The Top 20 Customer Care Skills

Customer service skills in restaurant

For many businesses, people working in customer service roles are often the face of the company. These are the people who engage with customers, encourage customers to come back again and work hard to give the organisation a solid reputation.  Customer service is vital for any organisation but good customer service doesn’t just happen.  The customer service professionals have to work hard and develop their customer care skills to make sure that every customer has a winning experience during every visit.  

So what are the top 20 customer service skills?

  1. Patience – when a customer is taking time to make a decision, take a deep (but invisible) breath, smile and be patient.  Some customers can make decisions instantly whereas others have to weigh up the pro’s and con’s of the decision first.  
  2. Attention to detail – the little things do matter to customers and they remember them.  It could be something as simple as remembering the preferred coffee of a regular customer or double-checking the spelling of an email address.
  3. Good communication skills  – the ability to talk to customers is crucial in delivering excellent customer service.  But sometimes your job may include responding to emails or social media enquiries so it is really important to adopt a friendly tone of voice in the written word too.
  4. Using positive language – ie the glass is half full rather than half empty.  Focus on the positive aspects rather than highlighting any negatives to a customer.  For example, if a customer has been standing in a queue, thank him for waiting when it is his turn rather than apologising for the delay.
  5. Listening skills – it’s not just about being a good talker, you need to know when to keep quiet and listen to what the customer is saying.  Also “listen with your eyes” to watch a customer’s body language which may indicate the customer’s true feelings.
  6. Empathy – this is about putting yourself in the shoes of a customer ie how would you feel if the long awaited dinner was cancelled at the last minute due to an overbooking by the restaurant manager?
  7. Warmth – showing genuine warmth towards a customer and treating the customer as you would want a member of your family to be treated. 
  8. Friendly and approachable – a smile goes a long way to show that you really want to engage with the customer and want their business.  If you have a “face like a Lurgan spade”, you will not entice a customer to cross the threshold into your business. 
  9. Integrity, honesty and respect in all customer interactions – do not lie because it is likely that the customer will find out in the future and then you (and your business) will lose credibility in the customer’s eyes.
  10. Be realistic – there are things that you will be able to do for a customer and things that are totally impossible due to time, manpower or space.  Do not overpromise and build up a customer’s expectations but instead provide a realistic picture of what you can and can not do.
  11. Take ownership – when a problem arises, don’t shrug your shoulders and say it is nothing to do with you.  Do your best to resolve a customer complaint quickly but if it is outside your control, let your line manager know and ask him/her to handle it. 
  12. Have sound technical knowledge – every job requires technical skills for you to be able to perform it.  Make sure that you are constantly developing your technical skills as well as your customer service skills.
  13. Work as a team – to provide an excellent customer experience at every point of the customer journey, it is really important that you work closely with your colleagues (or internal customers) in your organisation.
  14. Adaptability – when the unexpected happens, you need to be able to turn your hand to other tasks which may not strictly fall within your job description.  Looking after the customer is number one and if you need to sweep the floor after the Christmas tree decorations have been put up before guests arrive, then being adaptable and being prepared to help out is crucial.
  15. Enthusiasm – be upbeat about your job and your enthusiastic attitude will rub off on your work colleagues plus bring a smile to the customer’s face.
  16. Organised – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  So always plan ahead and don’t leave everything to the last minute.
  17. Time management – are you spending too much time with one customer and your work colleagues are having to pick up the slack?  Be efficient with your time and be fair to your work colleagues.
  18. Courtesy, charm and charisma – basic manners are a baseline in customer service so “please” and “thank you” should be a key part of your vocabulary.  Show your personality too and connect with customers too.
  19. Calmness – even though chaos is happening all around you, keep calm and do what you can to resolve problems.
  20. Smart appearance – make sure that your clothing is clean, ironed and not ripped.  Follow the company’s clothing protocol eg no sports tops, no jeans or no trainers.  Your own personal hygiene levels should be high too and your grooming should be perfect.  After all, you are representing yourself and your organisation to the general public.

By the way, this list of customer care skills are not in any particular order but will depend on the job role and industry sector.

How good are your customer service skills?

Well, no one is perfect and there are always areas that can be improved upon.  Ask your work colleagues for feedback about your performance.  Also take a hard honest look at this list and select three customer care skills that you are weak in.  Then take positive steps to improve these specific skills.  It may take time to improve these skills which may be the result of a lifetime of bad habits but it is better to make a start rather than do nothing.

Start the journey to improve your customer service skills

When did you last attend a customer service skills training course?

Be honest – it probably was years ago and the likelihood is that your customer care skills aren’t as good as they used to be.  We would recommend that refresher training takes place every three years.  

With the current COVID-19 regulations in place, all our customer service training is taking place online so if you would like to find out more about our next course, please contact us.

