If you work in a customer service role, I bet you’ve heard the phrase ‘the customer is always right’ one too many times and rolled your eyes - knowing that it's 100% true!
In today’s digital age, though, customer service expands to so much more than simply agreeing with your client and telling them they’re right (when, really, they aren’t). It’s about building a brand, a good reputation and the necessary skills needed to deliver an outstanding service.
To find out what it takes to provide the most exceptional customer experience, read our 16 essential tips.
1. Be Empathetic
If you’ve worked in either the retail or the catering industry, you’ll understand the frustration of an angry customer storming over at you to give you an earful – all before you’ve even had the chance to mouth the words ‘can I help you?’.
Your initial reaction might be to tell this angry so-and-so where to go but you realise that this would be wrong – one, because you’ll most likely lose your job and, two, it’s simply poor customer service. Instead, try to empathise with your customer – put yourself in their shoes and try to understand where they’re coming from and why they’re so angry.
2. Have Patience
Patience is key when it comes to busy working environments. You may have a long queue at your checkout desk where a customer is taking a long time to pack up and move on, but you can’t be rude and hurry them along so you can serve the next customer.
You’ll find yourself in many instances where customers are confused and will need time to understand the solution. You must be able to offer them your time instead of allowing them to leave with a bitter taste in their mouth.
3. Be Consistent
You’ve woken up in a bad mood and arrived at work to face a difficult customer first thing in the morning. You’re generally pleasant and would brush off any negativity, but today you’re just not having it – so you snap, stoop to their level and return the same kind of rudeness.
This inconsistency not only damages your professional reputation but also that of the company you’re representing. It could also mean that you’ve lost the company a loyal customer – and a regular tip for yourself. No matter what your mood is, you need to be consistent at all times and offer the same level of service. After all, if you were a paying customer, you would expect just that!
4. Be Adaptable
No two customers or scenarios are the same, and you need to know how to quickly adapt to new circumstances. You can’t just fob off a customer to another department because you don’t know how to deal with the issue.
This is also relevant to learning new processes – you might be used to completing a task a certain way, but your boss has new methods in place which you need to follow. In this case, you should be able to find a way to shift to the new way of working.
5. Communicate Clearly
Clear communication is the pinnacle of great customer service.
Consider this little scenario: you’ve gone to the car garage to change your tyres, you’ve asked if they have time to check your oil and they’ve advised that they’ll include it in the service. You assume the oil check is free. You then go to pick up the car and pay for the service and notice a charge for an oil change. This miscommunication has given you a bitter taste and you won’t return to the garage again because of the broken line of communication.
So, if you’re wondering how to improve your customer service skills, always think before you speak so you aren’t misleading any customers. If you’re not sure, admit it and reassure the customer that you will find out what the solution is.
6. Be Knowledgeable
The more you know, the more confident you will be and, therefore, offer a better service. For example, if you work in travel, you can offer a higher level of service if you’ve personally visited the places that you’re trying to sell, rather than trying to blag your way through a sale. People can see right through it – and, don’t forget that they have access to Google to back up your claims!
Therefore, if you really want to wow your customers, you should learn as much as you can about your industry, company and the products and services you’re offering. And remember: you should never stop learning, so keep your eyes open and always listen out for industry news.
7. Build a Thick Skin
When dealing with a number of different characters on a daily basis, you need to form a thick skin to be able to handle complicated and often irrational people. Sometimes, no matter what you do for a customer, they will never be satisfied and you should be able to swallow your pride and take it on the chin.
Accepting harsh words and negative feedback isn’t easy, but in any customer service role you need to learn how to handle such situations in a professional manner, without letting the customer walk all over you.
Many customer service advisers make the mistake of not listening and just wait for the chance to reply. But showing that you’re actively listening can make a world of difference. You can do this by repeating what your customer is saying, asking questions as they’re talking or summarising the issue at the end of your talk.
You could also use empathetic phrases like ‘I can see how that would upset you’ or ‘I completely understand where you are coming from’. It will make your customer feel less defensive and it will show that you really are trying to help them.
9. Use Your Initiative
Using your initiative will show that you go the extra mile to help customers. Let’s say a customer has come into the store looking for a specific dress but you don’t have it stocked in her size. Instead of letting her go, bring a similar dress from the stock room that you think she will like.
You’ll not only make a sale but you'll also show that you’ve listened to your customer and taken into account what their interests are, while going above and beyond to help them and make sure they have a pleasant shopping experience.
10. Be Personable
Your customers will want to feel like they have access to real people and not automated systems and bots. Meaning, you should be able to offer a more personable service at all hours of the day.
Don’t set up automated replies through a third-party system that can send you down a rabbit hole. If the demand for your customer service is required throughout the evening, be sure to have a 24-hour support team on hand to attend to urgent issues.
11. Follow Up
Many employees resolve an issue and close the book moving on to the next one. However, a good trick of the trade is to follow up with customers to make sure that they’re satisfied with the service offered to them.
This could be done through a quick courtesy email or a link to a customer survey. This will let the customer know that you’re still thinking of them and have taken the time out of your day to ensure that they are happy with your service. This small gesture can even keep your people from moving to a competitor.
12. Treat Everyone the Same
Whether you’re dealing with a VIP client or an average Joe, you should always offer the same level of professionalism and effort. Word of mouth gets around fast, and if you’ve offered a less-than-stellar service, it’ll soon damage your reputation.
The point? Don’t skimp on the lower paying clients – they are still paying towards your salary!
A smile is infectious, whether it’s in person or over the phone. The customer will still be able to feel your warmth, which will automatically boost their mood. A sincere smile will make the client feel relaxed and welcomed.
Don’t try to force it, however; a fake smile is even worse than no smile at all and will only make the experience feel forced and impersonal.
14. Choose Your Words Carefully
The words you choose to use and the way you say them can make a world of difference when it comes to dealing with customers. It’s an important part of persuasion and can have a huge impact on the way your case will pan out.
Be sure to always use positive language in every situation. For example, let’s say someone wants to book a specific hotel but it’s at full capacity. Instead of simply saying, ‘Sorry, the hotel’s sold out until next month’, you could say: ‘The hotel is fully booked during your stay, but I will keep an eye out for any cancellations and ensure you’re at the top of the list.’
15. Manage Your Time
Good time management skills are essential for a busy working environment.
You should be able to establish when you really can’t help a customer, instead of wasting both your time and theirs.
If a certain complaint is taking too long, be sure to get assistance from a manager or another team member who is better equipped at handling the particular issue.
16. Learn to Read Your Customers
Being able to read your customers is essential; you should be able to determine their mood and decide on how you should deal with them. If a customer is really angry, you’ll need be understanding and empathetic, whereas if they’re upset, you’ll need to be comforting and caring.
This will also help you establish vital relationships with customers. They’ll remember how well you took care of them and dealt with their particular situation. And you may even find along the way that you have something in common, something you can bond over.
Overall, the key to excellent customer service is the ability to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and establish how you would like the problem to be dealt with. If you have great work ethic and an open line of communication, you won’t be able to fail.
Have you got any other useful customer service tips? Join in the conversation in the comments section below and let us know!