Working in a Customer Service Culture

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1 Working in a Customer Service Culture Customer service skills course designed for participants in the Senior Community Service Employment Program. You can find the student guide to this course located in the attachments tab in the upper right hand of the screen or you can download the guide and course materials from the Experience Works Internet page by scrolling to the bottom of the screen and selecting Participant s Corner. Then select the Courses for Participants located on the left side of the screen. There you will find a course description and links to course material. When you complete the Working in a Customer Service Culture course and short knowledge check, you can print a certificate of completion. Instructions for printing the certificate are included in the course materials section of Courses for Participants in the experience works Internet. Introduction - Module 1 Welcome to customer service skills training. Every job or position has some degree of customer interaction. This includes customers that come to a business or organization for a product or service, or customers within the business that rely on others to provide information, help or support. In this course we will explore different aspects of customer service. How you interact with your customers will create either a positive experience or a negative experience based on your customer service skills. Excellent customer service is a skill attractive to any potential employer. You can begin applying these new customer service skills immediately in your Community Service Assignment. In fact, begin thinking of your Community Service Assignment as a Customer Service Assignment. The objectives for customer service skills training is to enable you to: Define: what is a customer Identify customers, both external and internal Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 1

2 Describe excellent customer service Explain your role as an employee or business owner in providing the best customer service possible Describe the steps to take when resolving customer issues and dealing with angry customers Setting the stage Module 2 So let s start with a fundamental question: What is a customer? A customer includes any individual or group who has purchased/used, or is considering purchasing/using, a product or service from a company or organization. The term customer also includes anyone that uses or experiences the services of another. Every customer has their own expectations. Here is some recent data that sheds a light on what customers are saying is important to them. (Slide showing important features) What is intriguing about the data is the top four responses comprise almost 87 percent of what is most important. Those top four most important features are all dependent on how they the customers, are treated by staff. Also of great interest is the fact that each of those top four most important features are one hundred percent controllable by each and every one of us in our daily customer interactions. Your host agency or future employer is not the only game in town. Given enough customer dissatisfaction and complaints to the right people, your employer could be forced out of business. Or you as a new employee can end up out of work. Notice that in this listing of the top companies that are noted for outstanding customer service, the same companies are showing up on the list year after year. (Slide showing list) Believe me, it s no accident. There are other companies not on this list that sell the exact same products and provide the same kinds of services. What differentiates these companies? I m sure you know the answer by now it s how Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 2

3 they treat their customers. Customer service is not an add-on to their job; it is their job and part of their organization s culture. It was once estimated that a dis-satisfied customer would relate their bad experience to 15 other people. We now live in an age with the Internet, blogs, tweets, Craigslist, Angie s List and other ways in which dissatisfied customers can reach out to thousands of people at a time. External Customers - Module 3 Now is a good time to look at a formal answer to the question of who your customers will be when working in either a business or organization that provides a product or one that provides a service. Can you answer the following questions about your current host agency assignment? How well do you know the products or services that your host agency provides? Who are the host agency s customers? What are their expectations? What is your role in meeting those expectations? How does your role impact the customer? The answers may seem simple, but this course is designed to challenge your perceptions and thinking about customers, the products or services that you provide them, and how well you provide customer service. These customercentered issues apply for both for-profit and non-profit organizations. You know what it s like to be a customer when dealing with a business. You know when we ve been treated well and have had a satisfying experience. Likewise you know when the experience had been a bad one. Your customers will have either a good or bad experience based on the quality of service that you provide. The question is: will they leave your place of business, or your office, or hang up the phone, or maybe read an that leaves them delighted with your service? Or will they be disillusioned, upset and angry? You own the responsibility for creating the conditions for good customer service. Will it be a good or bad experience for the customer? It s up to you. So let s define external customers. These are the customers outside of the business or organization that rely on that business or organization to provide Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 3