7 reasons why customer service is important to your business

Why customer service is important

Every business textbook starts with the statement that customers are essential for the survival of a business.  Without customers, there are no sales and the business fails.  But there is a balance to be struck between profit and service.  Delivering a world class service is costly in terms of time and that puts pressure on the bottom line.  Provide a very low level of service and customer complaints rise as well as customers walking down the street to the competition.  Business owners therefore need to realise why customer service is important and why it should receive a higher priority in the business.

What is customer service?

Let’s start with a definition of customer service.  One of my favourite definitions is from the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland.

Customer Service is how a business looks after its customers. This includes everything from the moment a customer makes contact with your business; during the provision of a service and after sales care.

Consumer Council NI

“Looking after” a customer is at the heart of this definition but also is the fact that customers have different touchpoints with a business during their customer journey.  A business interested in delivering excellent customer service will ensure that the user experience is spot on at every touchpoint – from answering a social media enquiry, serving a cup of coffee or even a follow-up email to ensure that everything was to the customer’s satisfaction.  In other words, rolling out the red carpet for every customer.

So having determined what customer service is, why is it important to a business?  Here are the top seven reasons.

#1 Excellent customer service leads to more repeat business and increased customer loyalty

Imagine it’s time for a takeaway coffee and there are two coffee shops in your area.  Both sell excellent coffee and their prices are the same.  But you have a favourite coffee shop – the one with shorter queues and friendlier staff.  A few welcoming words can make all the difference and even better, when staff get to know and use your name.  A repeat customer can spend hundreds or thousands of pounds more in your business and all for the sake of “looking after” a customer in a way that shows they really care.

So the number one reason why customer service is important to a business is because it is linked to sales.  84% of organizations working to improve customer service report an increase in sales and that’s a figure that you can’t afford to ignore.

#2 Customer retention is cheaper than customer acquisition

On average, it costs approximately five times more to attract a new customer than it costs to retain an existing customer.  It therefore makes economic sense to get it right for every customer every time in terms of stock availability, price and customer service.  Keep your existing customers coming back to you and hopefully they will spend more on your products at future visits. 

You are also more likely to sell to your existing customers as they already know your business, your products and your staff.  After all, people buy from other people and if the relationship is already there, you are off to a flying start.  Research indicates that there is a much higher probability of selling to an existing customer (60-70%) than a new customer (5-20%).  Existing customers are also likely to spend more in your business as they have already had a positive experience with you in the past.

#3 Excellent customer service improves the customer’s overall user experience with an organisation

 

You may be selling an absolutely fantastic product or service but if the customer service doesn’t match the product quality, the customer is disappointed with your organisation.  The next time they wish to purchase the same product (and all other factors being equal), it is very likely that they will shop with another business.  In other words, excellent customer service is the icing on the cake for a quality product and is a major contributor to customer satisfaction. 

The converse is true too.  Should the customer service be poor, this can push many customers to look for alternative providers.  A staggering 89% of customers will begin doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.

#4 Excellent customer service can lead to a reduction in formal customer complaints

No business wants to receive complaints but whenever you are dealing with customers, it is highly likely that complaints will pop up from time to time.  Formal customer complaints can take a long time to investigate and after all “time is money”. 

With excellent customer service, customers are more likely to make more informal complaints which can be resolved more quickly.

Customer complaint

#5 Excellent customer service can improve the organisation’s reputation and strengthens your brand

By investing in high levels of customer service at every point in the customer journey, the organisation’s reputation is enhanced, and your brand is strengthened.  In other words, you become a business that people want to do business with.  This helps to attract future investors and employees as well as new customers.

#6 Staff have more job satisfaction and pride in the company

Management depend on their staff to deliver excellent service to customers.  If the staff team feel empowered to devise new ways to please customers and the business owners take on board at least some of their suggestions, staff will have more “buy in” to the company’s success. 

By valuing customers and working hard to look after them, a more customer-centred organisation is born.  Overall helpfulness increases for both the “paying” external customer but also for work colleagues ie the internal customer. 

Staff satisfaction levels should rise as should their pride in the business as well as a reduction in employee turnover.  Of course, happier staff will lead to happier customers who will keep returning to the business and spending more.  It is therefore important to continually invest in customer service training to enhance staff’s customer care skills.

#7 Excellent customer service leads to more word-of-mouth recommendations and more positive online reviews.

When you delight your customers, they become part of your marketing machine and spread the word about their customer experience.  This is the best type of advertising to do and it’s free!  Some people will recommend your business when talking to friends and family but the more digitally savvy ones will write a review on Google, Facebook, Trip Advisor or Trustpilot.  Online reviews can potentially be seen by hundreds of people so that is excellent PR for your business.

Writing an online review about customer service

Customer service cannot be ignored in any business.  It is important to consistently get service right to make sure that customers keep returning to your business, whether physically, on the phone or online.  If not, your customers will act with their feet and simply go to another business where they feel appreciated.


