Saturday, June 4, 2011

Customer Service Skills

The lack of customer service skills in the customer service industry is growing like a tumor. First of all every industry is a customer service industry. Whether you are selling shoes at the mall or electronics to the government. Sales and service industries are customer service industries. Second, employees have become so desensitized to showing emotion and trained to be a robot, helping a customer find want they want or need is a nuisance. I am disgusted by the way customers are treated during my observations and experiences while out shopping for products and services or researching for a paper.

"We have always tried to be guided by the basic idea that, in the discovery of knowledge, there is great entertainment—as, conversely in all good entertainment there is always some grain of wisdom, humanity or enlightenment to be gained."

– Walt Disney

This quote is the epitome of the Disney Entertainment culture. Every resort patron is the most important customer to walk through the gates. This should be the thought of every worker in the business world. Each customer that walks through the door potentially is the last customer your business will ever see. Don’t you want the customer to tell everyone he/she meets after leaving your business the shopping experience he/she received was the best ever? Customer service techniques are easy to learn and easier to use.

Too many times customers visit a company and they have a decent experience or a horrible experience. Ask your customers how their experience was and you will usually get one of two answers; “it was fine” or “it was terrible! So and so has the worst customer service skills I have ever seen!” Now which answer would you rather hear? Really? You want hear your customers’ experience was just “fine”? I want my customers to rave about how we went above and beyond their expectations. I want to hear how my employees are a “breath of fresh air to work with” and “what a pleasure it is to come into your store”. That tells me my team is enjoying their job. Now don't get me wrong a disgruntled employee can have great customer service skills, but chances are if he/she is not happy those skills are likely not being used.

The 5 best skills I find that make customers feel welcome and want to return in the future are:

1) SMILE!! The customer doesn’t care what your day was like before you got to work. Whether someone cut you off on the freeway or you had a fight with the neighbor who lets their dog dig in your flowerbed. The customer wants you to smile and be happy to see them. These patrons are paying your bills, so make them enjoy spending their hard earned money with your company. “Smiling lets the customers know that you are paying attention to them, it gives them the impression that you truly care and enjoy what you are doing” (, n.d.). Conversely do not smile just to smile. You will come off as insincere and the customer will be turned off right away. Be genuine and smile because you are glad to see your customer. Your customers will reward you for it.

2) LOOK YOUR CUSTOMER IN THE EYE! Do not stare at the wall, the floor, or the hot girl/guy who just walked in. Pay attention to what the customer is telling you. This is two-fold; #1 it tells the customer, like your smile, you have his/her best interests at heart. You are absorbing his/her needs and deciding the best course of action to fill that need. #2 it conveys to the customer he/she is the only customer in the store that matters. Plus you will not miss any important information needed to make your informed decision.

3) STAND UP STAIGHT! Do not slouch, lean on the counter, stretch, fold your arms, etc. These convey to the customer you could care less about his/her wants and/or needs. That is not to say you have to stand at attention like a soldier on inspection day, but more like a soldier in the at-ease position while receiving instructions. This also tells the customer two things; #1 you are listening and #2 you are professional. Both let the customer know he/she came to the right place. In the at-ease position you are comfortable and relaxed (after some practice) but ready for anything. Your point of attack? The customer’s wants and needs.

4) BE POSITIVE! Never tell a customer “I can’t do that for you” or “We don’t have that product in stock”. Avoid negative vocabulary at every opportunity. Instead say “I will have to disconnect your service for a moment and then I can test the system” or “I can order that for you and have it in stock in (x number of) days”. This tells the customer you are doing your best to fulfill his/her expectations. Now if you cannot “fix” the problem or the “product” is not available, back-ordered, and/or discontinued then your only recourse is to suggest an alternative. NO! You never say “I CAN’T!” Get that type of talk out of your head right now and forever! There is only one thing you CANNOT do and that is live forever. Everything else is possible with work and dedication.

5) ASK THE CUSTOMER IF EVERYTHING WAS TO HIS/HER SATISFACTION! Do not be scared of your customer. Do everything in your "employee" power to help and/or fulfill the customer’s need. If you don’t have the power, get your manager or supervisor. Let the manager make the decision if it is not in your job ability. You are the first line of defense and it is your job to make the customer happy. Problems should never get to your manager or supervisor. You can handle 99% of situations that arise or come in the door. If a customer comes in with a defective product I can assure you your company (unless the company enjoys bad press and displeased customers) has a return or exchange policy. Take care of it. If you do not know how or do not have the power then it is your company’s negligence for not training you properly or empowering you with necessary guidelines. Do not let it affect how you serve the customer or your hamper customer service skills.

These five skills are easy and completely under your control. Never let a customer doubt the decision to come into or purchase from your company. Remember to smile, keep eye contact, stand up straight, speak positively, and ask your customer if he/she is completely satisfied. This will win you a customer for life and everyone will know how well you treated him/her. Contrary to previous beliefs in this day of technology (Angie’s List, Google, online reviews, etc.) happy customers tell just as many people as disgruntled customers do. The Internet is your best friend and your worst enemy depending on which side of the customer service spectrum you are on. With practice and dedication great customer service skills are as easy as breathing and will put you in the spotlight within your company. Some will question you, some will dismiss you, but everyone will be jealous of you. Good luck and have fun!

Christopher Ballow, MBA (06/2011)

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