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Small Business Tips

5 ways to improve your customer service skills

Justine Rabideau

We've all been there: you wanted information or help from a company, but you got indifference or even rudeness. How did you feel? Did waves of affection for the company wash over you?

This is also true for your customers. Providing good customer service is vital to business growth and success. Marshall Field knew this to be true. His simple strategies for good customer relations are still followed and are said to drive growth.

Boosting your company's consumer relations helps your business thrive. Follow these five ways to improve your customer service skills.

1. Put yourself in the clients' shoes

If you've ever had a relationship with another person, you know that dealing with others can leave you in an emotional mess. Everyone has his or her own way of seeing the world. Interactions go better when you have empathy for others.

Sometimes angry customers demand solutions, so you and your employees must remain calm. Stay polite to resolve these problems.

Other clients may be chatty on a busy, hectic day. You should offer them politeness rather than impatience. These positive interactions also help your company's finances:

  • Draw on personal knowledge to treat all clients with respect
  • Listen
  • Think of all the ways you interact with the public and try to make each contact positive
  • Treat customers with courtesy

By following these steps, people will feel good about your company. Even those who want to return something or feel angry can see you positively. In the end, you cannot control how people see things, but you can give them your best behavior.

2. Be there

Like Peter Sellers in "Being There," you need to be available to your customers. This is true in all cases. It doesn't matter what your company sells or how it functions.

Some customers may live in other areas or have special needs. You may need to work early or late to oblige them. Be flexible about working hours.

Do you have an internet company? They're growing in number and computer programs such as Skype help. They let you give a more personal touch to exchanges.

Give customers contact information to keep them from feeling alone. Respond to queries and comments promptly, and always be polite. Doing so shows customers you care.

Give customers a physical address to remind people you are in a building. This helps them feel more confident in you and your company, remembering your business is bricks and mortar. Like them, you must deal with squeaky hinges and floors that need sweeping.

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3. Put a face to your business

Who likes automated messages when there could be a real person to chat with? Customers feel more at ease with real people. Remind them you and your employees are flesh and blood. You don't need to write a tell-all blog post about what you did at last year's Christmas party, but post photos and brief bios on your website.

Use social media sites to help you reach customers. They also let you involve clients in your business. Studies show that people like to see faces, which helps customers feel closer to you.

4. Ask customers what they think

Knowing your customers' opinions is important. This knowledge gives you vital clues for improving relations. You must understand consumers to give them a better buying experience. How do they perceive your business? What are your weaknesses? Your strengths?

You should also attract new clients. You can find ways to entice people when you know how customers see your business. A great tool for getting direct feedback is a customer survey. Conduct surveys regularly because customer perceptions and practices are ever-changing, like the tides. Seek feedback in a polite, engaging way. This encourages customers to respond. It also lets them know you value their thoughts.

5. Hire the right people

Many aspects of a business are learned. Some, though, are not. Your employees' character and integrity shape dealings with customers. These traits are innate, so hiring the right employee means hiring caring, professional people to improve overall customer service.

Your employees should be patient and confident. They should want to help clients and must be polite and kind when customers are angry. Calm words and manners work wonders for cooling hot tempers. When all are calm, you can find common ground.

Improve your standing and build rapport in a professional manner to all clients. Studies show that bad customer service keeps people from buying. It's true even when your product or service is good. Every instance of customer contact is important.

Think of each exchange as a small pebble thrown into the water. It makes ripples that spread outward. Studies show most unhappy customers share their bad experiences, which can spread further with social media.

Negative word-of-mouth stories harm your business. In fact, businesses can lose 22 percent of potential customers with one negative review. 90 percent of consumers use online reviews to make a decision.

Follow customer service 101

Good human relations are based on an idea: treat others the way you want to be treated. This golden rule also works for improving your customer service skills. The strategies discussed here help you build future growth for your company and form positive customer relations.

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