The Role of Facial Expressions in Customer Service

Non Verbal Communication - The Role of Facial Expressions in Customer Service

The Role of Facial Expressions in Customer Service

A major component of delivering stellar customer service to your customers is to continually hone your customer service skills in the area of communication so that you are able to deliver the best customer service possible. For example, there are so many different messages that can be sent to your customers through various nonverbal communication cues, that learning their meaning and significance can take years. This is especially true when you factor in the fact that different people and cultures assign varying meanings to what they see.

By moving the muscles in your face, you can convey feelings and messages to others that let them know whether you are experiencing happiness, sadness, frustration anger or many other moods. As with other nonverbal cues, the interpretation of facial expressions can vary between cultures and individuals. Since the time of Charles Darwin, researchers have studied facial expressions and have identified that most common facial expressions are interpreted in similar ways by cultures around the world. It is the beliefs of individual cultures related to the appropriateness of expressing emotions like surprise, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust that change how people use and interpret such facial signals.

Because facial expressions are closely tied to human emotion, you should be careful about projecting subconscious biases that you might have toward any group because you might unintentionally send a negative message to a customer before you realize it. For example, if you disapprove of customers who have facial piercings and tattoos you might indicate your displeasure nonverbally when with a smirk or other facial gesture or you might unintentionally stare when a customer matching that description walks up to you.

To learn more customer service tips related to non-verbal communication and how to effectively use it as a tool for delivering excellent customer service and gaining better customer satisfaction, get copies of Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures and Customer Service Skills for Success.

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.

POSITIVE Global Customer Service Model

POSITIVE Global Customer Service Model – Serving Diverse Customers

The following acronym (POSITIVE) provides some strategies for creating or contributing to a positive global service environment and building strong relationships with your customers. It provides a model to move you from good customer service to the best customer service possible.

Put your best foot forward. Maintain a positive approach to situations involving customers, smile frequently, and have a “can-do” attitude. When dealing with customers and potential customers, never forget that they are your reason for employment.

Offer whatever level of assistance possible. In addressing customer needs and wants, go out of your way to uncover and resolve problems and to build a strong customer-provider relationship.

Stay abreast of current industry trends and strategies for delivering quality customer service. By upgrading your knowledge and skills regularly, you will be prepared to address any type of customer situation.

Identify true customer needs by listening to proactively. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly.

Take the time to get to know more about your customers. The more you know, the better you can provide quality service.

Invite your customers to open up and share information. Ask open-ended questions (e.g. Who, What, When, How, Why, and To What Extent) that typically lead to more detailed responses from others.

Verify understanding. When a customer provides information, ensure that you heard and understood it correctly before responding. Use closed-ended (typically start with an action verb) to gather this information.

Engage in relationship-building strategies immediately. Use strong interpersonal communication skills. Start with a smile (on your face and in your voice and words) and a professional greeting when meeting customers face-to-face, over the telephone or in an email. If something goes wrong, immediately start on a course of service recovery with a sincere apology and taking steps to “make the customer whole” again with any appropriate compensation.

Source: Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service across Cultures, Lucas. R.W., McGraw-Hill Professional, New York, NY (2011).
Bob Lucas B.S., M.A., M.A, CPLP is principal in Robert W. Lucas Enterprises, Inc and an internationally-known author and learning and performance professional. He has written and contributed to thirty-one books and compilations. He regularly conducts creative training, train-the-trainer, customer service, interpersonal communication and management, and supervisory skills workshops. Learn more about Bob and his organization at and follow his blogs at,, and Like Bob at

Avoid Assumptions When Communicating Across Cultures

Ways to Avoid Assumptions When Communicating Across Cultures

Avoid Assumptions When Communicating Across Cultures

During interpersonal communication, assumptions can sometimes result because of culturally specific understandings. Preconceived ideas can often cause relationship breakdowns and misunderstandings when dealing with a customer who speaks a different language. Even so, there are ways to avoid assumptions when communicating across cultures with someone who speaks a different native language than you do.  If you must assume, then assume that your customer is an intelligent and competent person with whom you can communicate. Then, work with a positive, “can-do” attitude to help ensure you that understand one another correctly.

Recognize that raising your voice when dealing with someone who speaks another primary language is useless. For some reason, many North Americans feel that if they raise their voice to someone who does not speak English well, the person will understand what is being said. An example of how communication can break down between people from different backgrounds was seen several years ago in the popular movie Rush Hour, starring actors Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. In that movie, both played police officers, Tucker from Los Angeles and Chan from Hong Kong. They met at the Los Angeles airport when Chan flew into town. Here is a synopsis of a scene in which Tucker goes to the airport to pick up a Chan.

