BSBCUS301 – Deliver a Service to Customers Copy
Provide Prompt Service to Customers to Meet Identified Needs in Accordance with Organisational and Legislative Requirements
Establish and Maintain Appropriate Rapport with Customers to Ensure Completion of Quality Service Delivery
In the last Element, we examined the importance of knowing what your customers want. We also discussed how you can use interpersonal skills to gain an understanding of this. In this Element, we will again be looking at interpersonal skills, but we will be examining how they can be used to build a solid rapport with your customers.
You may know this from your own experiences, but bad customer service is everywhere these days. On an average day, you may have experienced unmanned front desks, clueless staff, employees talking to friends on the phone, and managers who refuse to acknowledge a customer. Unfortunately, in many organisations, it is no longer an exception, in some organisations, poor service has become the norm.
Imagine the following situation:
You walk into a local store, and you have seen a product on TV, you are not sure whether this product is right for you and your needs, so you decide to ask a few questions before committing yourself to the purchase. You look around for someone to help you and notice a young man – he is busy and will not come over to see you. In fact, you notice that his eye contact has a distinct edge to it that makes you feel like he could not care less about your needs. You stand there waiting for someone, and with an air of annoyance, the man finally comes over to you, you ask about the product, and he says “it’s over there” and leaves …
What would you do? Go over and buy the product? Or go over to the door and exit? In all likelihood, you would do the latter. And you are likely to think to yourself, I am never returning here again!
This happens every day in stores across Australia, and it is an excellent example of how not to do things. A little effort and a bit of positivity can work wonders for customer service. You need to think to yourself ‘how can I look after this customer today’ rather than treating them as an annoyance, as so many people tend to do.
Ensure you greet people quickly, ask them questions, understand their needs, and offer them advice as appropriate.
It is important to be accessible to your customers. Everything is an interruption. A phone rings, someone comes into an office – there are all types of interruptions. But if a customer is right there, attend to them first before you do other tasks. That is why you are there, you are there to serve the customer, not talk to friends on the phone, or attend to a workmate’s enquiry before looking after the customer.
First impressions are vital, and this includes the way you introduce yourself to customers and potential customers. We will shortly discuss self-presentation and how it contributes to a positive image for the organisation. Your verbal and non-verbal communication must complement this. Consider the words you use, your posture, facial expressions, your use of eye contact and gestures—all of these need to match each other.
Remember what was said about the power of non-verbal communication: when they contradict each other, it is generally the non-verbal message which is believed over what was said.
Not all your dealings with clients will be face-to-face. A phone call is often the way you first meet a new customer or answer inquiries from the general public and/or regular customers. Your organisation may have guidelines for answering the phone and taking inquiries. In general, when answering the phone:
- Say hello or good morning/afternoon
- State the name of the organisation: “This is <company name> …”
- Then say your name: “This is (your name) speaking” and “How can I help you?”
- Listen carefully to what the caller has to say
- Make notes if you need to
- Ask the caller’s name if they do not provide it, e.g. “May I ask who is calling?”
- Write the name down if you are likely to forget it
- Clarify and confirm what the caller wants and take notes if necessary
- Provide the caller with what they want if you can or direct / connect them to someone who can help
- Takedown and confirm any contact details if necessary
- Restate what you are going to do, if necessary
- Ask them if there is anything else you can do
- Thank them – by name – for calling.
A further critical point with regards to customer service in the workplace is the way that you present yourself. Personal presentation, as well as the communication methods you use, are all critical to presenting yourself in the way that the customer wants to see, and helps you build rapport with the customers in your workplace.
Your image is built up from:
- Your appearance
- Your clothes
- Your cleanliness
- Your communication style
- Your manner.
People present themselves in a particular way to convey a specific image. A person’s appearance, clothes, jewellery, and hairstyle can convey messages about:
- Social status
- Financial circumstances
- Ethnic background
The way that you a lot about you, and in fact is critical to the way that people will respond to you. By varying your dress, you can come across as more professional and knowledgeable.
Many organisations use uniforms to help them with their presentation. A uniform presents a uniform way of looking among the staff and allows them to be consistent and professional.
If a uniform is not used, there will likely be a dress code stating what you may and may not wear. It may outline styles of clothing that are acceptable and unacceptable as well as colours that you may and may not wear. As a customer service professional, you need to look professional, so following these guidelines is very important.
One of the most important aspects of effective communication is rapport. Whether your communication is with one person or several hundred, to get the outcome you want, you need to establish a harmonious and friendly ‘connection’ (or rapport).
Next time you go to a restaurant, observe the people sitting with each other. Often what you will see is the people leaning toward one other, smiling, making eye contact, and mirroring each other’s movements. They are ‘in rapport’. Friends do it naturally.
One way of building rapport with someone is to mirror (not mimic) their non-verbal behaviour, such as posture, facial expressions, breathing rate, pace of speaking, and gestures. In this way, you are affirming them or providing positive feedback to them non-verbally. You may find you tend to do this naturally.
Specifically this means:
- Slowing or speeding up your speaking to match the pace of theirs
- Sitting or standing in a similar position
- Using some of the words and phrases that they use
- Breathing at the same rate as they are (if it is comfortable for you)
- Be receptive, be objective, and willing to hear what someone else has to say
- Guard against preconceived notions based on race, sex, age, or accent
- Empathize, strive to understand, as though you were in the person’s shoes.
Actually listening to your customers is one of the most effective methods that you can adopt for building rapport with your customers. Listen to what is being said, even if you think they are saying something else. Carefully examine their tone to determine how they are feeling and watch for non-verbal cues that may give you more clues into what is being said.
