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If you think quality customer service begins and ends with ringing up the consumer, bagging her items and shooing her out the door, you're falling short of the goal. The whole purpose of providing good customer service is to get your customer back through those doors -- as often as possible. And if she brings a few friends along, so much the better.
Regardless of whether you're parked at a cash register or seated behind a headset in a call center -- good customer service is earmarked by the same few characteristics: a friendly greeting, open-ended questions, pertinent and timely responses and an amiable closing that encourages your customer to return. If you manage to up-sell a few products or services in the process, that's good, too. When you work as a customer service representative, it's all about the nice.
Your customer approached you because she has a specific need -- she needs this dress in another size, she can't log-in to her network or maybe her cell phone stopped working, and she's come to take advantage of the replacement plan. This is where your service can make or break the reputation of the business you represent. To provide the answers that the customer needs, you must be well-versed in the product or service you're offering. If you resolve her issue in a timely way and to her great satisfaction, you've made a loyal customer for life -- exactly what your company wants in a customer service attendant.
Even "no" can sound like "yes" if presented in the right way. Maybe your customer's warranty covers only repair and not replacement. The way in which you present this information has a huge impact on how well it's received. A customer service attendant should never be confrontational, or what Forbes calls, "kicking the cat." Refrain from fighting with your customer at all costs, and put yourself in the shoes of the person you're helping. If you wouldn't gain anything by listening to an endless lecture on things you should have done differently, he isn't going to either.
Lock in the Sale
Even if you're not selling products or services -- even if you're sitting at a desk, directing tourists to the alligator exhibit down the hall -- how you conduct yourself has a huge bearing on whether the folks you're dealing with ever return. Be professional and knowledgeable, but most importantly, be friendly. Smile like you mean it, and invite your customers to return again. If you have incentives available -- coupons or invitations to special events -- now is the time to present them. Leave your customers with a sweet memory of their visit, and they'll be back to see you again and again.
Anne Goetz shares her parenting and career experience with North American Parent, Hagerstown Magazine, c0ws.com, Lhyme.com and a variety of other online and print publications. A mother of two with a degree in communications and a long history in management, Goetz spends her spare time hiking, camping and blogging. She is the author of the site, An Unedited Life: The Ultimate Blog for Freelance Writers.
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