Diane DeMasi

Freelance Writer & Author
Basic Customer Service Tips

Basic Customer Service Tips

After a trip to my favorite big box store where I stared down a cashier whose tortuously stuffed and pushed-up cleavage was about to pop her name tag off and whose glare was less than welcoming, I felt it necessary to do a list of basic customer service tips.

1. Smile

Yes, it really does make a difference. When customers are helped by people who don’t smile, they get the feeling they aren’t wanted. If they don’t feel wanted, they stop frequenting your establishment. When they stop frequenting your establishment, your boss cuts hours. When your boss cuts your hours, you get angry that you are working for diddly squat. However, when you provide a pleasant attitude, people come back. They spend money. You may not get a raise, but your hours may increase. So, suck up all the personal drama and put on a smile.

2. Say “Hi.”

It is the simplest word in the English language, yet so many people don’t use it. Again, people are choosing your establishment, make them feel appreciated. Yes, even if the customer really doesn’t deserve the nice treatment; even when they come to your station on their cell phone, even when they roll their eyes, even when they gripe about prices. Always provide your best service.

3. Dress Appropriately

This should never have to be addressed, but pants below your hips, cleavage fit for a night on the town or the street corner does not belong at work. It’s not just tacky, people doubt your abilities. A community college I service has a security guard who wears his pants hanging off his rear. I doubt he could move fast enough, without tripping, to help anyone.

4. Never, Ever Say, “I don’t know.”

The only time that line is acceptable is when you follow it with, “let me find out.” Sadly, there are many associates that use this line in conjunction with a shrug and the dreaded why-are-you-still-staring-at-me-go-away-pesky-customer look. Customers ask questions because they need help. You are supposed to help, it’s why you were hired. No one expects you to know everything, but they expect you to at least find someone who can help them.

5. Acknowledge Customers

When a customer walks up to a service desk and three employees are gathered around talking, they expect to be helped. Yes, you may be discussing the broken computer which needs immediate attention but don’t ignore the customer. Let them know you see them and will be with them shortly, “Hi, we’ll be right with you, our system crashed and we’re resetting it.” Or when you have a customer that is delaying the rest of the line, maybe filling out a check too slowly, let the person behind them know you’ll be right with them. When you do this with a smile, it eases the waiting persons’ tension and it serves as a polite reminder to the current customer to speed it up a bit.

6. Be Professional

Do not complain about co-workers, do not yell at co-workers, do not snarl at customers. You are not teenagers anymore, stop acting like it. And, if you are a teen, you now know gossip and cranky attitudes are not professional and knowing that puts you leaps and bounds ahead of your peers.

7. Hone Your Acting Skills

You may hate your job, but your customers should never know it. If you are working a job you hate, chances are, you need the money. Nothing ticks off a customer more than having an angry person help them, especially when they know someone who is job hunting and would be thankful for anything that would help pay the bills. If you don’t care about the customers have some respect for yourself. You will, and should be, applying for jobs you would prefer to work. If any of those places call your current boss to question your work ethic, you’re going to be at the dreaded job a lot longer than you ever thought. No one wants to hire someone with a bad attitude.

8. Thank The Customer

They could spend their money at another establishment, but they chose yours. Thank them.

Following these tips will help move you up the ladder. It won’t happen overnight, but people will take notice. My local store has one of the best cashiers I’ve ever met. She is fast, efficient, polite, makes small talk, yet still keeps her line moving. I choose her line even when another is open because she makes my day a joy. And, I’ve let the manager know this, too. Even if you don’t plan on moving up at your current company, these skills will be noticed and passed along to employers who read your resume and call to inquire about your work skills.

No one expects you to be peppy 24/7, especially when you’re treading troubled waters, like dealing with elderly parents or sick kids, but doing the above is good for you, too. It reminds you that life goes on. Customers you’ve helped in the past come through with good news, the same customers who weathered rough seas two weeks ago. That is a reminder that your troubles will pass, too. And sometimes, the reminder is what you need. In the end, it’s a win-win situation.

What is your best customer service tip?

 

6 comments found

  1. Hi, Diane – I just followed you here from Carol Tice’s…

    This is a terrific list!

    I’d add this to #6: Don’t complain about other customers. Even if you think they’re “out of earshot”, you don’t know when someone else knows the person you’re talking about.

    And something I get really irritated about, as a customer – Don’t *apologize* for something you had no control over and truly couldn’t have changed.
    ~ You can’t apologize for something you didn’t do, cause or allow. You cansympathize, empathize or acknowledge: “I’m so sorry to hear that…” or “I understand your unhappiness with this situation…”

    But, making an apology tries to take on responsibility for my feelings, is inappropriate, and quite likely to make me more upset!

    1. Thank you, Karen. Great catch to add to #6. And, your addition of don’t apologize is great. I admit, I’m a sorry person. I apologize for everything. It’s gotten a bit better over the years, but it still happens. When I apologize I’m not trying to take responsibility for someone’s feelings, I’m apologizing because I can’t fix the problem. I still have people snipe at me, “What are you sorry for?” Now I understand what they are thinking, thank you. I still have to work on that myself.

  2. “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Excellent tips, Diane!

    When work is a pain, serve your customers even better. It’s empowering, and when you realize you’re making a difference, everything changes. That’s the kind of satisfaction money can’t buy.

    1. You’re right, Mike. At the end of the day you know you did your best and that’s a good feeling. Thank you.

  3. Love the customer service tips! The world would be a better place…

    One other thought came to mind: Deal with the customer that is in front of you. For instance; if you are speaking to a customer face to face and suddenly the phone rings please recognize that while it is totally acceptable to politely excuse yourself from the face to face in order to take a call, it is also vitally important that once you pick up the phone and greet the caller to let them know that you are with another customer and could they please hold.

    Countless times I have stood in front of a customer service desk and been repeatedly blown off while the representative helps someone who has called in. One time I was so frustrated I actually asked the person if it would be better if I just call. It didn’t change a thing. The person continued to take phone calls and I never did get taken care of. Who trains these people?

    Cheers,
    Eric

    1. Good one, Eric. You’re right, nothing makes the customer more angry. Especially, when they’d be glad to drive the extra couple miles to a store that treats well.

      It’s bad enough that rep kept talking, but then continued to do so after you made a comment was inexcusable.
      Thanks for the insight!

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