10 Essential Customer Service Skills

By Team AmeriCommerce Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Increasingly, brands recognize the importance of online customer service. They're investing time and resource into learning and understanding how to use online channels to deliver stellar service to their customers.

But what about good ol' fashioned, in-store, face-to-face customer service?

In the omni-channel age, we sometimes find – as consumers – that the brands we feel deliver flawless, feel-good experiences on the web, fall short of these standards in person.

There's a real financial imperative to brush up on your in-store service if you can. It's reported that poor service costs U.S. brands approximately $41 billion each year – and 65% of consumers say they've cut ties with a brand over a single poor customer service experience.

In this article, we'll list 10 customer service essentials and talk a little about how to encourage them in your store!

1. Give a warm welcome

Great customer service starts the second your customer walks through the door. You don't want to crowd or intimidate your customers – but a smile and a friendly greeting go a long way towards making them feel welcome. This can also make it less intimidating for them to approach you with questions or concerns.

Retail expert Bob Phibbs writes that greeting customers is a good way to differentiate from your competition and engage customers. He advocates making statements and offering insight instead of asking questions like 'do you need any help?' This is a great way to open dialog with your customer without smothering them or giving them the chance to shut you down with 'No, thanks...I'm just looking.'

2. Know your apples

Lack of product knowledge is a real turn-off for customers. If they ask you a question, they really expect you to have an answer.

As a retailer, you need to have an intimate understanding of your products and what they do. Take time yourself – and encourage others – to enhance their product knowledge. Consistent training and hands-on product experience are a must.

Clearly, sales success depends heavily on maximizing your time spent on the shop floor, but there are ways to get around this. Many retailers choose to use tablet devices for their training (the guys at Sweetrush specialise in providing m-training programs.) This comes with the welcome added bonus of providing an extra resource to help customers with visual aids etc. during the sales process.

3. Use positive language

It's an old cliché but it often isn't what you say, but the way you say it. Choose your words carefully when dealing with customers – be honest, forthright and, above all, positive. Focus on fixing the problem. Check out this awesome HelpScout article for some go-to phrases which will help.

As a basic starting point, remember that 'I don't know...' is only an acceptable answer to a customer question when it's followed by 'But let me find out for you.'

4. Understand body language and be proactive

There are some pretty fascinating stats around verbal and non-verbal communication. Apparently, as much of 55% of the meaning in our words is derived from facial expressions – as opposed to just 7% in the words we actually speak.

Body language is an incredibly expressive and powerful communication tool – and we all use it unwittingly.

All it really takes for you to harness it as a retailer is a certain level of attentiveness and proactivity; watching your customers, understanding their actions and stepping in to help where required.

You'll be able to identify customers who are lost, unhappy, irritated or confused. Proactively helping them to find what they're looking for not only puts cash in your register, it delivers a thoughtful and caring customer experience which will only encourage them to shop with you again.

5. Listen!

It's pretty much inconceivable to compile this sort of list without the inclusion of listening. It's a labored point but it really does bear repeating. You simply can't understand a customers needs or challenges, without listening intently as they explain it.

Have you ever wondered why we find it so hard, as human beings, to listen? Well, studies suggest that, whereas we listen at a rate of around 125-250 words per minute, we're able to think at around 1000-3000.

This means that it's easy – and natural – for our thoughts to 'drift away' from what we're hearing if we let them. The problem is, that's utterly toxic when it comes to customer service. Think of a time, as a customer, you've had to repeat yourself, or re-explain an issue. Annoying, right?

Pay direct attention to your customer – give them your total, undivided focus – and you give yourself the best possible shot at understanding and resolving their problems quickly and efficiently.

Remember:

  • Listen.
  • Stay focused.
  • Don't interrupt or pre-empt.
  • Repeat the key facts.
  • Take notes if necessary.
  • Once they're done speaking, respond – and do so positively.

It's such a critical and difficult skill to master, so it's perhaps surprising that just 2% of people have had any formal listening training. Whether you go down the formal training route, or just make it a core part of your customer service manifesto, make sure that listening is central to every customer interaction.

