Customer Service Skills

One of the most important customer service skills you can develop is the ability to understand and effectively respond to the customer’s needs and concerns. For a long time, sales has been perceived to be mostly about trying to convince the customer that he needs the product. Excellent customer service starts by first taking the time to get to know the customer, his situation, his vision, his frustrations and his goals. Our Customer Service Skills seminar will guide you in how to get a grasp of these key issues. Once you have a good handle on what is on his heart and mind, then you will know how to offer the customer helpful solutions that are attractive to him because they have value to him.

Is Customer Service Outdated

Tom Peters tells us that 70% of customers hit the road not because of price or product quality issues, but because they did not like the human side of doing business with the provider of the product or service. Research conducted by The Forum Corporation supports this fact and indicates that 45% of these customers said they switched to another company because the attention they did receive was poor in quality.

Customers today are often treated like a nuisance, instead of the reason that a company is in business at all. Products and services continue to increase in cost. Customer service, on the other hand, continues to decline. Dealing with surly cashiers who seem to have more important things to do than ring up your sale are the rule rather than the exception. Having a product delivered to your home means giving up hours out of your day to wait. It seems that businesses today have forgotten how valuable customers actually are. Without customers, no one earns a paycheck.

In the Pursuit of Wow, author, Tom Peters, talks about two things that companies known for outstanding service do better than anyone else - they step out and they stand out. Delivering WOW service is a commitment to do whatever it takes to serve the customer, and that commitment must be imprinted on the hearts and minds of every single employee. Only then can any organization stand apart from their competition.

Thousands of books and articles are written on the topic of customer service. Executives constantly tout the importance of providing superior service, and everyone seems to agree that it is essential to long-term business success, especially in today’s competitive marketplace. Why then don’t more company’s deliver?

Most of us have come to believe that outstanding customer service is just a thing of the past. Mediocre service (or worse) is the norm. When a company actually delivers great service, it is almost too good to be true.

Providing great customer service is not that difficult, is it? IBM founder Thomas Watson is attributed with saying, “if you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work. Words to live by! Customers want to work with those businesses who demonstrate a sincere desire to help them with anything they need, and they are willing to pay for it. Yes, they want products to work and services that meet their needs. More importantly though, they want someone to care when something goes wrong.

During my 20-year corporate career, I have watched more than one employer overcomplicate the issue. Consistently, corporations today are more internally than externally focused. Time is wasted producing study after study trying to determine if customers are satisfied, and if not, why not. Then, months may go by while fancy customer service program is designed, which is supposed to measurably improve customer satisfaction. In the meantime, nothing changes.

Mediocre service is delivered because corporations today do not hold every employee accountable for delivering world-class service. Everyone’s job is deliver service that knocks people over, and research suggests that the winning, customer focused companies treat their employees well. They motivate and reward employees who deliver outstanding service. Bonuses and raises can certainly be tied to customer service performance. Or, employees can be rewarded and publicly acknowledged when they put service about all else. Both approaches make it crystal clear that service to the customer is the organization’s number one priority.

Corporations can also empower employees - through action, not words - to do whatever it takes to keep customers coming back. The Ritz-Carlton, winner of the 1992 Malcolm Baldridge National Quaility award gives every employee the autonomy to serve customers in any way they deem appropriate, which includes giving hotel housekeepers the ability to spend up to $2,000 to solve a customer problem. That is what I call empowerment.

Based on my own professional experience, I have defined four rules crucial to delivering winning customer service:

Rule #1: Listen! When customers complain there is a reason. More importantly, it is an opportunity to learn something, so hear them out without interrupting or arguing.

Rule #2: Don’t take it personally. Customer complaints are about products or service that did not live up to their expectations or the marketing hype. Taking it personally, getting defensive, or getting angry only makes the situation worse.

Rule #3: Offer a sincere apology for the inconvenience. Put yourself in your customer's shoes. Remember what it feels like when something you have purchased did not do the job it was supposed too, or caused an even bigger problem than the one it was supposed to solve.

Rule #4: Never say, “It’s not my job or my department or my responsibility.” If you work at the company that made the product or sold the service - it is your job! Make a personal commitment to do whatever it takes to fix the problem even if it is not in your job description.

In the end, only those companies with an ongoing commitment to listen and serve can consistently keep their customers delighted.

� Barbara K. Giamanco
Chief Talent Officer

Customer Service - Make a Lasting First Impression

Customer Service Training
"If you work just for money, you'll never make it, but if you love what you're doing and you
always put the customer first, success will be yours."
Ray Kroc

Suggested Reading

180 Ways To Walk The Customer Service Talk
By Eric Harvey

The Big Book of Sales Games (Big Book of Business Games)
by Peggy Carlaw, Vasudha K. Deming

BE OUR GUEST : Perfecting the art of customer service
by Disney Institute

The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services
by Paul Dunn, Ronald J. Baker

CustomerCentric Selling
by Michael Bosworth

Moments of Truth
by Jan Carlzon

Clued In : How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again
by Lewis Carbone

Customer Service: Building Successful Skills for the Twenty-First Century,
by Robert W. Lucas

Zingerman's Guide to Giving Great Service,
by Ari Weinzweig

What Clients Love: A Field Guide to Growing Your Business
by Harry Beckwith

The CRM Handbook: A Business Guide to Customer Relationship Management
by Jill Dyché

by James L. Heskett

Think Like Your Customer : A Winning Strategy to Maximize Sales by Understanding and Influencing How and Why Your Customers Buy
by Bill Stinnett

ROI Selling : Increasing Revenue, Profit, and Customer Loyalty through the 360 Sales Cycle
by Michael Nick, Kurt Koenig

A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional
by Donna Knapp

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