In any career, at some point, you will be required to associate or assist clients or customers. Even if your dream career is to be a forest ranger in the most remote area in the country, you will inevitably find yourself talking to customers or clients at some point, even if customer service isn’t part of your overall job description. Within, we will explore why it is and will always be part of your job, and how to improve your customer service skills if you find they are lacking.
Customer Service Job Description Introduction
In a nutshell, you wouldn’t have a business without customers. It doesn’t matter if your customers are people shopping on your sales floor, professional clients ordering wholesale amounts of your product, or a client purchasing a service from you. Without your customers, you have nothing.
Customer service is, quite literally, an integral part of every single occupation. The degree might vary slightly from job to job, but it is always there. A retail sales specialist is involved in customer service on a daily basis. A chemist or researcher may only have to deal with a client or customer rarely, but the necessity is still there if they want to have their work funded. Beakers and test tubes don’t buy themselves, after all.
Spending some time improving your customer service skills can be a great way to improve your customer relationships as well as your overall chances for success.
Customer Service Objectives
The first step to improving your customer service skills is to set some goals and choose an objective. These goals should include things that will help you reach your objective. Read on for an outline of the customer service duties that you should incorporate into your daily routine, as well as some sample objectives.
This is going to be one of your primary duties in any customer service position. You are there to help your clients and customers decide which products or services will best suit their needs and to assist them in purchasing these items. Some jobs, like retail sales, will make this simple because almost all of the work is done by the marketing and signage in the store. Direct sales jobs are a little more difficult because in many cases, your paycheck is directly related to the number of sales you make every day or week.
This isn’t going to be a requirement of every customer service job, but it is often enough that it should be mentioned. It’s actually a lot easier than it used to be because in most cases, the computer or cash register does all the work for you. In the event that cash handling is one of your required duties, you will be expected to take money for purchases and provide the proper amount of change to the client. You will also be expected to process check, credit and debit card payments.
One of the most common customer service duties involves a variety of clerical tasks. You will be expected to answer phones, speak to customers, and transfer calls where appropriate. This task, depending on the product or service that your company provides, may also include obtaining, maintaining, or updating customer account information.
If a customer comes to you with a problem or an issue, you will be expected to help them solve it. If it is something that you are unable to resolve, then you will be required to find a fellow employee who can solve the problem. You won’t generally be expected to solve every problem, mostly because there will be some issues that are just out of your pay grade, so to speak. The chain of command is there for a reason and should be utilized if necessary.
Customers have questions. They may have an inquiry about your prices, your policies, or anything in between. This is where it pays to learn as much as possible about your company. Customers will expect you to have the answers to all of their questions. Don’t worry too much if you don’t have all the answers though, and don’t hesitate to ask someone who might know more. Chances are, if they don’t know the actual answer, they can point you in the right direction.
Inevitably, there will be some customers that are displeased with your product or service. Sometimes it is the fault of the customer (purchasing the wrong size clothing, for example) but you will still be responsible for handing their refund or exchange in accordance with company policy.
If your company handles the sale of items that need to be shipped to the customer, one of your duties will be to ensure that these items are packed properly so that they arrive undamaged, and shipped out in a timely manner. Items that arrive damaged or late tend to cost the company money because they have to be replaced on the company’s dime. This particular duty will also include dealing with the various shipping companies, like FedEx and UPS.
This is just a sampling of the duties you may be required to complete each day to make sure your customers are happy and your company runs smoothly. These are very generalized examples, and each job will have its own specialized duties as well. Other duties might include quality control for products, visiting job sites or client’s homes, or anything else your customer may require.
So now that you know what duties you will be expected to fulfill, what objectives should you be seeking in terms of your customer service skills?
A customer service internship, either paid or unpaid, can be a great way to learn all of the skills that you will need to become successful in a customer service orientated environment. These may be hard to come by, though unless you’re planning on heading into a business or service industry where internships are common.
