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How important is customer service – and how can you improve your skills?

25 Apr

Many jobs require you to communicate directly with customers, making them an important part of presenting the company’s values to members of the public. How people perceive the company you work for can be based on the customer service you provide. In fact, it’s been reported that customers will value customer experience over price and even product by 2020.

Even if you’re not customer facing in your role, customer service skills can benefit you in more ways than you know. From improving your communication skills and resourcefulness to boosting your patience, here’s why customer service is important and how you can improve your skills:

Communicate clearly

Whether it’s verbally or in writing, it’s important to be able to communicate effectively by relaying information in an accurate and straightforward way. Learn how to explain complicated solutions in a simple way — you can do this by avoiding jargon and communicating as respectfully as possible.

Each type of communication comes with its own set of hurdles and tips to overcome them. In-person communication emphasises portraying a positive aura through facial expressions and body language. Over the phone, stay away from distractions or loud background noises — you should aim to speak clearly, slowly and at an appropriate volume in order to ensure you are heard accurately. Over e-mail or text, write with the appropriate tone and formality, making sure your grammar and punctuation are accurate and professional.

It’s been noted in a study by Dr Albert Mehrabian in the 1970s that only 7% of communication is in the words we say, while 38% is in voice and tone and 55% depends on body language.

In terms of body language, it’s useful for those in customer-facing roles to exude approachability, openness and confidence. Make eye-contact when speaking to someone (a good rule is to maintain this 60% of the time), keep an open stance which does not cross any of your body parts, make sure you aren’t shielded by items and most importantly, smile.

The study also noted that non-verbal signs promote trust, and if the words and tone disagree with each other, this leads to a lack of trust from customers. This is why messages can often get lost in translation over e-mails or texts. While one would presume communicating in writing would be the easiest of the three, it may be the most challenging since you lack the intonation needed to inspire trust and engagement.

Those who are adept at communication can recognise when their message isn’t being received and change their strategy accordingly to deliver it.

Active listening

While we’ve talked about the importance of communicating clearly, it’s an equally vital skill to be able to listen to and understand the concerns of a customer. It’s been reported that 70% of unhappy customers whose problems get resolved are willing to shop with that business again, which means this skill is crucial to the profitability of a company.

It’s important to listen effectively to each call or customer, even if you are consulting on the same issues each day, as there may be slight differences in queries. This way, you can give each customer your individual attention and make them feel listened to and supported.

There are key things you can do to show you are actively listening, the foremost being not to interrupt the customer and only reply when they finish speaking. In addition, you could try asking questions, repeating key facts back to them and writing down important points.

In terms of body language, you can communicate your attention is on them by lightly mirroring them — a technique used to increase trust. Similarly, you can nod during the conversation and maintain eye-contact. These can all heighten your trustworthiness and ability to communicate.

Understand your product and service

In order to provide the best service, you must know your product, company and services inside out. You are the main point of contact for others to learn about these services and if you don’t know them thoroughly yourself, you will struggle to provide a useful service or communicate the company’s intentions effectively. This can be corrected through regular training and meetings/e-mails discussing updates on products and services. Make sure the information you relay is always accurate and up-to-date.

It’s also important to know and acknowledge your limitations. A UK-based study shows that 29% of customers say unhelpful store staff are their biggest customer service pet peeves. That means if you can’t answer something that requires specialist knowledge, know when to refer a customer to someone else who does have that knowledge.

Improve your patience

The role of a customer service representative can test your patience at times. Those who are frustrated with a service or product can take their anger out on the representative instead. It’s useful in these circumstances to be able to handle situations helpfully and diplomatically.

It’s okay to accept you can’t help everyone and for some problems, there are no simple or good solutions. In this case, it’s best to communicate possible solutions effectively and allow the customer to accept them or be referred to someone else. Expressing empathy for a customer’s problem can go a long way in building a connection with them, which allows for a more positive experience even if the problem can’t be solved.

Customer service jobs with Travis Perkins

Utilise these tips in your next customer service job with Travis Perkins. We’re always looking for friendly and diligent workers to fill a variety of roles in the UK. Apply for a job with us today.

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