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Webucator's Free Customer Service Tutorial

Lesson: Developing Responsible Customer Service Skills

Welcome to our free Customer Service tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Customer Service Training course.

Customer service is the bridge between the customer and the company. A variety of responsible customer service skills are required for successful customer service. In this lesson, we will discover how the following general skills will enhance any employee's abilities to provide excellent customer service.

  1. Good people skills.
  2. Active listening.
  3. Problem resolution.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn how to develop a positive attitude.
  • Learn about going a step beyond what is expected.
  • Learn how to deal with customer complaints.

Developing a Positive Attitude

A positive attitude is much more than just being happy. It is a state of being that will provide you with multiple benefits, such as:

  1. Improved health.
  2. Improved relationships.
  3. The ability to focus and get more accomplished.
  4. The satisfaction of succeeding more often.

A positive attitude comes from your subconscious mind; it is not something you can put on and take off at will. It is difficult to have a positive attitude at work if you don't have a positive attitude in the rest of your life.

Some techniques you can use to help develop a positive attitude include:

  1. Using positive self-talk.
  2. Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly.
  3. Taking time for yourself away from work.
  4. Surrounding yourself with positive people.

Good People Skills

One of the most important skills to have to provide great customer service is the ability to get along with people. People come with different attitudes, personalities, and communication styles.

In the last lesson, we discussed dealing with a variety of customer styles. Some additional tips on dealing with customers are:

  1. Smile. Greeting the customer with a smile and pleasant voice will put the customer at ease and could even diffuse any unpleasant reaction the customer may be having.
  2. Don't take the customer's negative comments personally. Chances are the customer is feeling frustrated about something else entirely and taking it out on you. You are the company to the customer, and therefore comments made about a product or service may be directed to you, but are not about you personally.
  3. Don't let a negative experience influence your reaction to the next customer. Everyone will experience a negative interaction at some time, but it is important to be able to let it go and greet the next customer with a smile, regardless of what happened in the last customer interaction.

Check for Understanding: Developing a Positive Attitude

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

In this exercise, please respond to the following questions:

  1. Good people skills do not include which of the following?
    1. Don't take customer's negative comments personally.
    2. Smile.
    3. Play the game and pretend to care about your customer.
    4. Don't let a negative experience influence your reaction to the next customer.
  2. Consider the following scenario and then respond the questions at the end.

    SCENARIO:

    Miranda: That last call upset me so much! I am still shaking. I just don't think I can take any more. This job is too hard on me.

    Michael: Wow, I am sorry you had such a bad call. Are all your calls like that?

    Miranda: No. But when I do get a call like that one, I just want to quit! The customer insulted me and called me "incompetent."

    Michael: Well, I'm sorry about that, but you need to remember that the customer was just venting, and not personally attacking you.

    Miranda: It sure sounded like he was attacking me.

    Michael: Take a deep breath, shake it off, and remember all the nice things most of your customers say to you.

    Miranda: You are right, Michael. Thanks. This job really isn't so bad. I just need to stay focused and have happy thoughts.

    QUESTIONS:

    1. What was Miranda doing that made her feel so bad?
    2. How did Michael help Miranda's attitude become more positive?

Solution:

  1. C. Play the game and pretend to care about your customer.
    1. Miranda was taking the customer's negative comments personally.
    2. Michael reminded Miranda that the customer was not attacking her personally, and that she had many positive interactions with customers.

Going a Step Beyond What Is Expected

Excellent customer service can make the difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer. A satisfied customer will still seek other options if they are available, but a loyal customer will come to you first and is likely to stay with you, even if the price is higher. Going above and beyond what is expected is a great way to turn satisfied customers into loyal customers.

For example, imagine two hotel chains that offer comparable rooms and services, but one of the hotel chains emphasizes the importance of providing excellent customer service in all employee training. Now imagine that in both hotels a guest shows up at the pool in their swimsuit just as a hotel staff person is closing the pool for the night. The employees at the two hotels react as follows:

  1. Employee #1: "I'm sorry. The pool closes at 10 pm. You just missed it. It will be open again at 7 am. Have a great night's sleep."
  2. Employee #2: "You made it just in time. I was about to lock up, but I can come back in ten minutes to do so. Enjoy your swim!"

Employee #2, who works at the hotel that emphasizes the importance of providing excellent customer service, went above and beyond what was expected. If a guest receives this level of customer service in all dealings with the hotel's employees, he or she is apt to become a loyal guest of that hotel.

Active Listening

One way to determine how to go that extra step is to listen to your customers. Active listening skills will help you discover things you can do that mean something to the customer, don't cost the company a lot, and are not offered by your competition. Some active listening skills include:

  1. Focus on the customer. Don't try to multitask when you are talking to a customer. If you are preoccupied with your keyboard, a computer screen, or even other customers, you will not be paying attention to what your customer is saying.
  2. Make eye contact. Looking at your customer and acknowledging what he or she is saying by nodding your head, using small words like "ok" or "uh-huh" will let your customer know you are paying attention.
  3. Don't interrupt. Let your customer finish what he or she is saying before you speak and then ask questions or make comments that are appropriate to the discussion, again letting your customer know you are paying attention.
  4. Provide feedback. Use paraphrasing or parroting skills to clarify what the customer is saying. This will not only ensure that you have the right information, it will also show your customer that you care about him or her.

