Customer Service 101 by Tracie Lynne Elliott

What is customer service?. It’s the heart and soul, the foundation of every businesses’ success or demise. Sounds simple and easy enough, but not everyone has the instinct, the patience, the compassion, the know how of providing excellent customer service.

Notice, I didn’t say good customer service, I said excellent customer service..there is a difference.  Let’s take a look at what draws you to your favorite restaurant, or clothing store.  Now you can certainly find good food all over town, but if you think about it,  it’s really how you feel you were treated at a particular place and how the servers, waiters etc talked to you, took your order, got the order right, and how long you had to wait before being waited on. Things you normally expect to receive when you go places, the things that stands out when it’s less than what you expect, that cause you never to return.

I can list several attributes that meet the criteria of excellent customer service. What makes me qualified to write this you ask? Well,  I’ve been in the customer service business since 1999. I’ve become a natural, and have had many customer commendations to prove it. I’ve even worked as a hobby for mystery shop jobs, evaluating the customer service experience at various companies.

The key is to always put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Always show real empathy, true compassion, genuine concern, and honesty. Speaking in a tone that matches the instant.,meaning upbeat always but, softer tone when something is wrong, and have willingness to help, or try to resolve it. Have a slightly higher pitch and inflation when cause for excitement,share your customers enthusiasm.

Go the extra mile, even if and when it’s not necessarily in your job description. Take a few extra minutes of your time to ensure the customer has been cared for and all concerns met. They say a smile goes a long way which is true. Did you know a smile travels through a phone call? It does. It even transcends in a letter. Have you ever tried writing a letter when you are angry or sad? What happens? Be honest. It ends up being a sad letter or angry one.  But if you smile you will end up writing happy words and thoughts.

Anyone who thinks they want to work in customer service must first evaluate themselves. Are you a happy spirit, or an angry spirit? Are you someone who sees the glass as half full or half empty? Do you wake up angry at life, or happy to see another day? Are you an optimist or pessimist?  Do you enjoy helping and serving others? Are you a problem solver? When you do something that makes others smile and thank you, how does that make you feel? These are the questions you must ask yourself. In order to provide excellent customer service you have to first know and understand what it is,  how it feels, and what it looks like. Otherwise you will fail miserably.

A company can only go so far if it’s customers are not happy. Unhappy customers equal a loss of customers who will seek and take their business elsewhere. See, customers know their value to a business, and they know the power of word of mouth, thus, this puts them in a position of power.  One bad customer experience, can lead to multiple perceptions that a company is bad, or doesn’t care about it’s customers, or value it’s customer’s business. This then becomes that one loose brick in the foundation, and if it’s not caught and taken care of, the rest will start to fall apart. Notice I said if it’s not taken care of. Same is true with customers. You have to make them feel like they were taken care of, and actually do it.  You have to make them see that you care about them, appreciate them, and value them.

Always thanking them for their business, because they could have and often will go elsewhere to get that feeling.

Empathy is putting yourself in their shoes, relating to their concerns.

Sympathy is expressing a feeling that you are genuinely sorry for their unhappiness, their misfortune, their issues, their bad experience.

Patience to allow them to vent, or say all that they feel they need to say.

Concern enough to want to help fix the wrong and honesty to tell them what you can do and will do or follow up to do. Honesty also means being truthful about what can’t be done. Sometimes we are told never say what we can’t do, but there are exceptions to everything..I believe If you follow it immediately with an alternative of what we can do that it’s appropriate..customers and people in general can appreciate and respect honesty, as long as you are sincerely trying to resolve their issue they will happily listen. Customer Service is providing what is best for the customer because we are the expert in the customer’s eyes and we are expected to do what is right meaning  have integrity, tact and speak with confidence to reassure the customer we are here to help, because we are the expert in their minds.

More to come…stay tuned

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