Customer service is all around us. We enjoy service when we buy a cup of coffee, make a phone call to a public office or travel by train.

At its worst, poor customer service can ruin our whole day, but, on the other hand, good service will make us happy and brighten up our day. Excellent service, especially when received on a moment of despair, can be something we remember for the rest of our lives.

Three principles for customer service

Each one of us has a feeling of what good customer service should be like and what is a good customer service person. On the basis of my own experience, accumulated over thousands of phone calls and e-mails, I argue that a good customer service person is adept at the following three things.

  • Understanding the customer’s needs.
  • Expertise on the product or service in question.
  • Creating a positive image.

In essence, the customer service is a unique situation of the interaction between two or more people. Even if it involves the same familiar people, the new situation is never the same as before.

For this reason there is no guidebook that we could read to become perfect in customer service. There are training programs that focus on customer service, but I think most of the know-how comes from practical experience.

The principle of customer service is both ancient and simple: Serve the customer as you would like yourself to be served.

Understand the customer’s needs

The first task of a customer service person is to identify the customer’s problem or need. At the same time the employee needs to recognize the context of the situation and adapt to it. For instance: what is the client’s personality and emotional state? You need to use different style of communication when discussing, for instance, with a youthful and laid-back person as opposed to a concerned older customer.

Also, in our line of work it is essential to understand the customer’s level technical expertise and user history. We cannot use the same discussion formula with an experienced user who has decades of tech experience and an inexperienced beginner. Customer’s skill level determines the starting point for solving the problem and the terminology we need to use.

Show your expertise

The next important skill in customer service is strong expertise. Customer service person should be very familiar with the product or service he or she is responsible for offering customer service for. Good communication skills and top-notch social intelligence mean nothing if the customer service person is not well-acquainted with the basic features of the product.

Adept customer service person is able to explain the user through the necessary steps of using the system without even seeing the user interface – anywhere and at any time.

Create positive impression

People tend to share customer service experiences – both good and bad – with their circle of friends. The third important skill is, thus, to leave the customer with a positive and friendly memory of the customer service experience. The customer must feel that the employee really paid attention to the customer’s problem, and time and effort was spend for solving it.

Things don’t always go as the customer initially wished. Yet in such situations good customer service and attention paid to customer’s needs is often enough the make the overall experience positive.

The writer works as a Customer Service Manager at Anders Innovations.

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