Businesses across industries are beginning to appreciate the importance of training their staff in customer service.
This is in response to the behavior of customers, because they’ve learned to expect only the very best treatment.
With many companies basically offering the same product or service, the main differentiating factor really boils down to how customers feel when dealing with your organization, no matter how small this may be. No one is exempt from the need to acquire customer service chops, but these skills are crucial for frontliners in the service industry.
Here’s a guide to making sure your people are trained and ready at their respective service helms to cater to patrons.
1. Have a skills roadmap.
To be able to know what types of training your staff will need, it’s important to have a clear picture of each job role. This needs to be well documented and revisited every so often by HR as this will be a prerequisite for building the skills roadmap.
This roadmap includes a timeline for training sessions needed and goals for each session. This gives the employer a good idea of what investment is necessary to make as well as gives managers a good idea of how they should deploy resources.
Ultimately, this also gives the staff something to look forward to. Knowing that a skills roadmap was created for them will encourage them to be more accountable in their respective roles, since the company is investing in their personal development.
2. Establish a clear complaints handling process.
Your staff needs to be very clear about what to do when something goes wrong. They must be made to understand that it’s perfectly normal for things to go beyond their control, but they need to know how to recover from such undesirable situations.
They need to be able to do this using four non-negotiable actions:[greybox]
Acknowledge what went wrong. Regardless of who is at fault, it is very frustrating for a customer to have his or her complaint brushed aside as an annoyance, or worse, completely ignored altogether. Let your customer know you got his or her message loud and clear.
Apologize. Often, a customer just wants to hear the words “I’m sorry. I’ll fix it.” Make sure you do. And be quick about it.
Empathize. Saying key statements such as “I’d be very upset if this happened to me, too” or “I can see how this is an inconvenience for you” can mean the world to your customer. Your staff must learn that when your customer is upset or emotional, it’s not the time for them to be justifying whatever went wrong.
Listen without making interruptions. This includes avoiding mental interruptions such as thoughts like “Hmm, I wonder what I’ll have for lunch today” or inwardly badmouthing the customer that is giving you a hard time. This way, when it’s your turn to talk, you’ll know. Maintain friendly eye contact and relaxed, non-defensive body language while keeping an adequate professional distance from your customer.[end_greybox]
Assist your customer with the complaint even if it’s not your area of expertise. Nothing is more annoying than being bounced around from one person to another.
Inform him or her of what action is going to be taken, and make it a point to ensure that the issue will be closed within a reasonable amount of time.
3. Set some industry standards.
Certain industries require certain standards for customer service.
For example, for places where customers go to find relaxation, such as spas and salons, be strict about implementing the no-talking policy for staff and customers in the common areas. Therapists should not be using their mobile phones to communicate during treatments or during work hours either.
In the food industry, you cannot stress the need for cleanliness enough. The proper precautions to ensure sanitation and hygiene must be implemented.
4. Empower your staff.
Although we want our staff to always put their customers first, they should also be equipped with the know-how to deflect abusive customers. Signs such as name calling, cursing and physical threats should not be taken lightly.
Customer service is all about honoring your patrons, but never at the expense of your own staff’s safety.
5. Set regular refresher courses.
Humans learn best by repetition. Remember that training must happen regularly to reinforce good habits and replace bad ones.