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

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.

Improving Customer Service With Active Listening Skills

Imrpoving Customer Service With Active Listening SkillsImproving Customer Service With Active Listening Skills

Delivering excellent customer service to your internal and external customers requires strong interpersonal communication skills, especially in the area of listening.

  • Listening effectively is the primary means that many customer service representatives use during communication to determine the needs of their customers. Many times, these needs are not communicated to you directly but through inferences, indirect comments, or nonverbal signals. A skilled listener will pick up on a customer’s words and these cues or nuances and, then conduct follow-up questioning or probe deeper to determine the real need.
  • Most employees take listening skills for granted in a customer service environment. They incorrectly assume that anyone can listen effectively. Unfortunately, this is untrue. This is why many employees who deal with customers are complacent about listening and only go through the motions of listening.
  • True listening is an active learned process, as opposed to hearing, which is the physical action of gathering sound waves through the ear canal. When you listen actively, you go through a process consisting of various phases …. hearing or receiving the message, attending, comprehending or assigning meaning, and responding.
  • For information and strategies for developing and using effective listening skills and what you can do to more effectively interact with your customers, get a copy of Customer Service Skills for Success.

Effective Listening and Interpersonal Communication Skills for Customer Service Representatives

Effective Listening and Interpersonal Communication Skills for Customer Service Representatives

Effective Listening and Interpersonal Communication Skills

for Customer Service Representatives

Effective listening and interpersonal communication skills for customer service representatives are crucial in ensuring that customers are satisfied and less likely to desert an organization. Many customer service representatives assume that they know how to effectively listen to their customers. After all, don’t they do it every day? The response to that question for many of them is a resounding NO!

What a lot of people who deal with customers think of as listening is actually the physiological process of hearing. In that process, sounds are gathered through the ear and transmitted to the brain. Unless the person then takes time to focus on the context of the message, analyze it and respond appropriately, listening has not occurred.

The following tips can increase customer service effectiveness, help build customer loyalty and satisfaction and aid customer retention.

Learn how to effectively listen to your customers. You can do this by taking the time to read articles and books and attend listening training sessions on the topic.

Identify your own listening abilities and limitations. An easy way to accomplish this is to record yourself interacting with people who you know (e.g. family and friends) in order to hear what they hear during a conversation. If you are not listening and responding appropriately in such instances, you won’t do so with your customers either. Also, ask people you know well to rate you on various aspects of listening (e.g. attending to their messages and responding appropriately to what they said).

Recognize the verbal and nonverbal cues sent by customers. The majority of meaning in a message between two people is derived from the subtle unspoken cues that they send. If you are not familiar with such messages, study the topics to increase your awareness. Then make it a habit to focus on the “whole” message a person is sending to you when interacting face-to-face with them. On the telephone, learn to identify unspoken messages based on rate, pitch, volume, and inflection of their voice or their word choice and emotion.

Use paraphrasing throughout the conversation. By repeating back or summarizing in different ways, what your customer has said periodically, you can ensure that you understood their need or concern correctly before you offer a response or try to assist them. For example, if a customer calls about a defective product that they received, you might paraphrase with something like, “If I understood you correctly, you ordered _____ and when it was delivered, there was a missing part. Is that correct?

Get feedback from the customer. Do not assume that you responded correctly or that the customer is satisfied with your level of service. You want to be known as a person or organization that delivers excellent customer service. To make that happens, pause and ask for validation and approval throughout your interaction with your customer. Use closed-end questions that start with an action verb to get agreement or verification. Examples are:

  • Did I summarize your concern correctly?
  • Does what I said help you with this issue?
  • Is there anything else that I can help you with?

Realize that each culture communicates differently. There are entire books, training programs, higher education courses and conferences designed around the topic of intercultural communication. Take advantage of these resources if you plan to be successful in working in a diverse workplace or communicating effectively with others in your daily life.

Effective listening is about focusing on your customers and using effective interpersonal communication skills that will make them feel welcomed, cared for and served well. For you to perform your duties effectively as a customer service representative, you have to continually strive to learn and hone your listening skills and other people skills, especially when it comes to dealing with a diverse customer base.