The best way to learn and implement man of these customer service skills is to get a job, even a temporary or part-time job that is in a customer service-centric field. Pick up a part-time job at your Wal-mart or your favorite clothing store. While these may not seem like the best place to start, they are at their heart a customer service focused industry. Their bottom line relies entirely on the happiness and satisfaction of their customers, and learning to implement your skills in a high stress and fast paced environment like that can be a great way to prepare you for a more permanent career.
No matter what your overall objective is, learning to implement these duties and make them part of your daily life is the first major step toward a successful career.
How Can I Improve my Customer Service Skills?
Now that you know what skills you need to improve, how should you go about actually improving them? Well, you’re in luck because we’ve gathered together some of the best customer service trips and activities in the industry to help you get started.
Smile. The song from the music Annie has it right. You’re never fully dressed without a smile! You can’t get away with one of those fake smiles though. People can see right through a fake smile. You need a real, authentic smile that reaches your eyes. If you offer someone an authentic smile, 9 times out of 10 they will smile back at you and this improves the whole mood of your transaction.
Say Hello! – Your greeting is almost as important as your smile. Sam Walton, the late owner and CEO of the Wal-mart company, implemented his door greeters on a suggestion from one of his employees to try and improve the overall customer service orientated atmosphere of his stores.
Be Honest – Never, ever, under any circumstances, should you lie to your customers. Honesty is and always will be the best policy in this case. There is no circumstance where it is appropriate or necessary for you to lie to your customers. If you feel like your answer to a question or problem is going to cause someone to become upset, rely on positive language rather than lies.
Learn Everything – Make it a point to learn everything you can about your company. That way, when you are asked a question, you don’t have to rely on someone else to provide the answer. Watch how more experienced employees perform their jobs, shadow other team members if the opportunity presents itself, or simply observe everything around you and file it way for later analysis.
The Customer is Always Right, Except When he’s Not. – This is often the hardest thing for people new to customer service to understand. We’ve heard the admonition that the customer is always right or decades. The fact of the matter is the customer is not always right, but it is your job to make him or her think that they are right, even and especially when they are not.
These five basic tips are the skeleton that supports a good stable customer service body. It may seem simple, but these are actually more difficult to implement than you might think. Here are a few activities to help you hone your customer service skills before you ever set foot on the sales floor.
This exercise will require at least two people, though it can be done with more. The concept is simple: have one person play the role of the customer service representative and another play the role of the customer. Use this activity to play through different scenarios and then discuss how the person reacted and how he or she should have responded to the particular situation.
In larger groups, you can simulate a busy day by having multiple customers’ ganging up on the person playing the role of the representative.
Check out the Competition.
This will require a field trip, but can be done individually if necessary. Visit a location of a company that is in direct competition with your own. Don’t wear a uniform or anything that would identify you as an employee of your company. Just go in and experience their standard of customer service as a customer.
Once your team has completed this, gather together and compare notes. What did the opposing team do well? Where could they have improved? Is there anything that they did that you could introduce into your own customer service practices?
If you discover anything that your competition did well, draw up a plan to include something similar in your own practices. For an added challenge, take your plan to upper management and attempt to get your plan implemented.
Sometimes people will make their best suggestions if they believe that they can do so anonymously. To facilitate this, set up a suggestion box and put it in a common area such as an office or break room. Check it once a week and bring any suggestions that have been made before the team.
Using a suggestion box, you may discover a new customer service method or incentive plan that you never would have found otherwise. Discuss these suggestions and if the team agrees, find a way to make them a part of your normal customer service practices on a trial basis. If, after the trial, the suggestion proves successful, then it becomes part of the permanent protocol.
It doesn’t matter what career path you choose, at some point you will be expected to provide excellent customer service. If your skills are sorely lacking, hopefully, these tips and tricks can help set you on the right path. Try starting small. Greet every customer you speak to with a smile, and go from there. You’ll be surprised at the difference you can make in your customer service skills with a little bit of effort and a toothy grin.