When it comes to the business world, customer service is what makes the world go round. Customers expect a lot from the companies they choose to purchase products and services from. When a company's customer service program cares for its customers in such a way as to elicit gratitude from them when their issues are resolved, it has achieved the purpose for which it was created. This type of customer service doesn't just happen overnight and takes a lot of hard work, practice, and patience for it to succeed.
Customer service begins with the shopping experience and continues long after a product or service has been purchased. People want to know that if they ever have issues with something they buy from their favorite store, they have someone to turn to for help. Companies with the most customer loyalty are those that are available at any time to answer the questions and resolve the issues their customers may have.
Customer service is more than just being a people person. Your employees must know how to read a person's reactions and adjust their attitudes as a means to keep themselves grounded and in control over the tone of any situation. Practice doesn't make perfect, but instead, perfect practice makes perfect. Let's look at five powerful customer service activities that businesses can partake in to improve their employees' customer service skills.
1. Become a Customer
Have delegates from your staff fully immerse themselves in the customer service experience of your business by using a service or purchasing a product. After they have become a customer and bought a product or service, get them to break down their experience from start to finish. Get their insights as to what could be improved and what the highlights of their experiences were. Also, have them contemplate how they could incorporate those insights into their specific role in the company to help improve the customer service experience for others.
2. Communication Skills
Training activities such as communication skills are crucial to helping your employees succeed in their customer service roles. The communication skills of your employees should be continually improved through training and practice. This type of training consists of:
- Face-to-face customer greetings
- Inquiry handling
- Establishing customer needs through listening skills and questioning skills
- Explaining your services
- How to maintain customer service standards throughout the training
The customer service standards you expect your employees to meet or exceed need to be clearly stated and explained. Spell out what is expected, such as the example of checking voicemail messages and returning calls within an allotted timeframe. Practical situations of how your employees' communication skills can be used should be discussed and practiced during training sessions to improve their skills and help them build confidence. Constructive criticism is key to helping your employees see where they need to improve but don't overlook the power of motivational feedback.
3. What Makes a Customer Service Experience Good or Bad?
Individuals view things differently. Two different customers may have the exact same experience and rate their experience utterly opposite from each other. Having your employees understand this concept can help them to interpret an individual customer's needs and adjust to meet those needs at that moment. This will help keep your customers happy with their experience and show that your business truly values them at the same time.
Having your employees participate in an exercise to explore what makes a customer service experience good or bad will also improve how they approach customer service. This type of exercise is best when used in a facilitated group training course.
Start by placing your employees in groups of two or three. The goal for each group is to describe one example of when they experienced excellent customer service and one example of when they experienced poor customer service. Once you have them in groups and have explained the objective of the exercise, you will need to:
- Get the participating employees to think about what they feel caused them to classify the service as poor or excellent. The groups will have 10 minutes to complete this step.
- While the groups are deliberating, use a flipchart and create a two-column chart with the headings of excellent service and poor service.
- When the 10 minutes are up, have the groups come back together and share their examples with everyone. Write down each group's main reason that they attribute to their poor and excellent customer service.
- Now that the groups have all come together, share a few or all of the experiences they have identified. Call attention to the flipchart and have your employees point out any commonalities between their customer service experiences.
- A core element of a customer's experience comes down to how responsive and helpful the person they are communicating with has been. Use this concept to elaborate on the definition of what customer service is all about, how an employee responds to the customer. How a customer feels, whether good or bad, when they are with an employee is a prime example.
4. View and Discuss a Competitor's Customer Service
Using a competitor's customer service as a topic and training tool can help your employees improve their overall customer service skills by breaking down what your competitor's customer service does well and how it may be lacking. Have your employees run through a few practical activities that involve calling a competitor to purchase a small item, use their service, or make an inquiry. Employees can benefit from an activity such as this by gaining an entirely new perspective of how customer service can be improved upon.
As a direct result, your employees will be able to recognize opportunities where they can provide a better customer service experience within your company. Having the perspective of both customers and customer service representatives can provide valuable insights on how to continually improve your customer's experience with your company. Different viewpoints should always be a focus as no two individuals are alike.
5. Handling Customer Complaints
Customer complaints and difficult situations go hand in hand when dealing with the general public. Employees can find either of these issues uncomfortable to deal with and may require further training on how to handle similar situations. You can have short sessions with tips that can help them to remain calm and in control. Incorporating practice in these short sessions will allow your employees to gain confidence when such a situation arises.
Visual examples are an excellent way to instill how to handle these types of situations, as well. Illustrate to your employees how to respond to a customer concern or complaint, followed by a bad example. This will help employees discern what techniques are required in a tough situation and how to incorporate them into their skill set. After demonstrating these techniques, allow your employees to practice in small groups of two to three people.
Your company's customer service experience can significantly help or hinder the growth of your business. Your customers want to be wowed when it comes to your products, services, and customer attentiveness. Helping your employees learn and improve upon their customer service skills will set your company apart from the competition and contribute to the overall success and growth of your business.