For additional listening and interpersonal communication tips and hundreds of other customer service strategies that can aid in developing the best customer service culture possible, 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.

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.

Encouraging Customer Loyalty Can Result in Increased Customer Retention

Encouraging Customer Loyalty Can Result in Increased Customer Retention

Encouraging Customer Loyalty

Can Result in Increased Customer Retention

If you are a customer service representative, one of your key roles is to help create a customer-centric environment designed to identify and meet customer expectations. To accomplish this, you must ensure that you continue to enhance your knowledge of the organization’s products and services. You must also continually hone your customer service skills in order to communicate, negotiate, and serve customers while you deliver excellent customer service.

To get hundreds of ideas and strategies on how to create a positive customer service environment that can aid in achieving customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention, get a copy of Customer Service Skills for Success.

Taking A Customer for Granted Can Lead To Customer Service Breakdowns

Taking A Customer for Granted Can Lead To Customer Service Breakdowns

Taking a customer for granted is something that a customer service representative should never do. That is because customers are your reason for existing as an employee. They are also the key element in your organization’s success. For that reason, you must consciously go out of your way to identify and anticipate their needs, wants, and expectations, then address those in an expedient and professional manner. You can potentially accomplish this by showing customers what you and your company offer that other organizations do not. Also by demonstrating that you are working hard to gain and retain their trust and business.

Remember that just because someone is a customer today, does not mean that they will remain so in the future. Consumer opinions in many parts of the world have shifted related to customer Taking A Customer for Granted Can Lead To Customer Service Breakdownsloyalty. In the past, people often exhibited brand loyalty for cars, laundry detergent, restaurants, airlines, and many other items and services. With the advent of technology, global trade and easy access to alternative and comparable products and services, it is not unusual for someone to move to a new product, service or provider to meet their needs based strictly on factors like price, service or availability. The result of such shifts in consumer behavior is that many well-known major organizations and products have changed dramatically, evolved or completely disappeared in past decades. Examples are Montgomery Ward, Pontiac and Plymouth automobiles, Eastern Airlines, and Steak and Ale and Bennigan’s restaurants. In instances where manufacturers have recognized the need for product modifications to address customer needs, wants and expectations, they have modified or added additional varieties to their product lines (e.g. Coca Cola and Pepsi, Tide detergent, Cheerios cereal, and Crest toothpaste) in order to retain and satisfy customer needs and expectations.

In order to help ensure retain customers and build customer loyalty from your clients and potential customers, you must place their needs first. One way to do this is to build a sound knowledge of your organization’s products, services, policies, and procedures. You must also identify your competition and know their product and service lines, how those differ from yours and what they offer that you do not. In this latter instance, you must understand how to present your organization’s offerings in a manner that overshadows the competition. For example, ensure that you know what benefits and advantages your customers might receive from doing business with your organization and then present these to your customers in a positive manner.

Additionally, you must also continually seek to enhance your knowledge and skills while staying attuned to current consumer behavior and trends. Ultimately, your goal is to be the “go-to” person and organization for whatever products or services that your customers might need.

For hundreds of customer service tips and additional ideas and strategies for maintaining positive customer relationships, building customer retention and loyalty, and delivering excellent customer service, get a copy of Customer Service Skills for Success.

Build Customer Relations – PLAN for Positive Customer Interactions

Build Customer Relations - PLAN for Positive Customer Interactions

Build Customer Relations – PLAN for Positive Customer Interactions


Customer service representatives are on the front line when it comes to making a positive first impression on the potential and current customers. What you do (or do not do), say, and how you act with customers can either help build customer satisfaction and loyalty or can drive customers away.

An important strategy for delivering excellent customer service is to plan everything from your greeting to your closing statements before you come into contact with a customer. Know what you want and need to say, avoid unnecessary details or discussion, and be prepared to answer questions about the organization, its products and services, and the customer’s order.