6. Be adaptable. Be patient.

Customer service is such a mixed bag, and customers will wildly vary in their approach. Some will be calm and placid, others will be more 'animated.' It's important to be even-handed in your approach, whichever tact your customer takes.

An often repeated business mantra is that the customer is always right...but one of the most difficult things about customer service is that you willoccasionally disagree with their stance completely. It's inevitable. In these cases it's essential to remain patient and calm yourself. Check out this article: 7 Steps For Dealing With Angry Customers.

7. Put yourself in someone else's shoes

The thing with customer service is, we've all been on the other side of the deal at some point. A useful exercise is to work with your team and discuss two different types of customer experiences you've had; a time when you were totally blown away by exceptional service, and a time when you received the total opposite.

Talk these through in more detail – isolate what it was, specifically, that made these such awesome or terrible experiences. This can help act as a benchmark for how to treat customers in your own store – and how not to treat them!

Remember that every customer is another person, just like you. Put yourself in their shoes and consider how you'd want to be treated. You were probably told as a kid to treat others the way you'd like to be treated yourself...and this is still a great rule to live by.

8. Ongoing Review and feedback

If you're standing still, you're going backwards. Great customer service is a restless science and one that depends on continued reflection, refinement and improvement. Forrester research suggests that the revenue impact from a 10 percentage point improvement in a company’s customer experience score can translate into more than $1 billion.

The simplest way to do this is to provide an outlet for customers to tell you how you did. Customers are your most honest and impartial form of feedback. Many retailers hand out a card or barcode on the receipt which links to a website where customers can complete a feedback form and be entered into some kind of prize draw. This is not only a way to encourage feedback – it really highlights your commitment to improved service.

9. Passion

Ultimately, commitment to service is a vocation – you really have to be passionate about this. Going above and beyond to deliver for your customers clearly takes extra time and effort, but – while the rewards aren't always immediately trackable – they are there. Repeat business. Delighted customers. Powerful brand advocacy.

Put simply, you and your team need to care about this stuff. You may choose to reward and incentivize great service, but, equally, there are other ways to build a culture of great service in your store. It needs to be the number one focus.

10. A happy exit

Just as you greeted your customers as they entered your store, it's essential to make sure they leave happy. If you can, thank them for visiting your store even if they didn't make a purchase. If they do buy something – and hopefully they will! - give it a quick look over before bagging it to make sure there are no faults. A simple quality check can solve so many potential headaches at this point. Remember to smile and say 'thank you' as they leave'

Closing Thoughts

In-store customer service is a simple science and a lot of it seems like common sense. But we know that it can often prove difficult to implement. You're busy, have a task list as long as your arm and the important thing is your bottom line for the day.

But it's worth it.

Studies suggest that twice as many customers will tell their friends, family and colleagues about bad experiences than good ones.

And the great thing is, fantastic customer service is always going to give you a competitive advantage. There really are no traffic jams along the extra mile!

About the Author

Team AmeriCommerce

AmeriCommerce is an ecommerce software platform serving over 5,000 merchants since 2005. Whether you need one online store or multiple stores, AmeriCommerce has the tools to help you Sell Stuff! By staying passionate about selling stuff online and fostering a loving and deep partnership with our customers, AmeriCommerce is the ecommerce software that simply cares more. Learn more about AmeriCommerce at www.AmeriCommerce.com

Share This Article!

Become An E-Commerce Expert!

Join the thousands of entrepreneurs who receive ecommerce tips, resources, and news delivered directly to your inbox for free.

More Awesome Content


Get tips and resources for selling delivered directly to your inbox.

Resource Categories

  • E-Commerce Power Ups

    Helpful tips and tricks to help you optimize your store to "sell stuff!"

  • E-Books & Guides

    In-depth guides, whitepapers and e-books for all e-commerce entrepeneurs.

  • News & Announcements

    News about the AmeriCommerce platform, release announcements and much more.

  • Case Studies

    See how these brands helped solve their e-commerce pain points with AmeriCommerce.

  • AmeriCommerce Pro-Tips

    Flex your AmeriCommerce capabilities to bring your online store to the next level.

Comments
(
0
)


Leave A Comment

AmeriCommerce Flag