Sensitively and Courteously Handle Customer Complaints in Accordance with Organisational and Legislative Requirements
Provide Assistance or Respond to Customers with Specific Needs According to Organisational and Legislative Requirements
Identify and Use Available Opportunities to Promote and Enhance Services and Products to Customers
Handling Customer Complaints
One of the most challenging aspects of customer service provision is dealing with complaints. In this section, we will examine how to try and solve customer service problems.
Think carefully about the interactions that you have had with customers and think about how you have managed them.
An excellent process to consider is:
- To formulate a series of questions that allow you to understand what it is that the customer wants or what their point of view actually is
- You must actually listen to what it is that the customer has to say, if you do not listen, you will never understand
- To take your initial response and change it as a result of what you find out from the customer – we said a goal isn’t set in stone – take this literally!
- To respond to the initial questions and queries the customer might have
- Using your expertise in the area to find solutions to the problems or questions that they may have
- To recommend ways of moving forward
- To try to clarify what the consumer wants and how you will build a stronger relationship with them.
As you can see, this is really about the guts of the problem or issue that has arisen. To manage the interaction with the complaining customer and find ways to address their specific needs. Every customer is different, and thus will require different skills and solutions to address their needs.
Spending time before the interaction occurs thinking about what you can do to make things better is a good start, however, with an unplanned interaction, this can be significantly more difficult. You can still prepare, to some degree, by understanding your products well and finding ways to address these issues more positively.
Define what it is that your typical customer wants out of an interaction with your organisation and spend time thinking of ways in which you can work to make those interactions occur more smoothly, and if they don’t, what you can do to make things better. To this end, think about:
- How to begin interactions with customers
- Clarifying answers to commonly asked questions – a FAQ for yourself
- Planning questions that you will ask all customers to find out what they want or what they need
- How you plan to clarify their expectations of your service/response
- How much time you can allot to given situations
- What types of goals your customers typically have when interacting with you and the organisation.
Finally, let us consider service recovery, the process of resolving issues that have arisen in terms of the services being provided. You will never be able to fix 100% of problems 100% of the time; however, you can attempt to raise the level of your performance in this area as much as possible.
- What went wrong?
- What problem needed to be addressed?
- Why wasn’t it addressed?
- What reaction did the customer have?
- What could we have done differently?
Consider asking the customer:
- What would you have liked to have seen us do?
- What would have been the fair thing to do?
- What sort of compensation do you think is needed in this situation?
Then look beyond what they mention. Try to find ways to delight your customers and provide a level of service that exceeds what they may have wanted. This will allow you to have a customer for life.
Here are 5 specific steps to help you:
- Conduct your own survey
- Talk and meet with your customers
- Check your telephone manner periodically
- Make customer service a team effort
- Extend your efforts after hours.
Provide Assistance or Respond to Customers
Knowing about the diversity of traditional and cultural backgrounds of customers will not automatically rule out misunderstandings. Your beliefs, values, and customs, and those of the people around you have an important influence on the way you work, behave, and communicate. Culture is an integral part of your everyday life.
To be culturally aware means:
- Having a basic knowledge of cultural differences of people
- Being aware of the traditional and religious beliefs of people
- Recognising typical misunderstandings and knowing how to effectively deal with them.
Knowing about the diversity of traditional and cultural backgrounds of your colleagues or customers will not automatically rule out misunderstandings. It will take time and effort to ensure a good workplace culture.
- English is not always your customer’s first language
- Religious beliefs of our colleagues and customers can vary; this can influence food preferences, the way they dress, when they can work, and how they make decisions
- People have different perspectives regarding problem-solving
- There are many ways that people organise their work practices
- Stereotyping by background is inappropriate
- There may be contrasting ways in which people give simple instructions or directions to others.
If an embarrassing situation does arise, establish what the problem is, then act to correct the difficulty as quickly as possible. Basic rules for dealing with misunderstandings include:
- Sincerely apologise, respect the person’s feelings
- Don’t give excuses; others aren’t interested in what you can’t do, they want to know what you can do to rectify the problem
- Learn by your mistakes; when an incident has occurred, remember the situation, work out what went wrong, ask others, and learn from it
- Talk to friends and colleagues from different cultures, and of different religions, to find out what offends and why.
Promote and Enhance Services and Products to Customers
In this final section, we will deal with opportunities that you have to improve your service to a level above which the customer expects. To ensure that your customers are satisfied with the way that you are dealing with them, you need to understand how your customers think and the things that they are looking for in customer interactions with the organisation.
- What do your customers really want?
- Why are they shopping with you?
- What emotions do they feel?
- How do they shop?
- When do they shop?
Asking yourself questions like this allows you to identify ways in which you could change the way that you do business for the better. You will also find that people are loyal to companies for a reason. Discuss with your loyal customers why they always shop with you, to identify ways in which you could capitalise on your strengths and make your workplace a better, more efficient, and effective one in terms of customer service offerings.
Do not try and change the way your customers behave; instead, consider ways in which you can make sure that you adapt and change your processes to the way that suits them.
Some ideas include
- Survey your customers and look for answers to the questions outlined above
- Take feedback regularly – a suggestion box is often handy
- Learn from complaints that have been made
- Spend time talking with your customers
- Learn about the market you are in – who are your customers really?
- Make sure that your telephone greeting projects a positive welcome
- Bring your customer service staff together as a team – don’t have them work on their own. Improving service is a team event.
- Train your staff in ways that they can improve.
- Service should be provided to your customers in a prompt, efficient manner – the service must meet all the identified needs of the customer and be per your organisation’s requirements.
- Rapport is establishing a connection with your customers – it is important to the success of the delivery of quality service to your customers.
- Always ensure that you handle customer complaints sensitively and courteously.
- Customers with special needs or who require assistance should be dealt with per the policies of your organisation.
- Always ensure that you look for all opportunities to promote and enhance the level of service that you deliver to your customers