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Tips for Better Customer Service: How to Help a Customer

For Good Customer Service, You Have to Get This Right

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What's the most common customer service situation? A customer or client seeking help. So it's extremely important to get this customer service interaction right. Properly done, a customer seeking help will not only feel that she or he has been treated well but will be more favourably disposed towards buying products and/or services from your business. Use the following tips for better customer service to educate your staff and evaluate their customer service performance.

Tips for Better Customer Service: How to Help a Customer

When a potential customer walks into your store or office you and/or your staff need to:

1) Be available in a timely manner.

The first way that you make your customer feel valued is by acknowledging her as soon as possible.

So when someone enters your store or office, you need to look up from your computer, stop stocking shelves or whatever else you're doing as soon as possible. If your work involves being away from the floor, such as working in stockroom or workshop area for part of the time, you need to have some system that alerts you when a customer enters so you can attend to her.

2) Greet the customer in a friendly but appropriate way.

Make eye contact, smile and say something such as, "Hello. How may I help you today?"

Stop there. Allow the customer to respond.

3) Appear eager to help (but not in such an aggressive or rote fashion that the customer is turned/driven off).

Doing points one and two properly are often all that's required to appear eager to help to a customer. Do not encourage staff to continually trail customers about the premises or to interrupt them every two minutes and ask them how they’re doing.

Customers who have responded to the initial question by saying something such as, "I just thought I'd take a look around" should be approached after an acceptable period of time (which will vary depending on the type of business, floor layout etc.) and asked if they have any questions or if they've found what they're looking for.

4) Help the customer by directly addressing the customer's request/solving the customer's problem.

This may involve:

  • Actively listening to the customer. Show that you're actively listening to the customer by making eye contact, nodding, or even jotting down a note. Ask clarifying questions when the customer is finished speaking if necessary to get more details that will enable you to solve the customer's problem. Do not interrupt a customer when he or she is speaking. You can't listen when your mouth is moving.
  • Showing a knowledge of the business's products and/or services. Be sure that you and your staff know your products and services inside out. And be sure that all staff know the difference between "showing a knowledge" and "showing off". Customers do not come in to hear lectures about particular products or services. For good customer service, tell customers what they want to know, not everything you know about it.
  • Showing a knowledge of related products and/or services. Customers commonly compare products and/or services, so you and staff need to be able to do this, too. After all, you may be able to save them a trip to another store. You also need to be aware of any accessories or parts related to your products so you can tell customers where they can get them if you don't supply them.
  • Being able to offer pertinent advice. Customers often have questions that aren't directly about your products or services but are related to them. For instance, a customer interested in hardwood flooring might want to know what the best way of cleaning hardwood floors is. The answers you give (or aren't able to give) can be a big influence on buying decisions and how the customer feels about your customer service.

5) Be cheerful, courteous and respectful throughout the customer service interaction.

6) Close the customer service interaction appropriately.

You should finish helping a customer by actively suggesting a next step. If he or she is ready to make a purchase at this point, escort or direct the customer to the checkout where you or someone else will go through the payment procedure with the customer. If the customer is not ready to buy at this point, your suggested next step might be a further invitation to engage with the merchandise or service such as, "Is there anything else I can help you with?", "Would you like a brochure?", or "Would you like to try that on?" You should never just say something such as, "Here you go" or "Okay, then" and move on.

The Tricky Part of Customer Service

I know it's basic, but providing good customer service is basic. The tricky part of it is providing good customer service to all your customers all the time. Hopefully these tips for better customer service will help you and your staff accomplish that.

This article is part of the Small Business Makeover series. Read the entire Customer Service Makeover to learn more about how to provide good customer service, the kind of customer service that builds customer loyalty, gives positive word-of-mouth advertising, and increases sales.

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