Customer Service Skill – Listening to the Customer

Customer Service Skill – Listening to the Customer

Successful listening is essential for any customer service representative to achieve customer service excellence. Like any other customer service skill, active listening is a learned behavior that some people perform better than others. To provide the best customer service possible you must master this skill, especially as part of telephone etiquette when dealing with customers over the telephone.

Customer Service Representative Skill- Building – Listening to the Customer

Some common characteristics possessed by most effective listeners include:

  • Empathy.Putting yourself in the customer’s place and trying to relate to the customer’s needs, wants, and concerns.
  • Understanding.The ability to listen as customers speak in order to ensure that you realize what they want, need and expect. This is essential in properly servicing the customer.
  • Patience. Taking the time to pause and listen attentively as your customer speaks. Keep in mind that it is your job to serve the customer and that not everyone communicates in the same manner. Thus, you must put forth the effort to allow your customer to share their ideas, issues or questions without interrupting in order to determine their needs.
  • Attentiveness. By focusing your attention on the customer, you can better interpret his or her message and satisfy his or her needs. Attentiveness is often displayed through nonverbal cues (e,g, nodding or cocking of the head to one side or the other, smiling, or using paralanguage).
  • Objectivity. In dealings with customers, try to avoid subjective opinions or judgments. If you have a preconceived idea about customers, their concerns or questions, the environment, or anything related to the customers, you could mishandle the situation.

The characteristics of effective and ineffective listeners are summarized below.

Characteristics of Effective and Ineffective Listeners

Many factors can indicate an effective or ineffective listener. Over the years, researchers have assigned the following characteristics to effective and ineffective listeners. As a customer service professional, strive to master the skills in the left column and work to eliminate those in the right column in order to better serve your customers.
Effective   Listeners Ineffective   Listeners
Focused Inattentive
Responsive Uncaring
Alert Distracted
Understanding Unconcerned
Caring Insensitive
Empathetic Smug/conceited
Unemotional Emotionally involved
Interested Self-centered
Patient Judgmental
Cautious Disorganized
Open Defensive

For additional ideas on listening to the customer and providing excellent customer service, get a copy of Customer Service Skills for Success.

Five Tips for Improving Communication with Your Customers

Five Tips for Improving Communication with Your Customers

You should continually look for ways to enhance your communication skills in order to build strong interpersonal relationships with your customers and deliver the best customer service possible. Customer service representatives who spend time on self-improvement are more likely to be successful than those who do not.

Five Tips Improving Communication with Your Customers

Here are five simple techniques that you might use to increase communication success and potentially enhance customer satisfaction.

  1. Increase your vocabulary. Occasionally spend some time scrolling through a dictionary and the many books on the market related to essential words that you should know in order to be successful. Continue to add to your vocabulary and knowledge throughout your life in order to become a better communicator and service provider.
  2. Deliver personal service. Technology has increased the options and speed at which you can communicate with your customers. Even so, there is still a need to stay personally connected with them. There is no substitution for face-to-face or telephone contact with your customers. This format allows you to “read” their tone of voice and body language, which you cannot do via other technology.
  3. Stay connected. Chances are that you really cannot over-communicate with your customers, especially when problems exist. It is important that you stay in touch with customers periodically to stay in the forefront of their memory and to demonstrate that you value them. The key is to read their reactions to your efforts, and in those instances when someone might want less contact; act accordingly.
  4. Focus on the customer. When the telephone rings, mentally “shift gears” before answering. Stop doing other tasks, clear your head of other thoughts, focus on the telephone, then cheerfully and professionally answer the call.
  5. Maintain good posture. Sit up straight when speaking, since doing so reduces constriction and opens up your throat (larynx) to reduce muffling and improve voice quality.

Communication is a learned skill and does not come naturally. If you want to excel as a representative of your organization and present a professional presence, you will have to work regularly to enhance your knowledge and skills about people and the way that they communicate most effectively.

