Customer Service Skills Will Make or Break your Business

By hiring the right people and then communicating and reinforcing your expectations, all of your first impressions can contribute to building your customer base and making your business grow.

The old adage that you only make one first impression really isn’t true. In business, you get the opportunity to make several “first” impressions with your customers. These include when someone first hears of your business, when they first arrive at your front door, and when they first have contact with your employees. Those “firsts” repeat each time they do business with you, especially when it comes to your customer’s interactions with your employees. Your business can have the greatest location or hottest “It” item going for it, but if your employees don’t have the customer service skills to go with it, it won’t matter in the long term because you won’t be able to sustain your customer base.

There are certain customer service skills every employee must master if he or she is interacting with customers. Without these skills, you run the risk of finding your business in an embarrassing customer service situation, or simply losing customers because your service lets people down. Their expectations exceed your delivery.

Let me share with you what I have found to be the five most needed skills for employees to be successful in delivering memorable customer service experiences.

Positive body language—and sometimes great acting skills: We all have walked into a store and the welcome we received is a sigh from the person behind the counter or a rolling of her eyes as she begrudgingly ends her personal conversation with her coworker. It’s like she is saying, “Go away! I don’t want to sell to or help you!”

It’s critical that the people in front of your customers can greet, smile, make eye contact, and demonstrate a positive body language that invites the customer to interact—and that your employees understand this behavior is your expectation of them every time. Even if your employees aren’t exactly feeling warm and fuzzy at the moment, as long as they are on stage, in front of that customer, they should stay in character. And that character cares about engaging that customer. As a person, an employee might be having a lousy day. Maybe he overslept or got a speeding ticket on the way to work, but in his role as customer service delivery agent, he needs to care about that customer’s experience first and foremost.

Attention to detail: Paying attention to details leads to reading the customer, their body language, and the inflection of their voice. When we ask the right questions and pay attention, we will be able to not only satisfy the customer’s needs, but exceed their expectations. Being attentive is something that is hard to teach, so look for those individuals who are attentive to the small things and make them part of your team.

Desire to learn: How can someone sell a product to or service a customer if he doesn’t have the knowledge to do it? Knowledge is power, and we should always share what we know with our team. If people are eager to learn and always asking questions, embrace them. Take the time to answer their questions and invest in their desire to learn and grow, and you will see your employees excel. Empower and teach your team what you know without the fear of being replaced. You will be respected and valued as a leader when you have this attitude toward your job. Look for employees who are not only willing to learn, but genuinely curious—those who really need to learn.

Patience/calming presence: I once read that patience is the gift of being able to see past the emotion. When it comes to serving customers, we need to set aside our personal emotions and not allow these to interfere. Do you know someone who always has a calming demeanor? And do you wonder how can he or she always be so calm? Identify those employees on your team who have this gift and take advantage of their nature to use them as examples for the rest of the team. They may simply have superior acting skills (see above) or maybe they do yoga every morning—regardless of their secret, their calming influence is an asset for the team.

Time management skills: Managers are not the only ones who need these skills to be effective and productive in their job. Our line employees need to know how to manage their time and get their daily tasks done in a timely manner. Create a guide based on the priorities of the day where employees can identify:

a) What to do first

b) What to do next

c) What to do later

d) What not to do at all

This will have an impact on your team’s performance and productivity, and eventually they will learn the process and not need the guidelines.

The right employees with the right skills can make a great “first” impression every time. There are dozens of attributes that can make a great employee, but I have found the five above to be a valuable set of priorities for building a staff that is focused on exceeding customer expectations. By hiring the right people and then communicating and reinforcing your expectations, all of your first impressions can contribute to building your customer base and making your business grow.

Dulce Gonell is a Training account manager at Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com. You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.

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