To maximize your potential and create positive outcomes with customers, use the PLAN acronym as a guide to effective communication with those whom you come into contact with. The model stands for:

  • Prepare for Positive Customer Interactions
  • Let Your Customers Know They Are Important
  • Address Your Customer’s Expectations Positively
  • Nurture a Continuing Relationship

For additional customer service tips, ideas and strategies on how to more effectively communicate with customers, build stronger customer relations and help create a positive customer-centric environment, get copies of Customer Service Skills for Success and Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

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.

Building Customer Relationships – Four Crucial Factors That Impact Service Outcomes

Building Customer Relationships - Four Crucial Factors That Impact Service Outcomes

Building Customer Relationships –

Four Crucial Factors That Impact Service Outcomes

Customer relationships are impacted by many factors that begin once a customer and customer service representative or other employee comes into contact with a current or potential customer. These people are either internal customers who work for the organization or external customers from outside the organization, who contact a service professional for assistance or to do business.

Here are four crucial factors that affect customers and service provider interactions which can definitely influence a situation and customer relations.

1. Approach to communication. Whether face-to-face, over the telephone or through other types of technology, the perception that a customer has about the way he or she was greeted verbally, non verbally or in writing can have an immediate impact on whether or not the relationship continues.

Anyone dealing with customers must continually strive to enhance their communication knowledge and skills for dealing with all types of customers. They must also consciously practice effective customer communication skills.

2. Customer service representative demeanor. Most people know or have an expectation of how a service professional should act and what they should do to meet the needs, wants and expectations of their customers. When an employee projects an attitude or leaves the impression that they are just “going through the motions” of providing service and really do not care about the customer or their issue, customers typically pick up on that attitude.

When issues are occurring in the life of the service provider that may negatively impact their ability to deliver the best customer service possible, they should talk to a supervisor and either take some time off or have someone else handle a customer situation. The only way to interact with a customer is professionally and in a can-do manner.

3. Product and service knowledge. Customer service provider knowledge related to the products and services provided by their organization can either fulfill customer needs or inhibit the degree to which they are able to deliver excellent customer service.

Employees should receive ongoing customer service training so that they can handle any situation in which the customer has a question or concern about the organization, products or services.

4. Problem-solving ability. Often service providers are not able to comprehend or analyze information that a customer is providing related to a need, problem or other issues that they have. Cultural, gender or other differences can cause this, or it might be a breakdown in communication ability on either the part of the customer service representative or the customer. In any event, it is crucial that the service provider is trained and skilled in using basic problem-solving skills. Failure to do so can leave to a customer-provider relationship breakdown and lost business for the organization.

For information, ideas and strategies about how to effectively and professionally interact with customers, get copies of Customer Service Skills for Success and Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

Use Head Nodding Effectively With Customers to Avoid Misunderstandings

Use Head Nodding Effectively With Customers to Avoid Misunderstandings

Use Head Nodding Effectively With Customers to Avoid Misunderstandings

Nodding of the head is often used (and overused) by many people to signal agreement or to indicate that they are listening to a speaker during a conversation.

As a customer service representative, you must be careful to occasionally pause to ask a question for clarification when you are using this nonverbal communication technique or when you are watching others who are doing so. 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 understands your meaning or is simply being polite by smiling and nodding—but not understanding. The latter sometimes happens when there are gender or cultural differences or when someone speaks a native language other than yours.

If you are a woman, 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.

Although nodding your head generally signals agreement, if you nod without a verbal acknowledgment or paralanguage (a vocal effect such as “uh-huh, I see, hmmm”), a missed or misinterpreted cue could result. For example, suppose that you want to signal to a customer that you are listening to and understand her request. You may nod slowly, vocalize an occasional “I see” or “Uh-huh,” and smile as she speaks. She might interpret this to mean that you are following her meaning and are nonverbally signaling acceptance of it. This can present challenges if she is stating something contrary to your organization’s policy or that is outside your level of authority. In such an instance, she might misinterpret your non-verbal signals by thinking that you agree with her, not that you are merely signaling to understand. Later, she might be upset, saying something like, “Well, earlier you nodded agreement when I said I wanted a replacement.”

To learn more about effective non-verbal communication when interacting with customers or potential customers in order to deliver excellent customer service, get copies of Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures and Customer Service Skills for Success.

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