About Robert W. Lucas

Bob Lucas has been a trainer, presenter, customer service expert, and adult educator for over four decades. He has written hundreds of articles on training, writing, self-publishing, and workplace learning skills and issues. He is also an award-winning author who has written thirty-seven books on topics such as, writing, relationships, customer service, brain-based learning, and creative training strategies, interpersonal communication, diversity, and supervisory skills. Additionally, he has contributed articles, chapters, and activities to eighteen compilation books. Bob retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 after twenty-two years of active and reserve service.

Make Money Writing Books: Proven Profit Making Strategies for Authors by Robert W. Lucas at Amazon.com.

The key to successfully making money as an author and/or self-publisher is to brand yourself and your company and to make yourself and your book(s) a household name. Part of this is face-to-face interaction with people at trade shows, library events, book readings, book store signings, blogging or guest blogging on a topic related to their book(s). Another strategy involves writing articles and other materials that show up online and are found when people search for a given topic related to a topic about which the author has written.

If you need help building an author platform, branding yourself and your book(s) or generating recognition for what you do, Make Money Writing Books will help. Bob’s popular book addresses a multitude of ideas and strategies that you can use to help sell more books and create residual and passive income streams. The tips outlined in the book are focused to help authors but apply to virtually any professional trying to increase personal and product recognition and visibility.

Positive Impressions Help To Build Customer Relationships

Positive Impressions Help To Build Customer Relationships

Customers often judge an organization aPositive Personal Impressions Help When Building Customer Relationshipsnd the people who work for it based on the first impressions made by front line employees with whom they come into contact face-to-face or via technology.

It is crucial that you and those who serve customers take time to prepare for customer encounters and to prepare yourself to send positive messages through your appearance, voice and nonverbal cues. This will help in building strong customer relationships that can lead to increased customer satisfaction and customer retention.

Here are 5 good positive body gestures:

  1. Relax your shoulders to avoid looking tense
  2. Be pleasant and friendly
  3. Make good and strong eye contact when talking to people
  4. Lean forward slightly to get engaged in a conversation
  5. Share your body between both feet

To learn more about making positive impressions on current and potential customers, get copies of Customer Service Skills for Success and Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

About Robert W. Lucas

Bob Lucas has been a trainer, presenter, customer service expert, and adult educator for over four decades. He has written hundreds of articles on training, writing, self-publishing, and workplace learning skills and issues. He is also an award-winning author who has written thirty-seven books on topics such as, writing, relationships, customer service, brain-based learning, and creative training strategies, interpersonal communication, diversity, and supervisory skills. Additionally, he has contributed articles, chapters, and activities to eighteen compilation books. Bob retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 after twenty-two years of active and reserve service.

Positive Impressions Builds Strong Customer Relationships

Postitive Impressions Help Build Strong Customer Relationships

Positive Impressions Builds Strong Customer Relationships

Customers often judge an organization and the people who work for it based on the first impressions made by customer service representatives and others in the organization with whom they come into contact face-to-face or via technology. This is why it is crucial that you and others who serve customers take time to prepare for customer interactions by fine-tuning your interpersonal communication skills.

To ensure that you have the tools needed to deliver excellent customer service to current and potential customers, learn as much as you can about your organization, products, and services. Also, continually work to upgrade your knowledge of people from varies backgrounds and enhance your customer service skills. By taking these basic steps you will be better prepared to send positive messages through your appearance, voice and non-verbal cues and to provide quality customer service.

To learn more about ways to deliver the best customer service possible and make positive impressions on current and potential customers, get copies of Customer Service Skills for Success and Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

Strengthening Customer Relationships With Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication Skills

Strengthening Customer Relationships Through Strong Verbal and Non Verbal Communication Skills

Strengthening Customer Relationships

Strong Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication Skills Can Make the Difference!

We live in an era in which people from all over the world come together in various situations throughout any given day. They bring with them individual experiences, education levels, cultural and personal backgrounds, preferences, opinions, and perspectives. Any or all of these elements can impact the way they approach and receive others or the manner in which they communicate.