Tucker assumes that Chan cannot speak English and raises his voice as he yells, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” Not only did Chan understand, but he later begins to communicate fluently in English. When Tucker acts surprised, miffed, and states, “You did not tell me that you spoke English.” Chan nonchalantly says, “I did not say I didn’t speak English. You assumed that I did not speak English.”

Such actions do little to enhance communication. In fact, yelling or changing tone does nothing to enhance understanding and may well anger or embarrass your customer. It certainly makes you look foolish. Just because a customer is unable to speak English, does not mean that he or she is hearing impaired.

To prevent embarrassment and degradation involving customers, take time to research various cultures. Try to learn some basic phrases spoken by foreign-born customers who frequently do business with your organization. By improving your cultural awareness, global knowledge, and communication skills you can improve the chances that you will provide excellent service to customers.

For additional ideas on how to successfully avoid assumptions when communicating across cultures, check out Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures and Customer Service Skills for Success.

Time Management Skills in A Diverse Customer Service World

Time Management Skills in A Diverse Customer Service World

Time Management Skills in A Diverse Customer Service World

Reliable time management skills in a diverse customer service world are crucial in order to take advantage of opportunities to effectively interact with customers from various cultures. For years, anthropologists and others have studied the use of time in various cultures to try to better understand why some people view it differently. Their findings can be very useful in today’s world when many customer service representatives and other employees must be concerned with delivering excellent customer service across cultures. By better understanding cultural differences related to time and applying sound time management strategies or time management tips, service providers are more likely to meet their customer’s needs, wants and expectations.

In a diverse customer service world, the perspectives that many people have of time perception are often based on religious dogma or personal and cultural beliefs. For example, in the United States where the Puritans brought ideas of efficient use of time and a focus on the future, their culture developed to where today people focus on change, moving forward at a fast pace and getting more done with less. Entire industries (e.g. fast food) have developed to support this driving mentality. The challenge is that because the United States has become such a “melting pot” of diverse people who have brought with them their own religious and cultural values, conflict with time usage sometimes erupts between people from various subcultures. An example of this within the U.S. population is that many African and Latin Americans, Middle Easterners, Native Americans, Hawaiians, and Asians have brought religious and cultural values with them that focus on revering the past or focusing on the present as opposed to the future.

As an example of how time perception differences are common, ask people from various cultures or subcultures what they perceive an acceptable time for being late to an appointment might be. You will likely receive very different responses. For example, people from Germany or Finland often pride themselves on being some of the most punctual people in the world and are normally always early and on time for meetings and social events. Late arrival is considered rude and potentially insulting. In parts of Great Britain and North America being five minutes late for a meeting might be an acceptable time, but fifteen minutes or more would definitely be considered late and possibly rude, depending on the event and the person with whom you are scheduled to meet. In the Pacific Island, Middle Eastern and many African cultures, tardiness of thirty minutes or more is perfectly acceptable for a business meeting in many instances.

Just as in business situations, if you invite international customers to a dinner meeting or social event, you can anticipate that they will arrive at different times. This is sometimes based on their cultural backgrounds and values. For example, someone from Japan or Korea might arrive half an hour early, a guest from the United States or England — five minutes early, a Honduran and Latin American might show up thirty minutes late, an Italian could be up two hours late, an Ethiopian might be even later and someone from Vietnam might not come at all. They only accepted your invitation to be polite and to avoid causing you to lose face if they said no. If you ever host such an event, make sure that you specify your expectations in writing in order to avoid confusion or embarrassment to guests. For example, your invitations might specify that dinner will be served at 7 p.m. sharp.

If you interact with customers outside your own cultural group regularly, one tip for effectively delivering customer service in a positive manner is to do research on how your customer’s from a particular culture perceive time. By raising your cultural awareness,  you will be better prepared to effectively handle situations where customers are either early or late for meetings and social events. This will also prevent you from inadvertently violating a cultural norm when attending a meeting or event with your customers. The result is that you can potentially meet customer expectations, increase customer satisfaction and form more solid relationships with customers from all parts of the world through your knowledge and actions.

Source of this article: Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

Providing Effective Customer Service in a Diverse World

Providing Effective Customer Service in a Diverse WorldProviding Effective Customer Service in a Diverse World

Providing Effective Customer Service in a Diverse World

As the world grows smaller economically and otherwise (e.g. world trade, international travel, outsourcing and offshoring of jobs, worldwide Internet access, international partnerships between organizations and technologically transmitted information exchange), the likelihood that you will have contact on the job with people from other cultures, or who are different from you in other ways, increases significantly.

