.

      Thank you for sharing your view.

    • profile image

      Jenny 2 years ago

      I like this approach

    • MarieLB profile image
      Author

      Marie L Boler 2 years ago from Yamba

      Hi Freddy,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views. I appreciate that.

    • profile image

      Freddy 2 years ago

      Good stuff!

    • MarieLB profile image
      Author

      Marie L Boler 2 years ago from Yamba

      Hello Della,

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us here. Glad that you found something useful and do hope to see you here again. Customer Service is such a vast subject that one never stops learning, don't you think?

    • profile image

      Della 2 years ago

      Hi there, I really found this helpful. The chart on listening just sums it up so well, and also you talk of some customers have another agenda. That happens quite a bit, esp if they have had a difficult day. Ah well, it's part of the job I guess. Enjoyed it, thanks.

    • MarieLB profile image
      Author

      Marie L Boler 2 years ago from Yamba

      Hi Matt, So glad you found something useful in my article, and thanks for letting us know. I get the feeling that there is a whole bunch of students that are spreading the word. I will have to write some more about this subject as it is very close to my heart.

    • profile image

      Matt Turner 2 years ago

      It's great, thanks. I found the listening graph very good. Easy to remember.

    • MarieLB profile image
      Author

      Marie L Boler 2 years ago from Yamba

      Hi Paula,

      I like your style too. Few words that mean a lot. I am glad you liked what I wrote, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

    • profile image

      Paula 2 years ago

      Got it in one. Like your style. Easy to read, easy to understand.

    • MarieLB profile image
      Author

      Marie L Boler 2 years ago from Yamba

      Hello Troy,

      Thank you for checking the article out AND sharing your thoughts with us. It is so satisfying to know that my writing is useful. I don't know whether this is a physical classroom or not, but I have had others mention a teacher and I suppose, a course that is going on. Looks like the word is spreading in that class!

      Troy, one cannot determine what motivates a Customer to complain, until one has listened to what the Customer wants to say and perhaps asked questions to clarify.

      So a Customer Officer always starts of by giving the Customer the benefit of the doubt on all counts.

      So you listen, and you respond as you would your favorite customer. It is only if after you have done all the right things, and the customer shows no interest in the solutions you offer, but simply wants to continue or escalate the complaints - THEN you look at the exception.

      The exception is the professional complainer who may use that avenue to gain something, whether the something is a freebie or just making someone miserable.

    • profile image

      Troy 2 years ago

      Hi - very interesting, and although we've done these in class, I bet it is good to do it again here. How else to remember it all? LOL!! The hard part, I find is how to tell when there is a genuine complaint or someone who is just out to have a whinge. . .

    • MarieLB profile image
      Author

      Marie L Boler 2 years ago from Yamba

      @Neeta White. Thanks for stopping by, and I am so glad you found the article helpful. There are many others here you may find useful.

    • profile image

      Neeta White 2 years ago

      Truly awesome. Everything I read here is an echo of what we are learning, and I also got some extra tips too. Thanks a lot. Will b back.

    • MarieLB profile image
      Author

      Marie L Boler 2 years ago from Yamba

      Hello Peta,

      Thank you for reading my article and for sharing your thoughts. I do hope you have gained some insights from it.

      Drop in sometimes and look up other articles from other writers here, you will gain the advantage of our collective experiences.

    • profile image

      Peta 2 years ago

      Hi thanks for such a good article Teacher sent us here, and she's right. Such a lot of good things to read.

    • MarieLB profile image
      Author

      Marie L Boler 2 years ago from Yamba

      Thank you V M for reading and for your remarks. I have had to work hard at it for many years, and at one stage it was my main role, and that was in a large company.

      Of course what I wrote was just a few tips. There is much else to say. I used to even train my staff during lunches and such.

      I will probably get onto some other tips another time. I had to stop to avoid it being so long. Cheers!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      You have dealt with the topic so beautifully and awesomely, Marie! I am much impressed at your presentation of the CSO skills. I feel you have been one of the greatest CSOs.

      Voted up and awesome.