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The Importance of Customer Service

The Importance of Customer Service
By Sharon Housley

The phrase, "the customer is always right," is an age old adage. When you work with others all day that concept can be a bit frustrating. Customers come with a host of concerns, questions, and expectations. They often also come with bad attitudes, frustrations and complaints, which the customer service representative gets to work out. Because people call when they need something or do not like something rather than when they want to compliment and praise, the process of helping them can be difficult. Feelings of frustration after a string of difficult people are common and understandable. On the other hand it is the customer service representative who is responsible for diffusing problems and answering questions with a smile (yes you can smile on the phone and it will make a difference). Because the customer service representative is the only, or one of the few contacts that an individual may have with a company, it is important that that person has a positive experience. A positive experience will keep them happy and coming back. By identifying challenges for the customer service representative, solutions are given to help them increase skills in helping others, which will increase customer satisfaction.

One of the challenges with working with people on the phone is that there in not face to face communication. A lot of understanding others comes from seeing their facial expressions, tightening or relaxing of muscles and body language. Because this is not possible on the phone, listening skills are important to be able to understand others without seeing them. People seek to be understood. What is said and how it is said gives feedback , whether good or bad. Positive feedback allows for the customer to feel understood. One way this is done is by giving non-verbal communication. Such things as nodding the head, smiling and giving eye-contact all communicate that you are listening. When the conversation is on the phone, giving positive feedback is still possible, but it is done a little differently. Making such comments as, "I see", "um-hum", "OK" all let the person know you are listening as well as the tone of your voice being comfortable and positive. Another important technique is restating what you understood them to say. "So, what you are saying is..." and fill in what the concern is, problem with a product, etc. In order to help them you need to fully understand their problem.

Another challenge with helping and working with others is that respect may not be mutual. Their tone may be harsh and they may attack and accuse. One helpful reminder is to recognize that they may be going through a difficult situation. A death, loss of job or relationship problem all can shorten a person's patience and temperament when a problem comes up. All though these are not your problems, if you will be understanding to the effect that stress plays on a person's emotions and strength to control themselves, you will be more ready to be patient. As you restate their concerns and help them know that they are understood, tension will ease in most cases. These skills can be practiced, learned and mastered. It will make your job better for you, and you will be better for the job.

An old proverb states, "Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes." The time with an individual on the phone is brief, but it is still possible to apply this concept. Ask yourself questions regarding the other person's position. How would I feel? What is the real concern? What do they need? By trying to think as if you were them and understand their position, it might be easier to think of what you would want or need. Treating others as if they were you or a friend, will allow you to look for the solutions that will solve the problem and ease tension.

The skill of understanding is one that can be learned. Communicating understanding will help the customer be satisfied and their experience will be a positive one that keeps them coming back.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll audio recording and editing software.


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