Customer Service

What does Customer Service actually mean?

Really think about it; Customer Service.

It seems like 99.9% of businesses say they have great customer service, but when I enter or even call establishments, I tend not to see the “great service” they were previously claiming.  Maybe I caught them on a bad day? It happens.  Maybe I caught them during a busy time? That happens too.  Or maybe, their definition of customer service is different than mine? Customer Service isn’t just over-the-phone call centres taking calls and “trying” to help out. Customer Service can be everything and anything.  How you’re greeted by calling a store or walking into a shop is customer service.  A waiter or waitress explaining the specials to you is Customer Service.  Invoicing and returning calls is customer service too.

I grew up in a predominantly Italian household in the late 80’s and 90’s and was raised Catholic. ( Religion has nothing to do with my point.) I was taught and steadily reminded of the golden rule; Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Whether playing with my siblings, or talking to an adult or even with my friends at school, I tried to apply that to my everyday life, although its hard sometime to do so.

When I started working in retail over 5 years ago, I applied the same golden rule to my workplace.

I’ve been shopping before, and numerous times I’ve had to search for the item(s) myself or even had to jump to nudge or rock an item into falling down so I was able to purchase it because there was no sales associate anywhere, or the ones I did see were on their phone or talking to other employees.

After a while I started receiving a lot of compliments about the type of service that I was providing, but thought I was just doing my job.  Until, customers started telling stories or previous employees at other stores and how they would treat customers.

I decided to take a step back and really think about how Customer Service should look and created a short list.

  1. Be aware of your body language
    • This goes for the customer and the employee. When approaching or being approached take a moment to study their body language. Do they look irritated? Happy? In a hurry? If you can make a solid assessment, you will know right off the bat how to start talking to the customer.  If the customer is in in a hurry or irritated, they aren’t looking for a conversation. Most likely, they want to be in and out of the store, and are coming in for a certain item(s). If happy, the customer tends to want to talk, not just about the product or item, but about anything.
  2. Listen Listen. Listen.
    • Customer’s who need help, will have questions for you.  Let them talk and you listen.  How can you help the customer if you aren’t sure exactly what they need or want? You can guess or assume, but you know what happens when you assume. Let the customer explain themselves because a lot of the time, they are expecting the process to be painful or to take a long time because of their past experiences.  Let the customer be in control and you can guide them in the right direction.
  3. Attitude goes a long way
    • The same way you can read a customer’s body language they can read yours.  It only takes a moment for the customer to form an opinion, right or wrong, about the person you are and the service you will provide them.  Act like you want to be there helping them. Don’t act like you would rather be doing something else.  When an employee takes pride in their work and customer service, it not only shows the customer you want to be there but also sets a great example for the rest of the employees to follow.
  4. Lighten the Mood
    • There aren’t many people who actually want to go and shop, and thats why internet shopping has sky rocketed in popularity over the last decade.  Customers would rather relax in the comfort of their own home well away from packed parking lots, long retail lines and walking around a store.  If you try and make it a fun and casual experience for the customer, then the shopping and purchase won’t feel like as much of a chore.
  5. Deliver on your Promises
    • When talking and helping customers, don’t just say things that you think they want to hear.  Tell them the truth.  Be honest, and let the customer know what their expectations should be with the product, service, delivery, return policy, warranty, etc…  You should never over sell and under deliver.  If you aren’t sure about an answer to a customer’s question, let them know that you will have to talk to a supervisor to find the answer.  This shows you care about their questions and concerns and want to do a good job.  Worst case scenario, you under promise and over deliver.  But never make a promise you aren’t 100% certain you can keep.