In the world of customer service, it’s all about being positive. Nowadays, it is an experience, remember. Customers want to have a good time, they want to feel special and they want to know they are getting good value for their dollars and their time. Any negative elements erode that positive feeling, so that is what we want to avoid. But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) sometimes things don’t go according to plan…
I’d like to focus on three elements that can shape the interactions your team has with your customers. First is language, possibly the most obvious. What we say matters. Second is body language and tone. This may not be as obvious, but it’s actually even more important as it can affect customers more deeply. How we say things and how we act matters a lot. Third is something that comes from the second point but I want to stress it on its own: a sincere smile. That can matter the most, especially when things don’t go well.
LANGUAGE: We don’t like to hear the word “no” – it’s limiting, disappointing, even frustrating. When as customers we can’t have what we want when we want it in the size and colour we want it, then we’re not happy. And as customer service people we are trained to make our customers happy. So, how do we meet in the middle?
One of my employers used to have a saying in their training manual: “Never say no without an alternative.” It makes sense, but in the interest of focusing on the positive I’d like to adapt that:
Always be prepared to offer an alternative, or at least be empathetic, when you cannot fulfill a guest’s request.
Staff need to know that if they focus on a “glass half-full” approach, they will explain situations in a more attractive way to their customers or guests. If they are thinking “no”, then what they say can sound like they don’t actually want to help.
BODY LANGUAGE & TONE OF VOICE: You know how they say dogs can smell fear? Well so can customers 🙂 Customer service professionals have to be just that – they have to look and act the part. Even if it’s in a funky store like The Gap or a casual restaurant, customers still expect confidence and knowledgeable assistance from the staff, and they won’t be happy if what they see is someone who looks sloppy and mumbles or lacks enthusiasm. The customer’s first thought at that point is often, “It doesn’t look like you want to be here, and you’re getting paid – why then should I spend money to be here?” The Golden Rule applies well here:
Treat people as you would like to be treated in that situation.
Staff don’t need to be overly cheery or enthusiastic; sincerity is the key. Even a more serious individual can share their passion and others will be excited. Management needs to lead by example on this point so the team knows what is appropriate for the business, but confident enthusiasm is the general concept. in a negative situation enthusiasm is not as important of course, except in trying to find a solution. Confidence however, is a great tool to calm upset and disappointed customers or guests. Empowered confident staff can deal with most customer complaints quite well.
SINCERE SMILE: As I mentioned above, sincerity is key. Customers will know if a smile is just put on like a uniform. They will smile back if they are engaged with the staff. If they are enjoying their customer experience, then they will feel special and also like they are getting good value. (We did say that was what we wanted to give them, wasn’t it?) An added bonus is that staff who are sincerely smiling are also having a good time. What a concept!
One other great thing about a smile is that it can often work with angry people too. My Dad used to say,
Smile – it’s the best revenge.
When a customer needs to vent, they want to know someone will listen. A calm staff member who has an empathetic smile can be that person.
My workshops spend a lot of time combining these concepts and dealing with the many troubleshooting ideas that can be added to the toolbox for customer service staff. Making sure employees are prepared for all kinds of situations is the best way to ensure their confidence and success.
Teach a team to tackle every day with positive energy, searching for solutions to challenges, and you will have a happy, motivated team who enjoys sharing their strengths. Instead of feeling like they could never do enough, they will feel like they can always have a good time.