By Nancy J. Lewis, MS, SHRM-CP, PHR, RCC
I am dismayed at the level of customer disservice that seems to be the norm of the day. When you go to business, too many times you are treated like you are an inconvenience. I ponder in my mind, "Aren't we the reason you are needed here?" When you go to the gas station and want to pay at the pump; only to find that it doesn't work. You enter the station and the cashier is on the phone talking to someone and never acknowledges you with a hello, or I am sorry you had to come in. Really!! This is unacceptable in an age where consumers use the video part of their phone as quickly as they will send a text. Now your bad service goes viral, and you have to spend time and money fixing your PR. How about simply investing in training your staff with basic customer service skills that help build a culture of service?
When I am talking to clients and encouraging them to provide basic customer service skills; they tell me it costs too much. They go on to say why invest in employees because they will be leaving soon. I remind them of the following comments. Someone once said, "What if you train them and the leave?" The other side of this question, "What if you don't train them and they stay? Keep in mind the employees are the face of your business and your brand. What messages are employees sending to your customers that you don't even know? How much business are you losing because of poor customer service? Smiles are free, professionalism is still a good thing to exhibit and engaging the customer while they visit your business is simply good manners.
I still experience great and amazing service, but I encounter poor service way to often in person or on the phone. One of the most bizarre experiences I had that should make it into the Hall of Fame for poor service is the following story. I called an online company seeking information about a problem I was having. It was a major ordeal just to finally get a person on the line. In my communication with the representative, I asked her to contact me with the department or manager that could answer my question or guide me through the maze. She said, "We work in silos, and I can't help you." I told her I understand that, but can you transfer me to someone who may have more knowledge on the manner? After 5-10 minutes of conversing on this topic, she replied, "I can't help you, and I am getting ready to end this call." In other words, she was letting me know I am getting ready to hang up on you. I was shocked and simply hung up first. This was the first time I had ever had a customer representative tell me something like that. How could someone have the nerve to say that to a customer? I persisted, and through research and diligence, I found someone in the company to help me and let them know her name, time of day we spoke and our conversation. I also made some recommendations on the need for retraining or releasing that staff member.
Consider the following basic strategies that are still in style for customer service.
1. Greet the customer with a smile and hello.
2. If they had to wait, thank them for waiting. (It doesn't matter how long they had to wait; acknowledging this diffuses frustrated customers).
3. Ask them how you can help them and then let them talk.
4. Don't interrupt the customer when they are talking.
5. Be professional at all times.
6. Focus your attention on them. (Don't text or pull out your phone)
7. Remember the customers are the reason you are there.
8. Know the procedure for dealing with angry customers, so when it happens, you are aware of the process to follow.
9. Thank the customer for their patronage.
These are just a few customer service tips that are helpful to restore what seems to be a lost art...great customer service.
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