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Career Focus

Customer Service With A Smile

By LISA TRUDEL - January 17 2019

Have you ever watched Storage Wars on TLC?  On a recent episode there was a mime helping the storage guys.  Miming was a popular art form in the 1970’s and is a form of silent art that involves acting or communicating using only movements, gestures and facial expressions. 

Seeing the mime made me ponder: are there any jobs for Mimes in Toronto? I checked www.charityvillage.com and sadly there was not one Mime position listed.  In fact, I was only able to find one Mime job at www.gigsalad.com under the “circus” section.  

While searching for a Mime job, I noticed that out of about 100 various job postings, every single one requested the skill of customer service. What exactly is “customer service”?  Is it always verbal? Is it the opposite of Mime?  

According to www.study.com the definition of customer service is:  “the act of taking care of customer needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high quality service and assistance before, during and after the customer requirements are met”.

Customer service is unquestionably an essential workplace skill that includes promptness, politeness, professionalism and personalization. However, as a consumer you might agree with the results of a recent survey conducted by Curiosity at Work for the World’s Worst Customer Service Awards:  airlines, delivery services, cable companies, wireless phone carriers and internet providers.  

If you work in these sectors,  or wherever you work,  or want to work, here are 6 basic points to help improve your customer service skills:

1) Counting Courtesy:

First impressions really do matter.  These include the following 8 points: general grooming, cleanliness, clothing, voice tone, attitude, body language, posture and saying “please” and “thank you”. Together these elements create a personal style.

2)Identifying Needs:

Customers come to a business for a reason and sometimes they might not be sure about their needs.  Part of customer service is uncovering needs and discovering what the person wants. Try using open-ended questions that begin with “what”, “why”, and “how” to encourage people to talk, and then summarize the customers’ needs to clarify that you are both on the same page.

3)Seeing Eye to Eye:

When you are face-to-face with customers it is important to remember that they come into your business because of the products or services. However, they will decide to come again only if they are treated well. From the moment a customer walks through the door, you have the opportunity to offer a warm and inviting welcome. That greeting includes what you say and what your customer sees. Help customers by showing, by answering questions and making sure they are satisfied before leaving. It will make them feel appreciated and valued.

4) Putting Your Best Ear Forward:

When you are dealing with customers over the phone, your only means of communication is the give and take of listening and talking. If you do not listen effectively, it can be difficult to respond effectively, so listening is critical. Focus on your customer, remain unbiased and you might hear their attitude by paying attention to the tone of their voice. Concentrate on the caller, write down or input key points, and listen without interrupting. 

5) Writing What You Mean:

Email and texting is customer service using words. When keyboarding is your means of communication, chances for miscommunication increase or decrease depending on your writing skills, subject line, salutation, and closure. With business correspondence, try to keep your message short and to the point. When customers see a long block of print, chances are they will skip parts of the message. Use short sentences and action verbs to express yourself, and keep the shortcut lingo such as lol, btw, omg and bff for your personal emails.  Never hit the send button until you have reread your message.

6) Calming Storms:

Difficult customer service contacts can happen at anytime, so when a customer complains, look at it as an opportunity to improve. Handling difficult customers requires special skills and it starts with assuring the customer you can help. Listen carefully, investigate what went wrong, and identify the root of the problem. This will lead to the best solution. Thanking the customer for allowing you to make things right enables you to restore your relationship and following up makes you stand out as someone who truly cares about customer service.  

In summary, customer service is more than the obvious of always smiling  when dealing with customers. It is projecting a positive attitude, conversing verbally, handling difficult situations professionally, creating trust, and communicating nonverbally like a mime.

To learn more about how to improve your customer service skills, or to improve your job search, contact your local Employment Ontario Career Centre. 

This article was submitted by Lisa Trudel, Career Specialist with the Centre for Education & Training. She works at their Parliament Employment Services location in the historic Cabbagetown district of downtown Toronto and can be contacted at: ltrudel@tcet.com


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