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A customer is an individual or organisation who makes use of or receives the products or services of an individual or organisation.
Why customer service?
The most important thing to any business is it's customers for without them a business cannot survive. Anyone who owns or manages a business should know great customer service skills and teach them to all employees with customer service jobs.
Who has the responsibility for good customer service?
Everyone who comes in contact with a customer in any way is responsible for good customer service, not only the professional staff. If you treat your customers well, and build a relationship with them your customers will keep coming back to you and probably bring in friends and family.
Customer Service is not about the service you offer but it's about how you deliver it.
What you say and do is important but more importantly it is how you say it and how you do it.
Satisfied customers are less stressed; they cause less stress and take up less time.
There are several steps you can take to achieve good customer service. You may be the most knowledgeable optician but without the customer service skills, fail in business.
Maintain good eye contact - This is so important and on the top of the complaint list for bad customer service by consumers. Your full attention should be on that customer the entire time you are with them. Make them feel important and give them the respect they deserve.
Smile; leave your troubles at home. They don't want to know about your troubles or problems. Make your customer feel welcome and that your job is to help them with their needs. This also goes for when you answer the phone as it will be reflected in your voice. A smile crosses all barriers and is understood by all ages in every language and culture. This is even important when on the phone.
Listen to and observe the patient: use your senses. The use of words only represents 7% of the communication process, the tone of voice 38% and the other 55% is body language. You have two ears, two eyes (generally) and one mouth. This is the ratio that you need to use them in.
Tone of Voice
Do not answer the phone when you are with a customer unless it is absolutely necessary. If you have to answer the phone, ask the caller to hold until you are done with the customer you're with. Apologize to the customer for answering the phone and return your full attention back to them. When you are finished with the customer, answer the phone and apologize to the caller then giving this customer your full attention. If possible install an answering machine, but remember to follow up any messages that may be left. A number of businesses now have a three ring policy; that is to answer the phone by the third ring.
Do not have a third party conversation with a colleague, anyone else or having arguments in public, while helping a patient. They don't want to hear about last night's television or night out. If this cannot be avoided, include the customer in the conversation especially if it is about them. Avoid being over familiar or making personal comments making fun of / trivialising their concerns, judging or labelling them as a nuisance.
Do not have an opinion. A number of patients use the consultation as a forum to criticize politics or religion which may not be your views. Do not turn this into a debate. Remain impartial in your discussion and try to divert the conversation back to the business at hand. Remember other customers may hear the discussion/debate and be offended by your comments
Try not taking things personally. You me be treated rudely by a customer, try not to take it to heart. People have bad days and problems that may be vented out onto you as you're the first point of contact. It is usually the receptionist who bears the brunt of the patient's anger, so by the time they get to you they have calmed down. This is a tough part of customer service jobs, but you have to learn to let it go. 99% of the time it's not about you, you're just a convenient outlet for the person's frustration. Sometimes by the time the customer has calmed down they realise that they were out of order and have actually gone back and apologised to the first person they came into contact with.
It helps to get a feel for what type of person your customer is. There are generally three types of patient who come into the practice. Those in hurry, those that want to be helped and those seeking friendship. This customer in a hurry does not want to chit-chat. They want to get what they need and get out, so make every effort to help them accomplish this. They just want to collect a contact lens and get back to work. They hate queuing Do they want to be helped? - Approach them if they seem unsure or need assistance, let them know you are there to help them. Answer questions; guide them to where they need to go. If you can't help them, get someone that can. However if the customer is just browsing they don't want you to keep standing next to them. This can make the customer very uncomfortable and more likely to walk out, but still keep an eye on them as they may wish your help and are trying to catch you eye. For some people your place of business may act as a social outlet for them. This can be an awkward situation, but be friendly and understanding. The old lady that comes in every week for a small adjustment may not have spoken to anyone since last week, the dispensing consultation that takes forever because the patient wants to tell you their live story. Remember they may live alone and have no friends or family close by. Know your boundaries and use your judgement. Remember to treat them as you would expect to be treated yourself i.e. with respect, tolerance, dignity and empathy.
Is this customer unhappy with your business, APOLOGIZE. Most people just want an apology. Try and fix whatever issue they have, even if you are not at fault. Learn to say I'm sorry and say it like you really mean it. This is key to great customer service skills.
Customer service should be your businesses number one priority. Just remember to put yourself in your customer's shoes. How would you want to be treated? Try and go above and beyond that.
For business owners or management, use these customer service skills as guidelines for how to treat your employees. Your employees will have more respect for you because they feel you respect them. In turn they will enjoy their jobs more and this will be noticeable to your customers.
