Customer Service Skills

See also: Customer Service Tips

How you treat your customers can make the difference between a loyal returning customer and a dissatisfied customer who, through word-of-mouth, impacts negatively on your organisation and takes their custom elsewhere.

Satisfied customers may, through conversations and story-telling, become voluntary ambassadors for your organisation and are highly likely to use your services again.

However an unhappy customer is a lost opportunity and, even if they do not voice their dissatisfaction directly to the organisation, may become a negative influence by telling others about their poor experience. They are highly unlikely to use your services again and will instead go to a competitor.

We have all been customers in various situations, either in a restaurant or shop, buying a car, at the bank or insurance broker, and we have all experienced both good and bad service, in person, on the phone and online.

This page is an introduction to customer service skills and demonstrates how good customer service skills can make a significant difference to the success of your organisation.

Imagine the scenario...

You are on vacation and taking a leisurely lunch in a restaurant. You are quite obviously a tourist. You have placed your order and have been served drinks. You have been waiting for 15 minutes for your food to arrive but can see the restaurant is busy; you are in no particular hurry.

What happens next will change how you view your experience of the restaurant:

  1. Nothing much happens but the waitress comes by to say she’s sorry that the food is taking a long time and how they are short-staffed in the kitchen today.  Eventually your food arrives and is good.
  2. You wait another 10 minutes before attracting the waitress’s attention to ask how much longer your lunch will be. She shrugs and goes to the kitchen to find out.  Eventually your food is served but there is no apology for the wait.
  3. The waitress knows you’ve been waiting and comes over to explain that the restaurant is busier than expected and apologises.  She offers you another round of drinks on the house and reassures you that food will be served soon.

In the first example situation, most people will pay the bill, leave an average tip and depart. Their experience was average and they are not likely to specifically remember the details in the future.

In the second situation, most people will pay the bill and leave a poor tip (if any). They may complain to the manager either at the time or later via a phone call or email, or perhaps leave a poor review on Trip Advisor or other site. If talking about the restaurant in the future they are likely to comment on the poor service, possibly exaggerating and turning a 30 minute wait into an hour.

In the third situation, most people will pay the bill, leave an above-average tip and maybe make a point of thanking the waitress personally. They will remember how they were treated and are likely to give good recommendations to others when talking about their trip.

We have all experienced something similar to the three examples above - we all know the difference good service can make.

You may be somebody, or know somebody, who will not buy from a certain brand or organisation because of a bad experience that they had a long time ago. "I won't fly with that airline again. In 1985 I had a bad experience..."

Customer Service is Marketing

Everything you do that is customer-facing is marketing. Every phone call, every email and every face-to-face interaction with a customer is all marketing.

Organisations can and do spend many years and lots of marketing budget building a positive, trustful relationship with the public. They think carefully about the type of customer that they wish to attract, the image their brand portrays, and how they communicate the benefits of their products or services to potential customers.

All of that hard work can be undone in a few minutes with bad customer service.

The Customer is Always Right

The key to good customer service is to treat the customer as you would wish to be treated if the tables were turned.

Everybody is different and customers will have different aspirations, motivations and reasons for choosing your company.  By understanding the needs of your customers you can achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction, continued business and a more enjoyable working experience. If you work in an area where tipping is common you will likely do better financially too.

Visit our other pages and work on improving your customer service skills, today:

Start by improving your Interpersonal Skills and learning more about communication. By developing an appropriate attitude and understanding of people you will discover ways to further improve your customer service skills.

If you deal with customers or clients selling a product or service, or just communicating on behalf of an organisation, then we recommend you read our page, Customer Service Tips: Working Towards Customer Satisfaction.

We have many further pages that can help you improve your interpersonal skills and developing your listening skills is a useful first step. Developing your verbal and non-verbal communication is essential, as are the personal skills covered in our personal presentation section. 

You may also find our writing skills section useful for dealing with email enquiries and complaints.