Great customer service is one of the most important aspects of any business or professional interaction. Producing a satisfying, enjoyable experience for a customer often is the difference between success and failure. While great customer service is easy to spot, it is much more difficult to perform as a professional.
As teenager beginning my first job in retail, I was quickly given a crash course in basic customer service skills. My employer showed a couple videos about customer interactions and little else. Much of the knowledge that I gained about customer service came through firsthand experience with customers. As I began my first job out of college, I found myself utilizing many of the skills I had developed earlier as well as employing a few additional tactics specific to my position.
Many new professionals may not have had early experience with customer service in a previous position. Not having a basic understanding of great customer service can be a detriment to an individual’s career in any profession. Simply understanding a few basic tenets can help a new professional ensure that customers leave interactions feeling satisfied and happy.
The first step of providing great customer service is to provide a personal introduction. Stating your name and asking how you can help are crucial to setting the tone for the conversation. Moreover, it helps put the customer at ease and makes you appear more accessible. Go to any restaurant and watch how a waiter or waitress interacts with diners. They always take time to introduce themselves and establish a friendly report with the customer. While this step may appear insignificant, it is, in reality, the foundation to any great customer service interaction.
It is also important not to trivialize the problems of the customer. As a professional, I often receive questions that I have answered multiple times over the years; however, I make sure to treat every interaction as personal as possible. Although I may have dealt with a similar issue with another client, it is detrimental to assume my current customer is dealing with the exact same problem. Simply put, problems are different and need personalized attention. A way to ensure you are providing personalized attention-even for the most mundane problems-is to employ active listening. Allowing the customer to voice their problem or concern without cutting them off and restating their problem to ensure clarification are ways to ensure you are promoting active listening and great customer service.
During any customer service interaction, it is essential to not assume the customer has a certain level of knowledge. When troubleshooting with clients, it is important to try to start with the basics and work up. I utilize a list of simple questions that I ask every customer dealing with an issue. Covering these basics-which can be as simple as reloading a webpage-ensures that every possible solution has been covered before moving on to more complicated resolutions.
Ensuring the highest level of customer satisfaction is the goal of any customer service interaction. Going the extra mile to make sure an issue is solved or question is answered can make a significant difference. Early in my professional career, I often covered the basics and simply tried to solve the customer’s issue; however, as I progressed in my career, I realized it was important to ensure the problem did not arise again. Uncovering the root of the issue or providing the customer with the knowledge to be self-sufficient provides an extra level of service that makes the difference in a professional interaction.
Unfortunately, there will be times when a customer’s problems cannot be resolved over the phone or with a visit to a store. In these cases, a more escalated response may be needed to solve the problem. Overnighting a product, sending a technician or providing a refund are all appropriate responses to more serious issues. When providing a more escalated solution, it is crucial to offer a timeframe and guarantee a response. It is also important to gather all the appropriate information to ensure the problem will be addressed without additional contact with the customer-making sure your next interaction provides a solution is the goal!
Finally, it is not guaranteed that the customer will maintain a calm, collected manner during the conversation. They may become annoyed or hostile when the solution you offer does not coincide with their demands. If this is the case, it is important to remain calm and ensure the tone of the call does not become aggressive. When dealing with an unruly customer, I often allow for a hostile tone to persist for a minute before letting my manager address the problem. Allowing a supervisor to address the issue not only shows the customer their problems are important but also helps relieve the tension in the conversation. In intense cases when the customer exhibits threats or violent behavior, it is appropriate to ask the individual to leave or terminate the call-although this is an extreme response.