Training staff for customer service

Whether you have one employee or two hundred, make time to teach them how to work with customers in a pleasant and meaningful way.

If you have employees that work with customers or the public, it is vital to provide training to equip them for this role. Too often, a company representative lacks the personality, expertise, or demeanor for dealing with clients while representing the company.

Employers that themselves do not know how to provide communications training can find professional consultants to offer workshops or seminars to help staff acquire the needed skills. Whether you teach the session or hire it done by someone else, here are essential points that should be covered:

1. Maintain a positive attitude. Sometimes you can hire people who have a natural buoyant outlook. At other times, however, you will have to remind staff of the best way to represent themselves and the company when working with the outside world. Tips to share with them include the importance of smiling, making eye contact while talking or listening, giving the customer full attention, and dressing appropriately. All of these things can convey the idea that your company representative takes the job seriously and cares about the customer.

2. Demonstrate courtesy. Everyone has a bad day occasionally, but emphasize the need to cover personal bad moods of irritation, depression, or anger when interacting with the public. Those who feel really bad should take the day off or excuse themselves until they feel better. Reiterate the need to listen carefully, avoid disputes, and stay calm even when the other person speaks loudly or becomes irate.

3. Do not argue or escalate tensions. Employees must refrain from arguing with customers. When they must disagree, it should be done politely or even half-apologetically to show respect for the customer's viewpoint in a shared goal of working for a proactive resolution. If a customer yells, makes threatening gestures, or issues threats, the employee may need to summon security. But up to that point, it is important to remain calm and to make the customer feel valued and supported.

4. Facilitate a situation to the customer's benefit. Whenever possible, try to let the client "win," even if that means swallowing a loss or replacing a product that isn't defective. The retention of your client's good will is more valuable than many types of products or services. Of course, if someone tries to take advantage of your business, explain to employees where and how to draw the line that must not be crossed. Keep in mind, though, that it's always cheaper to retain current customers than to recruit new ones.

5. Follow through. When someone calls for information or assistance that you cannot provide, you may have to connect the party to another employee or department. Ensure that the connection goes smoothly, and offer to help within the parameters of your ability. If a process has to be drawn out or delayed, check back in a timely manner to make sure it is completed effectively or conclusively.

A chain is only as good as its weakest link. Make sure that your chain remains strong and durable when training staff to work with your all-important clients.

© High Speed Ventures 2011