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9 ways to deliver excellent customer service

Leading a customer service team? Have the team members use these 9 tips for delivering excellent customer service:

  1. Rely on winning words and soothing phrases. A simple but sincere “Thanks for your patience” or “I’m listening” can go a long way toward defusing a holiday shopper’s frustration, anxiety, or panic. Develop a repertoire of short, easy to remember phrases around issues that are important to customers. Practice until the words come naturally.
  2. Communicate with silence. Remaining silent while your customers are talking is a basic courtesy, and nodding tells them you’re listening and understanding what you hear. An occasional “uh huh” or “I see” tells them you’re still listening without interrupting.
  3. Make customers feel seen. Making eye contact acknowledges that you see your customers as individuals. But there’s a balance to be struck here: staring can make your customers uncomfortable, too. Also keep in mind that eye contact is governed by specific cultural rules. A good rule to follow is to give as much as you get.
  4. Never underestimate the value of a sincere thank you. Thanking customers when they offer comments or suggestions says that you value their opinion. Thanking customers for complaining says that you value their loyalty. Customers who tell you they are unhappy are giving you a second chance. And that’s quite a gift.
  5. Use the well-placed “I’m Sorry.” Don’t assume that you’re not allowed to say “I’m sorry” when a snafu occurs. Actually, a sincere apology delivered in a timely and professional manner often heads off potential further problems. When you show your willingness to make sure your customers receive what they expect to receive, you relieve them of the need to even think about starting an argument.
  6. Never deny a customer’s problem. Problems are an undeniable part of the hectic, stressful holiday shopping season. And problems exist when the customer says they do. You can’t wish a problem away because it is something no reasonable person would be upset about, because it’s not your fault, or even because the customer made a mistake.
  7. Fix the person first. Real problem solving cannot happen until the issues are out on the table. And that requires getting past a customer’s emotional reaction. Breaking through the icy calm defenses of an upset customer is just as important as coaxing a “raging red” customer out of a temper tantrum.
  8. Listen and then probe for information. Customers, particularly upset customers, don’t always explain everything clearly or completely. Ask questions about anything you may not understand or need clarified. Then, when you feel you have identified and clearly grasped the problem, repeat it back to the customer for confirmation.
  9. Ask the customer for problem-solving help. Involving customers in generating solutions not only starts to rebuild the relationship, it gives them the feeling that your business really is interested in satisfying their needs. You’ll find that most customers bring a sense of fair play with them and will often expect far less than you’d think.

These tips are adapted from the book, Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service, Fifth Edition by Performance Research Associates, Inc., Edited by Ann Thomas and Jill Applegate.