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Exceptional Customer Service Skills Make You an Asset
Regardless of the type of job you’re applying for, good customer service skills are likely to be a critical component of the position. Whether you’re dealing directly with consumers or producing goods or services for customers you’ll never see, prospective employers want to know you have the customer’s best interest at heart with all the work you perform.
What Is Good Customer Service?
Good customer service isn’t necessarily about giving the customer everything he or she wants; it’s more about doing everything you reasonably can to ensure the customer ultimately has a positive experience with your business. In other words, even if you can’t “fix” a customer complaint, being polite, professional and working to the best of your ability to resolve customer issues in good faith is considered good customer service.
Elements of Good Service
Exceptional service has a variety of characteristics, including:
- Respect for time
- Personal attention
- An understanding of what you can and can’t do for the customer
Before the Complaint
Ideally, a culture of quality service and customer care prevents complaints or problems from materializing at all. This can be accomplished by having customer service protocols in place within a business. Protocols should include:
Directives as to how various customer complaints should be handled, such as referral to a manager, refund, product replacement, or complimentary goods and services.
Information on what you, as an employee, have the power to do. A frequent customer complaint occurs after an interaction with an employee who says, “I don’t know”; “I’m not authorized to do that”; or, “It’s not my department.”
Ongoing customer service training should be based on real-life examples. Role playing is a great way to teach customer service skills, with one staffer playing the role of the customer, the other, the employee. This approach involves everyone in the training session with troubleshooting the issue in real time, based on the company’s policies and practices.
What Is Your View of Service?
If a prospective employer asks you to share what customer service means to you, use what you know about the company to craft your response. Before your interview, research the business’s customer service policies on their website and view their FAQ. This should help you respond in a way that reflects your own personal approach to good service, while also demonstrating you’re aware of the company’s existing policies.
An employer may also judge your service skills by asking you how you handle stress or conflict or how you deal with unhappy customers. Emphasize your ability to remain calm, professional and in control of your emotions at all times, with an eye to ultimately leaving the customer with a good impression of the company.
Another interview technique is to ask prospective employees to give examples of how they’ve handed irate customers or service complaints in the past. Be prepared with a scenario to share, ideally, one that highlights the effective way you handled a customer and delivered a positive outcome for everyone involved.
Be Specific to Your Industry
Service means different things in different lines of work. For example, customer service in a medical setting might include keeping wait times to a minimum, actively listening to patients’ concerns, allaying fear and calling later in the day to ensure a patient is following all discharge instructions. In a restaurant setting, however, good service means promptly greeting and seating patrons, accurately conveying specials, answering questions about menu items, ensuring prompt delivery of food and creating a pleasant dining environment. To impress a potential employer, tailor your answers to be specific to your industry.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.