4 them with a product or service. They are the reason that a business or organization exists. To be clear, the business or organization is there to serve customers. Customers are not there to serve the business. Customers have a choice where they decide to spend their money or get service. Customer service can be the deal-breaker or the deal-maker. Will customers come to your place of employment or seek products or services from a competitor? It may all come down to how the customer is treated. Internal Customers-Module 4 It is also important that we look at customer service from inside a business or an organization. Here are some questions to consider: Do you provide a product or service to others in your host agency? Do others rely on you for work, support or help? Does your supervisor or co-workers have expectations that you need to meet? Is customer service in your training plan on your Individual Employment Plan or IEP? Do other parts of the organization provide products or services to you? How you feel about the internal customer service you receive? Customer service not only extends outside of a business or organization to external customers, but inside as well. Some examples of internal customer relationships that you may have might include: Information Technology Reception Payroll Management or Supervision Janitorial or Environmental services Security Maybe it s the person working right next to you! It can be another participant assigned to your host agency. What is internal customer service? It is the process where individuals and departments in an organization work to give each other excellent and considerable service. While serving customers Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 4

5 and clients is an essential part of a company s survival, internal customer relations plays a fundamental role in ensuring that external consumer relations is possible. This table highlights some of the differences when dealing with internal customers versus external customers. Objectives for internal customers is facilitation of the workflow vs. retention when we deal with external customers The processes are: cooperation internally vs. satisfaction externally. And the outcomes are: productivity inside our organization vs. customer loyalty The way we encourage and grow an internal customer service culture is to: Promote buy-in Encourage initiative Design information sharing mechanisms Create a collaborative culture Recognize excellence So, on any given day the people within an organization have the right to expect the same exceptional customer service from co-workers that external customers expect. Customer Service Approach Module 5 Excellent customer service is the process by which employees deliver services or products for their organization in a way that allows the customer to access them in the most efficient, fair, cost effective, and humanly satisfying and pleasurable manner possible. With a customer service approach everyone wins. Customers win, organizations win and employees win. To develop the most satisfying customer service experience: Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 5

6 Try to establish what a customer wants and what would best suit their particular needs Treat each customer with respect and dignity Always act ethically and professionally So let s get into some specific issues that create a customer service approach. Notice as well, that these issues parallel what we looked at earlier regarding what customers have said is most important for them. Friendly responses - Customers appreciate a personable, friendly, professional exchange regardless of the situation. It conveys a sense of individualized attention. Product or service knowledge - Although some customers may already possess basic knowledge about the product or service they are interested in, they will often need you to provide additional details and information. It is also helpful to be able to anticipate and answer the most frequently asked questions raised by customers. Honesty and integrity: Customers want to feel that they can trust you regarding the quality and products or services you are offering. The best way to demonstrate that you can be trusted is to always speak and act honestly and ethically. Never take advantage of a customer, or make unfounded or exaggerated claims. Recovery from mistakes - Customers will often judge the quality of your service by the way you recover after a mistake has been made, and by the solutions you offer. Generally, customers are very forgiving of mistakes if the situation is ultimately corrected to their satisfaction. Here is a quote that sums all this up quite well: Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from his or her neck that reads, `Make me feel important. ` Never forget this message when dealing with people. When dealing with customers we have a choice. By our actions, we choose to make that experience either a positive one, or a negative one. Here are some items to consider: First impressions nonverbal cues that include: o Attitude people pick up on this instantly o Posture standing tall, head straight are signals of confidence and competence Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 6