An old adage goes: It is not what you say, but how you say it that counts. Nothing can be truer than when you are dealing with customers from diverse backgrounds. For this reason, customer service representatives should always take their time to “read” their customers and think of their response (verbally and non verbally) before jumping into any situation where verbal and non-verbal messages communication might be misinterpreted.

Likely, the last thing that a customer service representative, or another employee from an organization, wants to do is falter in their efforts of building customer relationships.

To help reduce the potential of a customer-provider relationship breakdown; service providers should focus on building and practicing their positive communication skills (e.g. smiling, paying compliments, using open body movements and gestures and finding things to agree with when interacting with their customers).

For ideas on how to more effectively communicate verbally and non verbally in order to improve customer loyalty and enhance customer retention, get copies of my books: Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures, Customer Service Skills for Success, and How to Be a Great Call Center Representative.

About Robert W. Lucas

Robert ‘Bob’ Lucas has been a trainer, presenter, customer service expert, and adult educator for over four decades. He has written hundreds of articles on training, writing, self-publishing, and workplace learning skills and issues. He is also an award-winning author who has written thirty-seven books on topics such as, writing, relationships, customer service, brain-based learning, and creative training strategies, interpersonal communication, diversity, and supervisory skills. Additionally, he has contributed articles, chapters, and activities to eighteen compilation books. Bob retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 after twenty-two years of active and reserve service.

Create a Positive Customer Service Culture by Making Customers Feel Valued

Create a Positive Customer Service Culture by Making Customers Feel Valued

Create a Positive Customer Service Culture

by Making Customers Feel Valued

Organizations are often chasing the illusive loyal customer. Various research studies have shown that it costs less to keep a good customer than it does to attract new ones through expensive marketing and incentive programs. Related to this, it seems logical to focus on converting new and occasional customers into loyal customers who return regularly and tout the organization’s benefits and customer-centric approach.

Alas, many managers, organizational leaders, and frontline customer service representatives simply do not get the whole concept of keeping loyal customers who use the organization’s products and services. These managers try to hold costs down by hiring inexperienced and low-cost employees, do not want to invest a lot of money in training staff (other than rudimentary product and service knowledge), and offer no real support for the customers they already have.

If you work for an organization and want to create an environment that is known for stellar customer service and customer-friendly people and policies, consider the following strategies to help make customers feel valued.

Hire personalities, not bodies. It takes a special person to be successful in a customer service environment. Strive to find people who are focused on interacting with others, seem to enjoy the service environment and life in general and sincerely want to help others. Product and policy knowledge can be taught to most new employees, as can the requisite skills necessary to successfully interact with new and current internal and external customers (e.g. interpersonal communication skills, knowledge about various demographic groups, team building, and other similar skills).

Prove that the organization and employees value customers. Create policies and procedures that are customer centric (e.g. return policies, hours of operation, and allow employee empowerment so that they can make decisions without a supervisor’s approval).

Train employees to recognize regular customers. People like to be seen as a person and as someone who is appreciated and valued by the organization. Customer service training sessions should stress this important fact and encourage employees to use a customer’s name when greeting and throughout a conversation. Memory improvement might be added to the training schedule to aid people in developing better memory and aid recall of customer names and faces.

Develop customer recognition and incentive programs. If customers are not rewarded for their continued business, they are likely to go elsewhere, especially if service breaks down or they encounter a problem.  Reward good customers with discounts, personal communications (e.g. a greeting and coupon on their birthday, anniversary or other special occasions) and a warm welcome when they contact the organization. Instruct employees to focus on the human part of a transaction first (e.g. a warm greeting or comments about previous contacts, purchases or visits) before moving to the business of why they contacted the organization and what can be done to assist them.

Doing these simple things and others can make a world of difference to many customers and can often make the difference between a transient and a loyal customer. For additional customer service tips and strategies for creating a positive customer service environment where visitors demonstrate brand and customer loyalty as a result of receiving excellent customer service, get a copy of Customer Service Skills for Success.

