Customer Service, if done right, leads to increased sales, profitability, a great reputation, and creates an organization that people want to work for and with. I love helping people and that really is what I believe customer service is, “helping people when they need assistance with a service or a product”. Customer service is not always a pleasant experience as clients can be angry, rude and at times downright abusive. But, if handled correctly, you can create a great experience the customer will remember.
I started my career in hospitality, and it is probably the greatest work experience to teach the basic principles of customer service. The experience in a restaurant, bar, or hotel hinges on the client experience of service. To me, the 3 golden pillars of achieving excellence in service (in no order of importance) are:
Deliver on your promises
A simple statement, but quite often in customer service this is the cause of most of the issues. People often over promise and under deliver, and the customer walks away with a bad experience. Be truthful about what can be done and the time frames that it can be done in. If something goes wrong, tell the customer as soon as possible along with your solution to the issue. They would rather know the truth than be left in the dark, thinking that nobody cares about their problem or issues.
A smile costs nothing, but gives much. This is the first line of a poem my mother hung on the wall opposite my bed. Every morning and night I read this poem and went out into the world with a smile on my face. You don’t have to be in a face to face situation to give someone a smile. I always answer the phone with a smile on my face – people often know that I am smiling. I challenge you to try it! It makes you feel happy and your customer can’t help but to pick up on it too. Email and computer support can still convey that feeling as well, in the words you choose and how they are used. Practice it and you will see that a smile down the line, or on the screen or face to face, breaks the ice and makes the first 2 minutes a different experience for all.
Listening and Empathy
These are important life skills, in my humble opinion and I believe they are critical to delivering good customer service. Listen, and I mean really listen to what your customer is saying (and when it comes to email or online help, don’t skim read it as sometimes you will miss the true statement or issue). Empathize with them and before you know it, the communication lines are friendlier and easier to navigate. For me, the opposite of anger is not calmness, it's empathy.
I grew up in Australia in a town called Mackay (a coastal town near the Great Barrier Reef) where the sun was always shining and I had never seen four distinct seasons until I moved south to Sydney in my early 20’s. I started my career in hospitality in various roles from reception to Bar Management.
I have spent the past 20+ years working in the Financial Services Industry, in various roles within both large and smaller boutique financial planning companies. When it comes to financial planning, the customer service aspect is critical as nothing can upset people more than when their money and/or investments are involved. I am a full-time working mother with 2 beautiful girls who I tell every day to “Smile and be nice to everyone”. Follow me on Twitter.