Customer service can make or break a company. Good results come from:
- knowing what works
- selecting employees who are willing to apply what works
- training the employees to improve their skills
- monitoring progress
- praising good performance.
Your company policies may vary from some of the tips below, but this list provides a good start. Some of these tips apply to phone etiquette particularly, but most apply to all situations. And many apply to interacting with co-workers as well as external customers.
See if you can find one or more tips you have not yet implemented with your staff, or one that you have requested but is not yet fulfilled in actual performance.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and positive regard for everyone. When people disappoint you, remember patience and compassion: you never know what’s going on in their world.
- Cultivate the attitude that fellow employees are your internal customers and deserve great service as much as external customers do. That’s teamwork.
- Smile. Be cheerful. If you’re on the phone, smiling puts a “smile” in your voice.
- Maintain good body language.
- Answer the phone by the third ring.
- Give your name and department or company name.
- Speak clearly and somewhat slowly.
- Listen carefully; take notes to aid memory when necessary.
- Take messages courteously and in written form.
- Ask questions tactfully.
- When talking to customers or coworkers, paraphrase what you think you understand so that customers will feel understood and appreciated, and so that misunderstandings can be discovered. The psychological impact is phenomenal.
- Address the individual by name.
- Focus on what you CAN do; avoid saying what you CAN’T do; avoid saying “I don’t know.”
- Affirm your desire to do everything you can to help.
- Ask if it’s OK before you put someone on hold while you obtain the necessary information.
- Avoid a long hold time.
- Always remain polite, cheerful, nurturing, concerned, sympathetic, even if you need to be firm.
- Transfer calls carefully; give the individual the direct number in case the transfer fails, and make sure the transfer worked before hanging up, if possible.
- Avoid a string of transfers: don’t transfer unless you believe that department WILL be able to help. Call the other department yourself, if necessary, to get a definite answer.
- Work hard to remember the other person’s paradigm. Remembering what things are like for him or her keeps you sympathetic and patient: customers don’t know the company website as you do; they aren’t familiar with company policies as you are. Not every co-worker knows what you know.
Many of these tips seem like common sense, but it’s amazing how many employees fail to follow them. A good staff development program will do more than train employees. It will also monitor performance and provide encouraging follow-up and accountability. All of this takes time, but is well worth the effort. Customers appreciate the effort, and employee morale is much, much better.
© 2013 Caryl D. Schlicher A Bridge To Excellence
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