The Cost of Poor Customer Service

The Cost of Poor Customer Service

The Cost of Poor Customer Service

A recent experience with Century Link recently validated what I regularly tell customer service workshop participants and readers of my customer service books. I thought I’d share it with you along with customer service success tips that can improve customer service in any organization.

To reduce expenses, I decided to switch from my current Internet and cable provider to bundle those services along with my phones with Century Link. The technical process was fairly smooth, but the customer service support (or actually the lack of) has been a nightmare. On Monday after signing the agreement on the previous Thursday, I was on the phone for 4.5 hours with four different customer service representatives and a supervisor trying to resolve an issue related to the switch. On Wednesday, I spoke to three different Century Link employees, on Thursday two technicians came out to do the actual change over for Internet and cable and on Friday I was on the phone from 9:50 a.m. to 12:38 p.m. with seven customer service representatives and two supervisors. All for basically the same concern that I had.

In a nutshell, each person I talked to said the issue was resolved with my phone settings and service and that everything was set as promised in the agreement. In truth, that was not the case and I had to call back (multiple times) to let them know it was not resolved. I then had to repeat the story and what the previous person had said or promised (like many customers I am one of those people who write down the time periods of a call, name of the person I talked with and what was said in case something goes wrong). In virtually every new call situation, I was told there were no notes from the previous all in the system and that what was promised had actually not been done, so we had to start all over.

During the process over several days, there were three disconnects when the customer service representative attempted to transfer me or put me on hold. My phone was even totally disconnected at one point for almost a day because of an error on the part of one of the customer service agents.  And the story still goes on unresolved as I wait for a second technician to arrive today…

Through all of this, there was a respite from the torture that I was enduring. An angel in the guise of a supervisor named Joan. Unlike a previous supervisor who listened to my issue and offered nothing but two unacceptable solutions, with no apology for my inconvenience or trouble, she took appropriate steps to get a repair call scheduled, apologized numerous times, did resolve a couple of the issues I had, and gave me a credit due to the phone disconnect. It was only when she transferred me to the repair department line that the torture came back with dropped calls and people who one after another told me incorrect information or failed to follow through.

This entire experience reinforced to me the importance of proper customer service training for anyone who is going to deal with customers on the front line. Everything that they do and say will likely have far-reaching implications for the representative and their organization. For example,  I have told at least four of the friends of my experience and I am now relating it to you.

If you are a customer service representative dealing with external customers or an employee with internal employees, make sure that you take the following actions with every customer contact in order to better ensure a positive outcome and experience for your customers and potential customers:

Learn everything possible about your organization’s products and services. Customers assume that when someone answers the phone to represent an organization that they can truly assist with questions and issues.

Do not use statements that belittle your role and authority. For example, “I’m only an order taker.” In such instances, your customer immediately discredits you and asks to speak to someone with authority and advanced knowledge. They are also likely to become very irritated at having wasted their time with someone who could not have helped them in the first place.

Avoid tentative language. Customers call for a reason; not to just chat with you. They normally have a question, concern, or problem that they need your assistance in resolving. The last thing they want to encounter is a customer service representative who uses statements, such as, “I think,” “I’ll try,” “Maybe I can,” or similar non-committal phrases. Tell you, customers, what you can do, not what you think you can or cannot do.  Statements such as, “I can/will” go a long way in reassuring the customer that the correct information will be provided or action will be taken.

Always maintain a positive attitude. Customers generally do not care what kind of day you are having, issues you face on the job and restrictions that you have in the workplace. They want quality customer service and to receive help with their situation or question.  If you cannot provide this, you should not be answering a phone or making contact with a customer.

Do what you say that you will. Under-promise and over-deliver should be your motto. Do everything you can to assist the customer and if you do not have an answer or authority, get them to the correct person.

