Great customer service has everything to do with meeting your customers’ needs while making them feel important. Although this sounds simple, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Different industries require personalization to meet customers’ individual needs.
This is where the importance of a customer service policy comes in. If your company doesn’t already have one, you’ll want to remedy that. There’s no doubt that investing in your employees by offering different types of customer service training is a great place to start. So, what should be included in customer service training? Let’s start with some tips that are universal to customer service.
Take your time
There is a time and a place to rush; customer service is not one of them. The best customer service policies include a segment on treating your customer like they are your only focus, no matter how long the line or wait. Have you ever been on the receiving end of an impatient customer service agent? How did that make you feel?
The last time I ordered coffee at a new place where I didn’t know their menu by heart, I felt rushed and flustered. The barista looked at me with eyes wide open and full of expectation, ready to punch in my order, but I had questions! Do you carry oat milk? Is the cold brew on nitro? What do you call a medium? (Turns out, medium.) That experience left me wanting to go back to my old, out-of-the-way coffee shop where the baristas are friendly and patient, and make sincere small talk (which by the way, isn’t the easiest thing to do). If you always put yourself in the customer’s shoes, you’ll remember that this is probably their only interaction with your company for the day, rather than your 152nd customer to ask the same question that day.
Kindness is making a comeback in a big way. Not that it was ever out, but now more than ever people are realizing that everyone comes to the table with a story, and that story influences their behavior. Being kind and allowing grace are some of the best instruments to aid you in servicing your customer. That’s why you’ll definitely want to include a segment on kindness in your customer service procedures and processes.
A great example of this was a time when I was distracted at the store. Rather than being impatient with me, the cashier at Target simply asked me a question again, kindly, after I finished calming my kids or looking at my phone. Their kindness grabbed my attention. I was able to take a deep breath and refocus. How do you think that interaction would have gone if they had been rude or otherwise shown their displeasure with my distracted behavior? It likely would have taken much longer because I would have been agitated, and it would have likely made the people behind me in line feel uncomfortable.
As far as customer service training topics go, this one is a no-brainer. Know what your customers need before they do. You are the one who does your job every day, while this may be the only time this week, month, or year your customer comes to you for service.
You know a restaurant patron is going to want a drink and a menu right away, so have it ready. You know that a busy mom hauling her kids to the car service repair is going to need toys and snacks, have them ready. I actually pay more money to take my minivan to the dealership to be serviced. Not because they do a better job than the other repair places closer to my home, but because they have a quiet room where I can work virtually, and it’s ready with wifi and coffee! They also have a side room full of books, snacks, and toys to entertain my three-year-olds, who, shockingly, are not great at waiting on an oil change. I will always go to their dealership for service rather than saving a few bucks at another place close by that is less convenient for my current lifestyle.
Please and Thank You
Manners make a difference and go a long way to make your customer feel at ease. Keep in mind that there are different ways to express your appreciation other than the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. While those are wonderful, customers can tell when you are just reciting a rote phrase, rather than genuine care and interaction. Believe me, I know how difficult this can be. I’ve worked retail and the service industry most of my life, and it would be nothing to say the same phrase to dozens of customers in a single shift. But, by giving them my focus, making eye contact, genuinely smiling, and being attentive always made them feel at ease. I’ve been through restaurant customer service training seminars that actually taught me to trust myself when reading customers, and if it felt okay, to give them a tap on the arm or shoulder when handing them the check. Sure, it’s a small but intimate step (yet not so intrusive as to be creepy) that can go a long way to make your customer feel valued and like they weren’t just another table you needed to flip.
Another tip—use the customer’s name, and be sure to tell them yours! Again, this creates intimacy and can be a good substitute for that touch on the arm if you feel that the customer isn’t someone who would appreciate that. I make a habit to remember names of all my customers, especially regulars. Greeting them by name and asking if they want their usual is something that keeps them coming back. People love to feel known.
My hairdresser is especially great at this. Every time I’m in her chair she picks up our conversation from a few months ago. Not in any kind of forced way, either. She’ll chit chat about current events and then say, “I remember you telling me about your brother’s move, how did that end up going?” I don’t know if she actually remembers these things or if she takes notes, but either way, I’m thoroughly impressed and it’s the main reason I’ve followed her from salon to salon for the last 12 years.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen servers stand near a table in their line of sight, scowling and tapping their foot when they want a table who has already eaten and paid to leave, so that they can get sat again by the hostess. All that does is annoy the customer and it takes the server’s attention away from something else they could be doing to serve or help someone else. Don’t be that guy.
All in all, customer service is the frontline of your business. So, it makes sense to prioritize and train your employees in ways that will help you and your company stand out among the competition. There are unlimited resources online to help you accomplish this important task. For starters, take a look at this customer service training manual doc. Keep these tips in mind when training your colleagues who are in front of the customers each day. And remember that a little goes a long way when it comes to great customer service.
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