OTHER VOICES: 8 sinful customer service actions
By Nancy Friedman, Special to Tire Business
ST. LOUIS (Feb. 6, 2015) — First, I must qualify the following “sins” — this is not MY list.
These “sins” have been offered by my audiences who share their views when I speak at conferences across the country. We always survey the groups to find out what bothers them about companies and customer service — or the lack of it.
And man, how they love to vent.
They also love to let me know what bugs them, what frustrates them and how they want to be treated as a customer. It's usually a freewheeling discussion — one that gets my attention a lot. It should get yours, too.
So listen up. Your customers are talking to you. Time to realize customer service training can help you.
Drum roll please…in no particular order are eight “sinful” customer service actions. By the way, these can relate to talking on the phone as well as in person. As a matter of fact, all of them touch on points of communication.
Sin #1: Not smiling
This is really important. Our Telephone Doctor motto — “A phony smile is better than a real frown” — would have helped the gal who was trying to help me recently. What a poopy face she had on her. I refused to let it get me down or let her infect my attitude at all. I smiled all the way through our conversation. I'm pretty sure it aggravated her. As my husband says, “Just be glad her head isn't on your body.”
Sin #2: Coworkers talking to each other and ignoring the customer
That's an OMG! Stop talking to each other when a customer walks into your store. Immediately. Talk with the patrons. Wave to them. Smile at them. If you're talking with another customer, they'll see how nice you acknowledge all the others.
Sin #3: Not caring
Your customer can tell, immediately, whether or not you really “care.” The immediate interaction retailers make with customers needs to be a “caring” one. That includes your facial expressions, your tone of voice, your listening skills. Customers can tell if you judge them as an annoyance or not. It's usually written all over your face. It's the old saying: “The customer doesn't care how much you know — until they know you care.”
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Sin #4: A poor attitude
There are dozens, OK hundreds, of articles on how important ATTITUDES are in connecting with customers. Almost everyone in customer service has written one. But it's not something you can teach easily, if at all.
The difference between attitude and moods? Attitudes are permanent. Moods are temporary. Find staff with the permanent attitudes and you'll have less bad moods, because those of us with a great attitude don't like to wallow in the bad mood department. It's not rocket science. It's not brain surgery. It's plain old common sense.
Sin #5: Rushing the customer
Everyone is busy. Ballgames to go to. Appointments to make. Things to do. Yada, yada.
The answer to that? Thank goodness we're busy. We should be thanking our lucky stars we're busy. But being busy does not give you carte blanche to rush folks out the door at your store. An easy, fresh smile to the person who's waiting will go a long way in making them feel appreciated. Count on that.
Sin #6: Not listening
Listening skills, my friends, are the No. 1 skill or trait our customers want from us. Time after time that trumps the list of “what do I want.” Listen to us talk. Listen to our questions. Listen to our requests. Are you actually listening to your customers?
Sin #7: Don't point! Take them
There are a handful of stores where, when you ask personnel where something is, they will hand deliver you to the spot. There need to be more stores like that. ‘Nuf said.
Sin #8: Pushing customers off to your website because you're busy or you don't want to help
Customers are pretty smart. If they want your website, they normally can find it all by themselves. Pushing them to the website because you're too busy or don't feel like helping is a major sin. It's like asking them to leave your house.
Be more responsive. Interact with the customer. Don't push them to the website at first opportunity. Chances are they'll find a competitor's site first and never see yours. Bingo! You just lost a sale. If you just have to get them to your site, you might consider going with them and helping them along. Use it as a teaching moment — they'll appreciate the time you take to help them.
OK, this was a long list. I shortened it a bit, but there's a lot to think about for now.
Nancy Friedman's columns appear periodically in Tire Business online and in print. She is president of St. Louis-based Telephone Doctor Inc., an international customer service training company. She can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 314-291-1012. Her website is www.nancyfriedman.com.
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