A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with an expected level of service. Dealing with complaints is everyone's business and part of customer Service.
Statistics on NHS Complaints show that 'communication' and the 'attitude of staff' have consistently been in the top four subjects of complaints since the current complaints procedure was introduced in 1996"
Complaints in practice can be caused by failur to provide information or to 'handover' information/concerns to other staff, being 'difficult to understand' due to language/cultural differences and taking it out on them if they express any dissatisfaction or make demands.
According the the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) the principles of good complaint handling are:
Getting it right
Being open and accountable
Acting fairly and proportionately
Putting things right
Seeking continuous improvement
The first thing you must do is let the person vent their anger. Sometimes a person needs to let off a little steam before they can "get down to business". If you try to talk over them they will just get louder and become angrier. Remove them from their audience as sometimes they want an effect. Don't go head-to-head with the customer as you won't win. When they start to wind down, you use acknowledgment techniques to prove that you are paying attention, then refocus and problem-solve as the person begins to calm down .Remember that while someone is talking, someone has to be listening. Be sympathetic and be honest with the patient. Own up to mistakes rather than cover up. End the conversation by assuring them that you will be there in the future to talk to them and that you will act on their behalf. And finally and most important, make sure that you follow up any promises
There are twelve principles to defusing a hostile customer:
Deal with the feelings first, get the emotion out of the way
Avoid Coming Across as bureaucratic, don't be a jobs worth
Each patient is different and every complaint is different
Strive to control the interaction
Begin defusing early, remain calm
Do not be aggressive or passive but try to be assertive
If you lose control of yourself, you lose, period
What you focus on, you get more of
Don't supply ammunition as the patient will fire it back at you
Don't ask questions you don't want to hear answers to
Avoid inadvertent errors, and don't tell lies
Avoid high risk, high gain behaviour
Hostile customers will use a lot of "hot" words and phrases in their verbal attacks. They may say your stupid and incompetent, an idiot, or accuse you of being racist.
What you don't want to do is repeat the same hot words customer uses.
If a customer says: "You wouldn't treat me this way if I wasn't 'purple', you just don't like purple people". The response shouldn't be: "Your colour doesn't affect how I treat you. "We deal with lots of purple people here".
The employee has made several errors here,
They responded to this verbal attack by going on the defensive. The employee also used the word "colour" which is a hot word, and repeated the word "purple". Most words connected with ethnic background are hot, so this is a mistake, and likely to cause the conflict to escalate.
The correct way of responding is to use non-hot words that mean about the same thing. So the employee could have said: "Your background (instead of colour) doesn't affect how I treat you. "We deal with people from every walk of life " (instead of "We deal with lots of purple people here".
This has removed the hot words. It still isn't a great response because it dignifies the attack, and focuses on it, but it is a good example of how lower the temperature by using different words or phrases.
I had an example of dealing with an Arabic gentleman who accused me of not dispensing him with a certain lens type, and he thought that due to my surname that I was Jewish and that was the reason that I wouldn't help him. I was so shocked that I asked him to repeat the accusation as I couldn't quite believe the comments.
My response was that I questioned his right to make that assumption, but for his information that I wasn't Jewish and that I still couldn't do what he wanted. At this stage he backed down and couldn't apologise enough for offending me. We carried on the dispensing and shook hands.
Handling telephone complaints like any kind of conversation, has rules.
One of those rules is that when one person is talking, the other person sends signals to the "talker" that they are listening, and still there. This is necessary because the parties can't see each other. The usual to let the person know that you are there is to make some sort of noise, usually "yes", "uh-huh", "I understand", etc. Carrying on with the principle of self-defence, you do not want to follow this rule. Remember the person can't see you or your body language, so 55% of the conversation is lost. The best way to get a person to stop talking on the phone is simply to say nothing at all. If you can avoid breathing into the phone, or if you can exclude any noise getting through from your end, this is even better. Eventually, the person on the other end will stop, and say something like "Hello, hello, are you still there?", and pause for a moment. This gives you the opportunity to respond at the invitation of the caller. There are times the caller doesn't listen to the response. On a number of occasions when challenged as to when their spectacle would arrive, I have told them that I need to phone the supplier. The response has been, "when would that be" to which I replied, "when I have finished talking to you" the response and answer being, "when would that be" and again, "when I have finished talking to you" After the 3rd round of question and answer they then finally listened to what I said.
Customers today are today are encouraged to make complaints or raise concerns about poor service. If used properly then the service provider uses the process to make service improvements.
Prompt and efficient complaint handling and learning from complaints can save the company time and money.
Remember no matter how good your customer service skills are there will always be someone who just doesn't like you and no matter what you do they will always complain.