Businesses rely on customers for their success. This means that in addition to the primary service that employees offer, customer service is an important part of every job and the business's future. Whether at a grocery store, hotel, restaurant or thousands of other businesses, every employee no matter his or her title needs to be ready to help customers, either directly or indirectly.
Despite the importance of customer service, in many of these businesses there's often still room for improvement among the employees. Here are some tips to help employees improve their rapport and helpfulness with customers in any situation.
Sometimes employees can come off as disinterested, rude or cold to customers simply because they're nervous. Employees who are more used to stocking a shelf or washing dishes may be caught off-guard when asked a question by a curious customer, but this should not be an excuse for being unfriendly.
According to the Houston Chronicle, employers should work to instill a sense of relaxation in their employees when talking with customers. Professionalism is important, but employees shouldn't be so professional and proper as to come off as callous or unapproachable. The newspaper advised that small business owners take the effort to have casual, non-work-related conversations with customers.
Emphasize and incentivize customer service
Some employees may not excel at customer service simply because they don't understand its importance. Entrepreneur magazine told employers to talk to employees about what customer service actually means to the business and their position in the company. For some employees, understanding the importance of this job is all it takes, while others may need the push that comes with rewards and incentives for a job well done. Giving out gift cards or prizes for positive feedback is a great way to interest even the most distracted employee.
As a customer, there's nothing worse than needing help and not being able to get it. Whether they're looking for a particular item in the grocery store or waiting in a hotel lobby with a specific question, it's important to have an employee who's easily identifiable as someone who can help. In this way, physical appearance can play an important role in customer service.
From their hair to their work shoes, employees should look professional, presentable and ready to help. Sometimes nametags or buttons help, while other times a simple smile can be even better. Make it easy for curious or confused customers to approach and ask their question.
When an employee is fielding a question, it's very possible the answer is "no" or "I don't know." This is OK, because it's the truth. However, talk to your employees about phrasing answers in a positive tone. For example, rather than saying "no", workers can help customers find an alternative or put in orders for the item when it becomes available.
Listen, listen, listen
Listening may be the most critical aspect of customer service. Although there are tips and tricks to improve customer service, nothing can replace plain-old listening. The trouble is that so many employees are distracted by other tasks or thoughts that customers often aren't heard as well as they should be. Employees who take a break from everything else and really listen to and converse with the customer will do the best, and customers will notice.
Customer service is largely about problem solving. When you have smart, talented employees who are capable of solving a customer's problem, the only things left is to help them with the way they interact to enhance the experience. A business with happy customers is much more likely to thrive than one with poor customer service.
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