Customer Service Training 101: Quick and Easy Techniques That Get Great Resultsby Renee Evenson
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Your service team may represent the first, last, or only interaction point between your customers and your company. Your front-line service professionals make or break countless opportunities, leads, sales, and relationships every day. Completely revised and updated to meet the challenges of a new service landscape, the second edition of Customer Service Training 101 presents proven techniques for creating unforgettable customer experiences. The book covers every aspect of face-to-face, phone, Internet, and self-service customer relations, and provides simple yet powerful tips for: • Projecting a positive attitude and making a great first impression • Communicating effectively, both verbally and nonverbally • Developing trust, establishing rapport, and making customers feel valued • Confidently handling difficult customers and situations New features include “How Do I Measure Up?” self-assessments, and “Doing It Right” examples from the author’s extensive customer service experience. Every step-by-step lesson in this comprehensive and inspiring training manual is augmented with instructive sidebars, a summary of key points, practice exercises, and so much more.
“…must-have resource for any manager. Evenson has compiled an easy-to-read guide that can be implemented for any situation and any employee.” --Niche magazine
“… rule book providing winning game plans for exceptional customer service…it will raise the bar of excellence you want to be known for.” --Training Media Review
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CUSTOMER SERVICE TRAINING 101Quick and Easy Techniques That Get Great Results
By Renée Evenson
AMACOMCopyright © 2011 Renée Evenson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTaking Your First Steps: The Basics
ALWAYS REMEMBER, THE CUSTOMER IS THE REASON YOU HAVE A JOB
What has happened to customer service? More often than not, customers are met with boredom, indifference, and even rudeness or condescension. When they are greeted with a friendly smile, they are thrilled. When they are approached with a helpful attitude, they are likely to tell their friends. When they get good service, they are grateful. Customers should never have to feel grateful for being treated well. Being treated well should be the standard.
Think, for a moment, about your own interactions as a customer. In the past few days, how many times were you a customer? Did you go to the grocery store or the mall? Did you visit the post office, doctor's office, bank, dry cleaners, or your child's school? Did you eat any meals out? Did you call a company to ask a question or visit a Web site and order products online?
You probably were a customer more times then you realized. And as a customer, you have choices. How many stores are in your mall? How many doctors are in your phone book? How many restaurants are nearby? How easy is it to place an order by phone or online? If you are not happy with the service at one business, you have options. You can go elsewhere.
As a service provider, keep in mind that your customers have the same choices you do. If they are not happy with the way you treat them, they can go elsewhere.
How you treat your customers does matter. Think again about your own interactions as a customer. Which ones stand out in your mind? You are likely to remember service that is either outstanding or awful. Mediocre service is soon forgotten.
CUSTOMER SERVICE IS THE BASICS
We are going to take our first steps with the basics because:
The Basics Are the Basis of Customer Service.
A favorable first impression gets your customer service off on the right foot. You begin providing service the moment a customer comes into your business, calls you on the telephone, or e-mails you. When customers physically walk through your door, they take a mental snapshot of you and your surroundings. Without even thinking, they form a first impression. First impressions are also formed over the telephone and through online contact. How you speak, how well you listen, the words you choose, and how you write and respond using e-mail all contribute to first impressions. If a customer's first impression is favorable, you have laid the foundation for providing great customer service. If the first impression is not favorable, you will have to dig deeper to begin building your foundation.
Being courteous promotes a positive first impression. Customers appreciate courteous treatment. As young children, we learned basic courtesies: to say "please" and "thank you"; to pay attention and not to interrupt when other people speak; to treat others with respect; to play fairly; to say "I'm sorry." As adults, we sometimes forget how important these words and actions are. Courtesy words, phrases, and behaviors contain powerful messages. They show you care.
A positive attitude fosters a good first impression. Customers appreciate a positive attitude. A great attitude can help overcome a poor first impression. Similarly, a negative attitude can destroy a favorable first impression.
Being truthful and acting in an ethical manner completes the picture of the first impressions you make. Honesty is always the best policy. When you follow through on commitments and stay accountable for your actions, you show your customers that you value them and that they can rely on you to do the right thing.
By combining a favorable first impression, courteous treatment, a positive attitude, and ethical behaviors, you form the basis for a strong customer service foundation. Add effective communication skills, and you will be on your way to building long-lasting relationships with your customers. Once you master these customer service basics, learn how to effectively communicate, and develop skills to build strong relationships, you will confidently handle any customer in any situation.
