Tips to Improve Customer Service
Working Towards Customer Satisfaction
Regardless of the type of contact that you have with customers, whether it is over the phone, face-to-face, in a restaurant or shop, in an office or financial institution, in the entertainment or tourist industries, good customer service skills help everybody.
A happy, satisfied customer is likely to return and/or tell others about the good experiences that they had when dealing with your company – word of mouth recommendations from friends and colleagues are very valuable (see our ‘Customer Service Skills’ page for more).
This page contains some simple tips that you can use to improve your customer service skills, enhance the customer’s experience and increase satisfaction.
The term ‘Customer Service’ is diverse and covers a multitude of industries and businesses.
The following list is generic - you should adapt and change the emphasis of these tips based on your situation.
A customer buying a coffee is different from a customer buying a new car and a client booking into a hotel is different to a client applying for a mortgage. Follow any guidelines your company has for customer service.
This is the most simple and often the most powerful tip for customer service (and most other interpersonal interactions).
Smile. Smiles are contagious – usually when you smile at somebody they’ll smile back at you. Do not pretend to smile, or produce a false smile since these are easy to spot and send the wrong messages. Instead relax, gain eye-contact and smile naturally. This will help the customer or client to feel at ease and welcomed, and you’ll come across as friendly and approachable, setting the scene for a more positive interaction.
If you are talking to somebody on the telephone then you can still smile – your voice sounds different when you smile and are happy. Clients and customers are more likely to want to talk to a cheerful person with an enthusiastic personality and by smiling while you talk you can help to project this.
Make the Customer Feel Welcome
Use an appropriate greeting to make your customer feel welcome. Customers nearly always have a choice of which businesses and organisations they use, they didn’t have to pick yours and they don’t have to pick yours in the future.
Start positively with a warm, sincere welcome; but don’t overdo it! “Good Morning”, “Welcome”, “Thanks for stopping by” are all simple introductions and you can follow up with “How can I help”, “Are you looking for something in particular today” or some other appropriate comment to indicate that you are there to help and that you are happy to help. Continue communicating as appropriate, relax and be as natural as possible – if necessary steer the conversation around the product or service you want to sell. You don't want to come across as being pushy or too complacent so try to be natural and avoid sounding as if you are reciting a script.
Never complain to a customer about your organisation, your day, how busy you are, the management, your colleagues or anything else that may lead the customer to develop negative feelings.
You are unlikely to be able to help all your customers effectively if you don’t listen to their needs.
By not listening you can become very frustrating to the customer and may lose a sale or repeat visit. Listen to the customer’s needs, empathise and find the best solutions.
Learn Your Business – Be An Expert
If you are selling cars then learn the features and specifications of the models you have (and those of your competitors), if you work in a hotel learn about the business, how many rooms there are, the history of the building, when breakfast is served. If you work in a bank then learn the advantages and disadvantages of the various products you sell and which product suits which type of customer the best. Make sure that you know more about your business than the customer does, be able to answer questions about your business or organisation even if they are not related to your normal field of work.
If you don’t know the answer to a question then say so, NEVER lie or make up an answer; if possible find somebody who does know the answer. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer/client questions that will give you a better understanding of their needs.
Be True to Your Word
Only ever offer a customer or client something that you are sure you can give them.
It is better not to mention a delivery date and then deliver tomorrow than it is to say you’ll deliver tomorrow and then don’t. It is better to tell your hotel guests that the fire alarm system is being tested in the morning than let them find out for themselves. Stick to deadlines, make sure you turn up promptly for any appointments and never make promises you cannot keep. If situations change then let the customer know as soon as possible.
Be Memorable – For the Right Reasons
We tend to remember positive and negative experiences more vividly than average day-to-day ones. Try to make every customer’s experience a positive one that they’ll remember and talk to others about.
Be helpful, be courteous and polite – give a little extra if possible, even if it is just some advice or extra information about the product or service they are buying or interested in buying.
If appropriate, and you need to be careful here, try telling a joke or introducing an element of humour; if successful you will add to the positive experience of the customer.
You may also find our page: How to be Polite useful.
Perhaps you are developing a career in customer service or just working in the field for a short period?
Enjoy the experience – customer service is a great way to learn about and practise your interpersonal and communication skills.