Providing effective customer service in a diverse world is something that virtually anyone in an organization must master in today’s business world. As the world grows smaller economically and otherwise (e.g. world trade, international travel, outsourcing and offshoring of jobs, worldwide Internet access, international partnerships between organizations and technologically transmitted information exchange), the likelihood that you will have contact on the job with people from other cultures, or who are different from you in other ways, increases significantly. This possibility also carries over into your personal life, since diversity is encountered everywhere (e.g. over the telephone and Internet and in supermarkets, religious organizations, on public transportation), and is an important aspect of everyone’s life. Although diversity presents challenges in making us think of differences and similarities, it also enriches our lives; each encounter we have with another person gives us an opportunity to expand our knowledge of others and build relationships while growing personally.

call center representative, customer service tips, excellent customer service One significant impact that diversity has on customer service is that people from varied backgrounds and cultures bring with them expectations based on the “norm” of their country or group. Whether this diversity pertains to cultural or ethnic differences, beliefs, values, religion, age, gender, ability levels or other factors, a potential breakdown in customer satisfaction can occur if people get other than what they want or expect.

Part of creating a positive diverse business environment is to train each service provider on the nuances of dealing with people who have backgrounds that are different from their own. Additionally, this effort involves each employee taking ownership for enhancing his or her knowledge and skills related to working with a diverse customer base.

To learn more about dealing with diversity in a customer service environment, along with hundreds of ideas on effective customer service skills and tips for dealing with a variety of common customer service challenges and delivering excellent customer service, get copies of the books Customer Service Skills for Success, Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures and How to Be a Great Call Center Representative.

Customer Service Training Activity – Subconscious Gender Stereotypes

Customer Service Training Activity - Subconscious Gender Stereotypes

Customer Service Training Activity – Subconscious Gender Stereotypes

Since ongoing gender communication and interactions between employees and customers is a daily event in most workplaces; organizations must help employees at all levels identify and correct negative stereotypes that might exist between male and female employees.

The following activity is a simple means for getting adult learners active in identifying potentially damaging perceptions they might have about genders and to engage in a productive dialog to help overcome stereotypes that they might unconsciously harbor.

Trainers, supervisors or team leaders can use this activity during a formal customer service or communication training session or at a department staff meeting. Once all trainees have completed the self-assessment, either form small groups of lead a discussion to share individual results and discuss how to improve any issues that surface related to stereotypes.

Instructions to Learners:

Many people have been conditioned since they were young children about acceptable gender roles for males and females in their culture as either masculine or feminine. Often these beliefs create challenges when you are serving customers.

To identify potential predispositions that you may have related to gender roles that are assigned to men and women in your society, give your first impressions for each adjective below. Do not think about the word, just react by placing an “F” by words that you feel best to describe females, an “M” by those that describe males and a “B” by those that could describe both females and males. Don’t go back to change an answer later.

Self Assessment:

Truck driver ___                     Soccer/Football player___               Sky diver____

Airline pilot___                      Pastry baker____                                Chef___

Baseball fan___                      Dog groomer____                              Bus driver___

Entrepreneur___                   Service professional____                 Nurse___

Romantic___                          Courageous____                                Emotional____

Spontaneous____                 Impatient____                                    Goal-oriented___

Sensitive____                        Funny___                                             Powerful___

Strong___                               Competitive____                                Loving___

Outspoken____                     Assertive___                                        Talkative___

Nurturing___                         Intelligent____                                   Driven___

Intuitive____                         Sexy___                                                Critical___

Once you have finished, go back and look to see how many of each letter you recorded. Most people typically have a mix of all three. If you look closely and think of all the people you have known, heard or read about in your lifetime, you probably know some who fall into both categories. Therefore, if there is even one incident where an adjective could describe the opposite gender from the one that you’ve indicated, you may have some hidden stereotypes related to men or women and the gender roles they can/should fill. This does not mean that you are a prejudiced or a “bad” person. It simply means that you may want to work on expanding your knowledge about others and trying to develop a more open-minded perspective of them so that you do not inadvertently do or say anything that might endanger the customer-provider relationship.

Customer service training activities, customer service tips, customer service training ideas, and other useful information, related to interacting with diverse internal and external customers and that can lead to the delivery of excellent customer service, can be found in Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

Delivering Positive Customer Service in a Global Work Environment

Delivering Positive Customer Service in a Global Work Environment

What is a Positive Global Customer Service? It is recognizing that you are dealing with unique individuals at each contact point with a customer or potential customer and taking the time to listen effectively, respond appropriately and address their needs. It is also taking ownership and responsibility for your environment and customer interactions by being prepared and doing whatever it takes to help guarantee a successful outcome when dealing with internal and external customers. Most customer service representatives understand this and go out of their way to deliver the best customer service possible.