Did you know that Customer Sense deliver online customer service training courses? 

Customer Care, Coronavirus and a Cherry Scone

As we slowly emerge out of the COVID-19 lockdown, have our needs and expectations as customers changed?  I believe they definitely have and in many different ways.  The customer care challenge for businesses is now to adapt to the new COVID-19 customer who demands safety and speed as well as courtesy.

Customer care in coffee shops

Most business owners have made a jolly good effort to install signage, social distancing footprints, screens, contactless payments and hand sanitising stations.  Even one way systems have been introduced in some shops to ensure customers don’t meet another customer on entry or exit. But unfortunately, tiny details are being overlooked. 

I visited a coffee shop recently to get a takeaway cherry scone and coffee.  The customer route was clearly signposted and there were impressive screens at the counter.  All was looking very positive until I asked for my scone to be buttered as I was going to eat it in the car.  The answer was “We don’t butter scones here but here is a portion of butter for you.  There are plastic knives on that table.”  To my horror, there were plastic knifes, forks and spoons on the table but they were not wrapped up.  I reluctantly lifted a knife and thought that anyone could have touched that knife previously to me using it and they could have Coronavirus!  I mentioned this to a member of staff and got a shrug of the shoulders.  She then walked past me, well within the two metre threshold and in the opposite direction of the one-way system.

Will I return to this coffee shop?  Absolutely not.  Hygiene levels should be at 110% now and there is no excuse for having unwrapped cutlery for other customers to touch.  Staff members did not really care about my customer needs and it would not have been too much of an inconvenience to butter a scone for me. 

Customer Care in Shops

How is the retail sector adapting to the new Coronavirus rules?  Well again, it is clear that the business owners are doing their best with signage, screens and hand sanitiser as well as limiting the number of people to enter a shop.  Many retailers are encouraging their teams to engage in elearning programmes such as WorldHost 2020 which are designed to remind people of the new protocols to follow.  

Small shops face the largest challenge as they don’t have much space for staff and customers to adhere to the social distancing rules.  But it is not impossible and I had a very positive experience in a local greengrocer’s recently.

This greengrocer’s had clear signage outside stating the number of customers allowed in store at a time.  Staff at the till invited customers to enter when it was safe to do so.  Before entry, there was a small sink installed for customers to wash their hands.  Paper towels and anti-bacterial soap were available too.  Then beside the baskets, there was antibacterial spray and paper towels with a notice inviting customers to sanitise the basket handle before picking it up. Finally staff were positioned behind screens at the till but were more than happy to carry purchases out to the car while maintaining the social distancing rules. Ten out of ten for their customer care skills!

Shopping online

Many customers have moved to shopping online for absolutely anything.  Amazon delivery drivers have never been busier and the major supermarkets are struggling to get enough delivery slots for customers. 

Many smaller businesses have entered the online shopping world for the first time.  Even our local butcher now has a facility to order meat online and they make a call to obtain card payment before collection.  He is getting more business as I am reluctant to queue outside a busy shop. 

Nobody wants to wait for a product once we have ordered it so businesses need to jump when an order is received and get it despatched to a customer within a few hours.  A simple message to say that the goods are on the way is essential to keep the customer informed that their order should be with them soon.  A personal handwritten message in the parcel is an extra bonus and makes the customer feel valued.

Making deliveries

The major supermarkets are excellent at making deliveries while following the new rules.  The drivers don’t enter your home and definitely follow the two metre social distancing rule but at the same time, they are polite and chatty as they realise that their face may be the only one the homeowner may see that day especially if they are self-isolating.

For some businesses, deliveries require entering a home eg delivery of a new bed.  Keeping the two metre distance is essential as is using hand sanitiser.  The customer may feel happier if you wear a mask too.  

Customer care on social media

As customers are spending more time on social media, they are expecting quicker and more personalised responses.  Businesses cannot afford to ignore Facebook, Twitter and Instagram messages at this time but instead need to respond to all private messages before the customer gets impatient and starts to rant publicly about the dreadful service received.

Customer reviews

As many people are furloughed or are working from home, they have more time to check out reviews before making a purchase on your online shop especially if your business is new to them.  According to a Trustpilot UK Consumer Survey conducted in March 2020, there was a 22% decrease of trust in companies since Coronavirus. It also showed that 27.5% of consumers are checking more reviews.  So it is more important than ever to ask your customers to write a review but once they have written a review, thank them for taking the time to do it. 

Life in June 2020 is very different to life in June 2019.  Business owners are adapting well but their staff need to be constantly reminded that they need to follow the new rules to the letter otherwise nervous customers will simply visit another business who do care about the new 2020 customer emerging after the COVID-19 lockdown.

For details about the WorldHost 2020 Keeping Customers Safe online course, please click the button below.

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