When you work with customers continuously, it is easy to begin taking them for granted, but taking customers for granted is never acceptable. When you do, you stop caring about how you treat them. Eventually, you may view customers as intruders who take you away from your work. This was the view Bob's employees projected. To them, stocking shelves and talking to each other were more important. If you do not treat your customers well, you may soon have no customers.
Customers, on the other hand, have been conditioned to expect mediocre service. Customers who are given mediocre service will have mediocre attitudes about the business. When customers are valued and treated with courtesy and respect, they are more apt to do repeat business with you. Remember the important lesson you learned as a child: Always treat others the way you want to be treated. Treat others well, and they are more likely to treat you well.
Mastering the basics is simple once you learn and practice the four steps below. Then you will begin to build a firm foundation for providing great customer service.
Step 1: First Impressions Matter
Step 2: Courtesy Counts
Step 3: Attitude Is Everything
Step 4: Doing the Right Thing: Ethical Issues
If Bob's employees treated Sally better, she would not have walked out of the store. She left because they did not value her as a customer. They did not lay a foundation for giving great customer service.
STEP 1 FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER
First impressions are mental snapshots you take when you first encounter a person or situation. They include a person's looks and actions: general grooming and cleanliness, clothing, tone of voice, attitude, body language, and posture. Together, these elements make up an individual's personal style. First impressions do matter. They matter a lot. When Sally took her mental snapshot at Bob's, it did not develop well. Even if the employees were well dressed, had neat hair, and wore clean clothes, their lack of courtesy and poor attitudes spoke volumes.
When they ignored Sally, they told her loudly and clearly that they did not value her as a customer.
Appearance Is the First Thing Customers Notice About You
The first step to making a good first impression is your appearance. An unappealing appearance can be an obstacle that blocks customers from forming a positive first impression. You may have to sacrifice your personal style to please others, but your appearance at work needs to fit your business. Otherwise, you may have to work harder for your customers to become comfortable with you.
Wear Appropriate Clothing for the Type of Work You Do
Wear the type of clothing that fits the character of your business. If you work in a five-star restaurant, you will dress quite differently than if you work in a fast food restaurant. When in doubt, always lean toward dressing conservatively. Save your party clothes for parties. Save your torn jeans and old tees for hanging out with friends. No matter what type of clothes you wear to work, you do not have to spend a fortune on your wardrobe. Wearing well-fitted and appropriate clothes will go a long way toward presenting yourself successfully. It does not matter how much you spend; what matters most is how your clothes fit you and your environment.
Make Sure You Are Groomed
Being groomed means your hair and fingernails are clean and neat; your face, body, and teeth are clean; your clothes are clean and pressed; your shoes are polished; your hair is styled; and your overall image is professional. Put all that together, and you present a groomed look.
If you do not have a full-length mirror, buy one. Look in it every day before you leave home.
Maintain a Relaxed and Open Demeanor
You can wear nice clothes, be clean and groomed, yet still convey a negative first impression. Your body language counts as much as your grooming. Whether you present an angry, bored, or friendly demeanor, it shows. Hold your head high, and keep your facial expressions friendly. Make eye contact when talking with someone. And smile as often as appropriate. A smile goes a long way in establishing a good interpersonal relationship. When you smile, you feel better. When you smile, you make others feel better.
Doing these three things will help your customers form a positive first impression of you. Doing these three things shows that you care about yourself.
STEP 2 COURTESY COUNTS
Young children are praised for doing and saying the right things. When a young child says "please" and "thank you," people respond positively. When a young child says "I'm sorry," people readily accept the apology. When children wait to speak without interrupting, people notice how well mannered they are. When children learn how to play well, people comment. Children who receive positive reinforcement develop valuable skills for getting along with others.
As an adult, you are not going to receive constant praise for being courteous, but people will appreciate these behaviors. When you act courteously, you send a positive and powerful message. When you make a conscious effort to use courtesy words and phrases, they will soon become a natural part of your vocabulary and personality.
Say Please, Thank You, and You're Welcome
We were taught these words as young children, and they were reinforced frequently. Do you remember being prompted, "What do you say?" Do you remember responding with "please" or "thank you" or "you're welcome"? Pay attention to your internal prompts. Make it a habit to incorporate these words into your vocabulary and use them frequently.
Say Excuse Me and I'm Sorry
Growing up, you learned that when you did not understand someone, when someone was in your way, or when you inadvertently did something incorrectly, you said "excuse me." When you did something wrong or made a mistake you learned to say "I'm sorry." Saying "I'm sorry" can be particularly difficult for adults. Get in the habit of adding this to your vocabulary. The next time you do something wrong, say "I'm sorry." Not only will you make the other person feel better, you will feel better. These two words go a long way in repairing relationship damage.