Going the extra step does not mean you have to spend a lot of money or even go far out of your way; it is the little touches that will make the difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal one. Here are some examples of how to ensure your customer leaves with a lasting good impression of you and your company:

  1. Smile and make eye contact as the customer enters your business. Many times a customer is not greeted at all, or the receptionist just pushes a sign-in sheet in front of the customer without making eye contact and barks out, "Sign in please."
  2. Before ending a conversation with someone on the phone, ask if there is anything else you can help with. If something you hear during the conversation makes you think of something you can offer that will help the customer, be sure to mention it.
  3. Efficient and effective problem solving will impress your customer. Looking at problems as opportunities to either teach or learn something, and making the resolution process a pleasant one will give your customer the feeling that you and your company are competent and easy to work with.
  4. When your customer asks questions, never mislead him or her by making promises you cannot deliver on or stating information about your product or service that is not true. If you can't do what the customer wants, say so, and then find someone who can, even if it is the competition.

Check for Understanding: Going a Step Beyond What Is Expected

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

In this exercise, please respond to the following questions:

  1. What does active listening mean?
    1. Listening while walking or performing some other activity with the customer.
    2. Multitasking while listening to a customer.
    3. Paying close attention to the customer and acknowledging what is being said.
    4. Listening to more than one customer at a time.
  2. How would you handle the following situation? You are talking to a customer on the phone when another customer comes in and asks you a question about the product you sell.
    1. Turn your back on the walk-in customer, and keep talking to the customer on the phone.
    2. Say, "Can't you see I'm on the phone? Just wait a minute, please."
    3. Ask the phone customer to hold just a minute and then take care of the walk-in customer.
    4. Smile at the walk-in customer and politely tell him or her you will be available in a few minutes. Then finish your conversation with the phone customer.

Solution:

  1. C. Paying close attention to the customer and acknowledging what is being said.
  2. D. Smile at the walk-in customer and politely tell him or her you will be available in a few minutes. Then finish your conversation with the phone customer.

Dealing with Complaints and Problems

It is inevitable that sometime in your career dealing with customers you will have a customer who has a complaint. When this happens, you need to be prepared to handle the complaint without alienating the customer.

The problem resolution process is no different in customer service than it is anywhere else in the business. No matter how perfect your processes are, there will be problems. The key with customer service and problem resolution is to create a process that will be so painless for customers that they will not be afraid to come to you with future problems.

Problem Resolution

Things to consider when creating a problem resolution process for dealing with customers' complaints include:

  1. Speed. The process should convey to the customer that you feel his or her problem is urgent and you will work to resolve it quickly and efficiently.
  2. The customer is right. Make the assumption, at least to start the discussion, that the customer is actually right. Conduct your initial investigation with the idea in mind that the customer's complaint is valid.
  3. The customer is wrong. If you discover a customer is wrong, remember that we all make mistakes. Do not blame the customer, but use the experience to teach him or her something, if appropriate. Focus on resolving the problem, not on the cause of it.
  4. Take ownership of the problem. Even if you are not the one who will eventually resolve the problem, you are the first contact the customer has and you need to take ownership of the problem, moving it along to the right person, and then following up to make sure it is taken care of.
  5. Follow up. After the problem has been resolved, take the extra step and call the customer to check and see if everything is still OK. Find out if the customer needs further assistance and inform the right people if more help is needed.
  6. Continue to serve. The next time the customer comes in, make sure everyone is aware of the history and acts accordingly, continuing to provide excellent customer service.

Customers will remember how they are treated when they present a problem to a company. If the company representatives act responsibly and treat customers fairly and with respect, no matter what the outcome of the process is, customers will respect and appreciate that, remaining loyal to the company.

Check for Understanding: Dealing with Complaints and Problems

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

In this exercise, please respond to the following questions:

  1. Even if the customer is wrong, fair and respectful treatment by the company will result in:
    1. Losing that customer to the competition.
    2. A loyal customer.
    3. An angry customer.
    4. A customer who will demand retribution.
  2. Taking ownership of a problem means:
    1. Paying the customer for the problem.
    2. Resolving the problem.
    3. Sending the customer to someone else.
    4. Taking responsibility for the resolution of the problem and following up with the customer.
  3. Consider the following scenario and respond to the question at the end.
    1. McKinley hired your company to create a resume, cover letter, and job application packet for a job he is interested in. He provides you with some information and then tells you to make up the rest. He says he needs to look good for this position, but does not have the proper educational credentials. He says it is OK, everyone does it. When you refuse to lie on his resume, he threatens to complain to your supervisor that you are not doing the job he hired you to do. How do you handle the situation?

Solution:

  1. B. A loyal customer.
  2. D. Taking responsibility for the resolution of the problem and following up with the customer
  3. Your thoughts should include the ethical dilemma of creating a false resume and the effect it could have on the credibility of your company. Some methods to handle McKinley without alienating him include explaining that incorrect information on a resume could lead to problems after being hired and you do not want anything like that to happen to him.