NEVER do a blind transfer. This is a situation where you attempt to transfer a customer to another person or department for further assistance and once that party picks up, you disconnect from the call. In many instances (such as mine) the number to whom you transferred the customer is not the correct one or there is music or recordings playing. Get an actual person on the line when transferring, ensure that they are the right person for the issue that you’ve explained to them and then reconnect to the customer. Introduce the customer to the second representative, thank them for calling and them professionally disconnect. Your job is done at that point. In my case above, there were at least three instances where I got transferred to a number only to have the call disconnect or have to go through a voicemail option system that ultimately led me back to the customer service department from which I was originally transferred in the first place.

Put yourself in the customer’s place. How would you feel if you experienced negative service such as I described at the beginning of this article? Chances are you’d be looking for a way to vent and share your experience with others.

In my case, I shared my thoughts and suggestions for improvement with Joan and asked her to send them up to her chain of command. With all the notes I took throughout the various calls, I could write a letter to the president of Century Link, as I’ve done numerous times in the past to other organizational leaders.  In this case, the issues are so egregious and diverse, and the blatant lack of service is so obvious; I can only assume that the managers at Century Link already know about them, but choose to ignore them and do not properly train their staff.

Unfortunately, in a downsized world where organizations continually raise prices and look for ways to cut expenses, customer service training is viewed as a “nice to do” function, but is often limited or cut entirely. In the latter case, managers depend on other more senior customer service agents to conduct on-the-job training. That typically leads to poor quality of customer service, misinformation and people using a variety of techniques based on what they were taught. In the end, the customer, you and your organization suffer.

For more ideas on customer service strategies on how to meet customer expectations, deliver excellent customer service, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and reduce customer attrition, get copies of Customer Service Skills for Success and How to Be a Great Call Center Representative.

Customer Service Skills for Success 6th by Robert W. Lucas Now Available

Customer Service Skills for Success 6th by Robert W. Lucas Now Available
Customer Service Skills for Success 6th by Robert W. Lucas Now Available

Customer Service Skills for Success 6th by Robert W. Lucas Now Available

The top-selling customer service textbook in the United States, Customer Service Skills for Success by Robert W. Lucas, is now in print from McGraw-Hill. This 6th edition includes a four-color layout with more images to enhance the content and a completely changed graphic appearance.

In the book, readers will find real-world customer service issues and provides a variety of updated resources, activities, and examples for customer service representatives at different levels in an organization. It also includes tips from the author and other active professionals in the industry designed to gain and hold readers’ interest while providing additional insights into the concepts and skills related to customer service that is found throughout the book.

The text begins with a macro view of what customer service involves today and provides projections for the future of the customer service profession, then focuses on specific customer service skills and related topics.

Here’s what readers will find inside the book:

Part One – The Profession

  • The Customer Service Profession
  • Contributing to the Service Culture

Part Two – Skills for Success

  • Verbal Communication Skills
  • Nonverbal Communication Skills
  • Listening Skills

Part Three – Building and Maintaining Relationships

  • Customer Service and Behavior
  • Service Breakdowns and Service Recovery
  • Customer Service in a Diverse World
  • Customer Service via Technology’
  • Encouraging Customer Loyalty

This book answers everything from “What is Customer Service?” to “How do I handle a variety of diverse customers in various customer service situations?”.

To gain thousands of ideas, strategies and customer service tips for interacting successfully with internal and external customers in any type of customer service environment and deliver excellent customer service, get a copy of Customer Service Skills for Success 6th edition.

Interpersonal Communication Skills Quote – Robert W. Lucas

Interpersonal Communication Skills Quote – Robert W. Lucas

Excellent customer service skills are crucial if you want to deliver the best possible service to your internal and external customers. By practicing positive interpersonal skills such as verbal and nonverbal communication, eye contact, gesturing, body language, and listening skills, you can effectively send and receive messages to all types of customers.

As customer service author and performance consultant Robert W. Lucas is quoted as saying:

Interpersonal Communication Skills Quote - Robert W. Lucas

To gain insights into more effectively communicating with customers verbally and nonverbally, get copies of Customer Service Skills for Success and Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

Customer Service Quote – Michael LeBoeuf

Customer Service Quote – Michael LeBoeuf

Customer Service Quote - Michael LeBoeuf

Organizations and customer service representatives that go out of their way to identify customer needs, wants and expectations, have a better chance of increasing brand and customer loyalty than competitors who do not.