7 o A smile a sign of welcome o Eye Contact transmits interest and openness o Raised eyebrows a sign of recognition o Shaking hands quickest way to establish rapport o Leaning in slightly shows engagement and interest A professional appearance and, neat organized offices also create that first impression. It is estimated that you have about seven seconds when meeting someone for the first time to make that critical first impression! Enthusiasm Have you ever dealt with a salesperson that gave you the impression that you were an interruption? An inconvenience? Demonstrate to your customers that the work you do for them is meaningful, important and you are glad that they came to you to do it. Helpfulness go the extra the mile; take the extra step to help our customers. Exceed their expectations. Your word don t make promises or commitments that you cannot keep. Set efficient and reasonable expectations. Personal Connection connect directly to your customers on a personal level. People want to deal with a person and not an impersonal business or system. With effective customer service skills we can: Demonstrate an appreciation for customers Properly handle customers questions and concerns Increase customer satisfaction Acquire and maintain customer loyalty What is a customer service culture? The organization focuses on the attention to quality customer service as a primary and essential business goal. Good customer service is the right thing to do, and it s good for business. Customers are: o Never considered an interruption to other workplace tasks o Appreciated as the ultimate reason for one s work o Always viewed as a top priority Personal Service everyone who seeks out our organization is a unique person with unique needs. We serve individuals. Customer Feedback - in a customer service culture customer feedback is a gift. We need feedback to continuously improve our services. Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 7

8 Recognition of Customer Service Excellence recognize and reward employees in the organization or business for providing the best customer service possible. Continuous Learning look for new and improved ways to provide service to customers. What was done yesterday may not be good enough for tomorrow. Remember your business is not the only game in town. Our competitors are continuously improving. Businesses or organizations don t want to fall behind. Customer Satisfaction and the Resolution of Issues Module 6 As the saying goes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Most issues arise from misunderstanding or miscommunication. It s important that any business or organization clearly communicate policies, procedures, and expectations regarding products or services to their customers to prevent future misunderstandings and unpleasant surprises. As conditions change, be sure to communicate directly, clearly and repeatedly. Despite best efforts, issues will arise. Using the following steps will help you when trying to resolve customer issues. The first step is to Listen Listen to your customer to find out what his/her problem is and more importantly what he/she thinks would be a satisfactory resolution. Restate the problem in your own words and check with the customer to ensure you fully understand the issue. The second step is Apologize This is usually a tough thing to do but it does help. Even if the complaint does not seem legitimate it is always useful to establish an understanding by apologizing. At the very least you can apologize for having made your customer feel so upset that they needed to contact your business. You are not validating their issue, but merely stating that your business never wants to upset anyone. Third step, Inform - Share with the customer the knowledge you have regarding the situation and what potential remedies are available. In this way you are demonstrating you are not trying to hide anything and all possible remedies will be considered. If there is no remedy that matches the specific situation, see if you could find an alternative compromise that would satisfy them. Also, inform them that this is hopefully a rare incident Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 8

9 of customer dissatisfaction and you will do your best to remedy the situation. And the forth step when trying to resolve an issue is satisfy, compromise, and resolve Not all customer issues can be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties but making the sincere effort to resolve it goes a long way. If a complete resolution cannot be found, try to find a compromise. If no resolution can be found at all then make it clear to the customer that you are very sorry, and that the business best effort was made to resolve the issue. Be sure to leave on a positive note even if the customer could not find the satisfaction they desired. The Angry Customer Module 7 The angry customer; we have all seen them, we have all dealt with them, and most of us at one time or another has been one. These are the customer interactions everyone dreads. Even with the best efforts and intentions, there may still be times when a customer is unhappy or dissatisfied with something you or the business or organization you work for has done, or failed to do. Learning how to handle these situations professionally and effectively is very important to your success in a customer service environment. Guidelines for dealing with angry customers: Remain Calm - use a serious but positive and helpful tone of voice, and focus on hearing the customer s perspective on the problem Don t take it personally - In most cases, a customer s complaint will not be with you personally, they are just seeking to be heard. However, if you do find yourself in a situation where a customer starts using an inappropriate language, tell the customer you cannot help them unless they refrain from speaking that way. Focus on acknowledging the feelings and upset of the customer - Once the customer starts to calm down THEN move to solving the problem. This will save you a lot of time and energy. Empathize - Let the customer know that you can identify with their feelings of disappointment or frustration. Be an Active Listener - Asking open-ended questions can be useful in acquiring information, or to clarify the specifics of the problem. Avoid phrasing a question in a forceful or accusatory manner. Summarize what you have heard and confirm your interpretation with the customer. Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 9