Use Sir and Ma'am
Using these words shows a sign of respect. When you call a person sir or ma'am, be careful how you accentuate these words. The wrong emphasis can make you sound sarcastic or condescending. The right emphasis can make you sound respectful, no matter your age or your customer's age.
Use a Person's Name When You Know It
Everyone enjoys hearing his or her name, so if you know your customer's name, use it. Also be sure to give the customer your name.
Use Yes Rather Than Yeah
"Yes" sounds professional, intelligent, and respectful. Period. Save "yeah" for personal conversations. Better yet, get into the habit of always using "yes."
Say It with a Smile
This is an old saying with a timely meaning. In our speed-of-light-paced world, smiling when you speak does come across loud and clear. Whether you are speaking face to face or by telephone, your customers will see or hear the smile in your voice.
Common courtesies include things you should not do in the presence of customers, including talking on a personal call, smoking, eating (or having food at your work station), and chewing gum.
STEP 3 ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING
People may not remember the color of the shirt you wore or the exact words you said, but they will remember your attitude. Projecting a positive attitude is another way to make a good—and long-lasting—impression on others. It really is all in the presentation. The "IT" factor is the attitude you present to the world.
Attitude Is Everything
Good or bad. Whether your attitude is good or bad, it is what people are going to remember about you. Remember that you may not get a second chance to interact with customers. Even if you are not a naturally upbeat person, you can train yourself to have a more positive attitude. It begins by learning to appreciate.
Appreciate the Good in Yourself and in Others
Appreciation can be learned by changing your self-talk (the words you use when you think) to positive thoughts. This goes for thoughts about yourself as well: Change "I'll never do this right" to "Next time I'll do better." This also goes for thoughts about your customers: "Look at this old lady. She doesn't look like she has a clue about television sets. She is going to be tough to deal with." Change this mindset to: "I'll do what I can to help this customer. She mentioned she doesn't know a whole lot about all the new type sets, so I'll do my best to explain them all." Changing your self-talk helps you appreciate yourself and others. When you find yourself falling into old habits of negative self-talk, make a conscious effort to change your thought process.
Believe in Yourself
When you stop your negative self-talk, you will start to believe in yourself. Saying things such as "I'll never do this right" only sets you up for failure. Changing your self-talk to "Next time I'll do it differently" sets you up for success. When you begin to believe in yourself, you will begin to feel more confident. When you feel more confident, you will begin projecting a powerful image to others. To your customers, you will project an image of someone who believes in yourself, your company, and your products.
Believe You Can Make a Difference
When you believe in yourself and gain confidence, you will naturally progress to believing that you can make a difference in the lives of others. When you believe you can make a difference, you will find ways to make it happen. At work, look for ways to make a difference by being helpful, interested, and caring toward your customers.
Keep an Open Mind; Do Not Stereotype People
When the employee thought about the older woman who did not know what she wanted and was going to be tough to deal with, he was accepting a negative stereotype about older people before he even talked to her. That older woman could surprise him. Remember first impressions? Stereotypes can skew first impressions. Do you want people to stereotype you? When you change your thought process and stop stereotyping others, you will change the way you present yourself.
Maintain Your Positive Attitude
Negative circumstances can easily zap anyone's positive attitude. If someone has upset you, or if you find yourself feeling stressed, try to get away from the situation for a few minutes. Getting away will not only help you calm down, it will give you time to think through the situation and put things in perspective. The best remedy for maintaining a positive attitude is to take care of you every day. Get enough rest. Exercise your body and mind. Eat healthy foods. Do something fun. Do something just for you. When you do these things every day, you will find it easier to stay upbeat and positive.
We all carry emotional baggage. When you arrive at work, leave your emotional baggage at the door. Never make your customers and coworkers suffer because you are having a problem. Remember that everyone has problems. Use your work time to put aside your personal baggage.
STEP 4 DOING THE RIGHT THING: ETHICAL ISSUES
The last step of customer service basics deals with ethics. Being ethical means being honest, doing the right thing, and being accountable for your actions.
Always Be Honest
Being honest at all times will make your life far less complicated. When you are truthful, you do not have to remember what you said to whom. Being truthful is important to your customers. When you are dishonest, people find out. Maybe not right away, but the truth always has a way of coming out. When people find out you have not been completely honest, they will no longer trust you.
Excerpted from CUSTOMER SERVICE TRAINING 101 by Renée Evenson Copyright © 2011 by Renée Evenson. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
RENÉE EVENSON has worked in the customer service management field for 25 years, 15 of them as a customer service manager at BellSouth Telecommunications, where her duties included staff training and development.
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