It is crucial for customer service representatives and every other organizational employee to develop a customer-centric attitude (e.g. answering the phone professionally, returning calls and email within a timely manner, remembering little details shared by customers and referring back to them during a conversation, or going out of your way to help resolve an issue when service breaks down) if the organization hopes to be successful. This means continually demonstrating good customer service skills and upgrading your knowledge and skills on a regular basis.Delivering Positive Customer Service in a Global Work Environment

In a diverse world, providing positive global customer service also means applying what Dr. Tony Alessandra calls the Platinum Rule (“Do until others as they want to be done unto them”) in one of his books. In other words, instead of or treating people like you want to be treated, get to know them. Find out what they like, dislike, expect, value, believe and want, then attempt to satisfy them to the best of your ability. If you cannot provide what they need, consider getting someone else to assist who can better understand and address actual needs.

From a service perspective, when customers believe that service providers are knowledgeable about various aspects of diversity and value others, they are likely to reward the organization with their business. Not only will they typically remain loyal to an organization that they like, but they will usually spread the word about their positive experiences. This equates to more revenue generated for the organization, which can then afford to increase salaries, expand and enhance their facilities and operations, provide training and benefits. It can also better market and fend off competition more effectively.

On the other hand, if customers believe that they are being treated indifferently and that service providers do not understand or care about their particular needs, they will potentially desert the organization and encourage their friends to do likewise. This means the potential loss of revenue and all its associated benefits.

For more information about delivering positive global service to a diverse customer base as well as hundreds of customer service tips for delivering excellent customer service, get a copy of my book Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

The Power of Non-Verbal Communication Skills in Customer Service

The Power of Non Verbal Communication Skills in Customer Service

The Power of Non-Verbal Communication Skills in Customer Service

Like other customer service skills, nonverbal communication is a strong component of interactions between a customer service representative and current or potential customers. For example, nodding of the head is often used (and overused) by many customer service professionals people to signal agreement or to indicate that they are listening to a customer during a conversation.

An important thing to be careful about when you are dealing with your customers is that when you use nonverbal cues, and when you are watching others who are doing so, you should occasionally pause to ask a question for clarification. For example, stop and ask for, or provide, feedback through a paraphrased message. A question such as, “So what do you think of what I just said?” will quickly tell you whether the other person is listening and accurately understanding your meaning. Their answer will also make it clear if the other person is simply politely smiling and nodding—but not understanding. The latter sometimes happens when there are cultural differences or when someone speaks a native language other than yours.

If you are a woman, one other point related to nonverbal communication cues is to be careful not to overuse the nodding technique. Some research has shown that many North American women often nod and smile more than men during a conversation. Doing so excessively might damage your credibility or effectiveness, especially when you are speaking to a man. The interpretation may be that you agree or that you have no opinion, whether you do or not.

For more information customer service tips on the effective use of non-verbal communication skills between customer service representatives and their customers, get a copy of Customer Service Skills for Success and Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

The Challenges of Building Positive Customer Relationships In a Global World

The Challenges of Building Positive Customer Relationships In a Global World

The Challenges of Building Positive Customer Relationships In a Global World

In a global customer service world, there is a potential relationship “minefields” that can cause problems related to trust. This is because for customers from many countries (e.g. Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Japan, Philippines, Kuwait, Turkey, Mexico, South Korea, and Vietnam), building a strong interpersonal relationship is extremely important and in many instances must be accomplished before the business is conducted. For example, in such relationship-oriented countries, it is not unusual to have a number of meetings with people in an organization before coming to an agreement. Lunch, dinner, and office meetings often occur for weeks before an agreement or important decision is reached. In such cultures, someone’s word is like a verbal contract and violations are not taken lightly. For that reason, if you are a customer service representative doing business with a customer from a relationship-oriented country, you must recognize the need to engage in some degree of conversation prior to asking for a buying decision or getting straight to business. This can present difficulty for call center representatives who are constrained by talk times or other controls or in environments where the staff has been downsized to a minimal server level. In such instances, it is wise to discuss the degree of flexibility you have in terms of the time and ways you have to deliver service with your supervisor before coming into contact with a customer.

By better understanding, the operational guidelines for your job and continuing to improve your customer service skills, the chances of creating a problem with customer trust or violating the organizational policy will be reduced.

Another potential problem area is that you can negatively impact the customer-provider relationship if you bring up certain topics to individuals from some cultures. For example, it is potentially inappropriate for a male service provider to directly address or compliment the wife or daughter who accompanies a male customer from a Middle Eastern culture without the man’s permission. This might be perceived as rude or disrespectful. Similarly asking about a man’s wife or daughter could be viewed as an unwelcome intrusion.

These cultural nuances may seem unimportant if you are from a different culture, but you must remember that people leave a country; they do not leave their culture. It is part of their personal background and value/belief system and should be respected if you plan to deliver excellent customer service.

For myriad ideas and strategies on how to deliver the best customer service possible and to better understand and work with a diverse customer base, get a copy of Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

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