By working hard to create a customer-centric organization, businesses increase the likelihood that customers will return and tell others about their positive service experiences.

For proven customer service ideas and strategies for building a strong service culture and delivering stellar customer service in your organization, get copies of Customer Service Skills for Success, Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures and How to Be a Great Call Center Representative.

Bob Lucas has been a trainer, presenter, customer service expert, and adult educator for over four decades. He has written hundreds of articles on training, writing, self-publishing, and workplace learning skills and issues. He is also an award-winning author who has written thirty-seven books on topics such as, writing, relationships, customer service, brain-based learning, and creative training strategies, interpersonal communication, diversity, and supervisory skills. Additionally, he has contributed articles, chapters, and activities to eighteen compilation books. Bob retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 after twenty-two years of active and reserve service.

Make Money Writing Books: Proven Profit Making Strategies for Authors by Robert W. Lucas at Amazon.com.

The key to successfully making money as an author and/or self-publisher is to brand yourself and your company and to make yourself and your book(s) a household name. Part of this is face-to-face interaction with people at trade shows, library events, book readings, book store signings, blogging or guest blogging on a topic related to their book(s). Another strategy involves writing articles and other materials that show up online and are found when people search for a given topic related to a topic about which the author has written.

If you need help building an author platform, branding yourself and your book(s) or generating recognition for what you do, Make Money Writing Books will help. Bob’s popular book addresses a multitude of ideas and strategies that you can use to help sell more books and create residual and passive income streams. The tips outlined in the book are focused to help authors but apply to virtually any professional trying to increase personal and product recognition and visibility.

In my book Customer Service Skills for Success, I define customer service as “the ability of knowledgeable, capable, and enthusiastic employees to deliver products and services to their internal and external customers in a manner that satisfies identified and unidentified needs and ultimately results in positive word-of-mouth publicity and return business.”

Here are a few more quotes from Michael LaBoeuf…

  1. A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.
  2. The world is your mirror and your mind is a magnet. What you perceive in this world is largely a reflection of your own attitudes and beliefs. Life will give you what you attract with your thoughts think, act and talk negatively and your world will be negative. Think and act and talk with enthusiasm and you will attract positive results.
  3. Every company’s greatest assets are its customers because without customers there is no company.
  4. The greatest management principle in the world is: ‘the things that get rewarded and appreciated get done.’
  5. All of us live at the feeling level, and our feelings are in large part a result of the way we perceive things. You observe or are told something, you interpret it, and only then do you have a reaction at the feeling level. The point is that feeling is preceded by perception, and all of us are capable of controlling our interpretation [the associations and assumptions] of what we see. If we can control our interpretation, then it logically follows that we can exercise some control over our feelings as well.
  6. The most important key to successful investing can be summed up in just two words-asset allocations.
  7. When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.
  8. Too many start-up business fail simply because their owners continue to think and act like employees.
  9. The ultimate goal of a more effective and efficient life is to provide you with enough time to enjoy some of it.
  10. It’s important for you to understand that stock and bonds go up-and they go down. You need to be comfortable with that fact.
  11. As for worrying about what other people might think – forget it. They aren’t concerned about yours. They’re too busy worrying about what you and other people think of theirs.
  12. We talk about saving time and killing time when actually we can’t do either. We have no choice but to spend it at a constant and flowing rate.
  13. The things that get rewarded, get done
  14. Knowing nothing about investing might be a benefit. You won’t have to unlearn many popular beliefs propagated by Wall Street and the media that aren’t true.
  15. Index investing is an investment strategy that Walter Mitty would love. It takes very little investment knowledge, no skill, practically no time or effort-and outperforms about 80 percent of all investors.
  16. Adversity is an experience, not a final act.
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