10 Apologize - Even if you are not directly to blame, apologize for the situation, and clearly state that you are sorry the customer is unhappy. Avoid implying that a co-worker or someone else in the company is at fault. Accept Responsibility for Finding a Solution - Communicate with the customer that you intend to take whatever action is necessary and appropriate for finding a solution. Work to the Customer s Satisfaction-Not Yours - Try to establish what it would take to meet the customer s terms for a satisfactory outcome. If the customer comes up with their own suggestion or requests, and they are reasonable, then opt for these even if you personally think that there is an easier or more practical solution. Whenever possible, find a mutually agreeable outcome. Take Action - Once you have established a reasonable resolution to a customer s problem, communicate this to the customer, and act on your intentions-immediately. Do whatever you can to resolve or correct the situation as quickly as possible. Try to Keep the Customer - Most customers simply want a solution. In many cases, once you have successfully resolved their problem they will still be committed to you as a customer. In some cases, they may become even more committed when the solution has been handled satisfactory. Know That You ve Done All You Can - There may be times when you cannot offer any practical solution that will satisfy an unhappy customerno matter how hard you try. It may simply be that no logical or financially viable solution exists. If you have exhausted all reasonable options, then you may have to accept that they cannot be satisfied. Remember it s not always what you say: Person to person communications occur through 3 main ways. The words we use, the tone of voice in which we say them, and our body language which includes posture and facial expressions. The further away from face-to-face communication, the easier it becomes to miss-understand what is being communicated. This is especially true when dealing an angry customer. Here is what the experts say about different forms of person-to-person communications. With face-to-face communication our message is conveyed by: 55% body language 38% tone of voice 7% words used With telephone communication it is: Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 10

11 82% tone of voice 18% words used With There are no verbal cues No face-to-face cues No body language cues The communication can occur at different times Correspondence can be sent (.cc d- carbon copied) to many people You can see that the further away from direct face-to-face communication we get the chances of a miss-understanding increase. In person or live is the best way to deal with customers concerns, should be the last resort, especially when trying to resolve a concern or dealing with a customer that is already angry. If is your only option for dealing with an angry customer here are some tips: Restate the issue show that you are aware of it Ask for clarification in how would they would like the issue be resolved Personalize the response with customer's name and your signature Tell them how and when you will respond to the problem. Make sure you get back to them when you said you would. If resolving the issue is taking more time than you anticipated, provide the customer with periodic updates keep them in the loop. Use a polite positive tone Use I and We rather than You Apologize when you are at fault Wrap up and review Module 8 We have investigated customer service from a number of different angles. We looked at who our customers are from both an eternal view and internally. A quick recap of our training objectives: Definition of a customer - We have defined the term customer as any individual or group who has purchased/used, or is considering purchasing/using, Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 11

12 a product or service from a company or organization. This also includes any entity that uses or experiences the services of another. Identification of your host agency customers, both external and internal Hopefully, this has you thinking about some groups, organizations and coworkers that you never thought of previously as customers. Description of excellent customer service - We have established that excellent customer service is the process by which businesses or organizations deliver its services or products in a way that allows the customer to access them in the most efficient, fair, cost effective, and humanly satisfying and pleasurable manner possible Explain your role as an employee in providing the best customer service possible We looked at a number of issues and techniques related to providing excellent customer service. Describe the steps to take when resolving customer issues and dealing with angry customers We now have a steps and tools we can use to resolve customer issues and angry customers. This concludes the Working in a Customer Service Culture course. Keep in mind that every job has some element of customer service. The better you are at providing excellent customer service improves your changes of employment, and once employed, keeping the job. Good luck. Working in a Customer Service Culture Page 12

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