Following company procedures for communicating with customers Customer service standards
Providing prompt attention all telephone calls must be answered within six rings all letters must be acknowledged within three working days all visitors to reception must be acknowledged immediately on arrival. No visitor with an appointment to see a specific member of staff must be asked to wait for more than ten minutes
Scenario… You are extremely busy at work – short staffed and trying to do six jobs at once! Three people are waiting to see you, the telephone is ringing and a senior manager wants to talk to you and is looking impatient…. What do you do?
There aren’t any fixed rules but these tips may help … don’t panic! think external before internal in relation to customer priority think telephone before face-to-face acknowledge customers who are waiting by looking at them and smiling, rather than pretending they don’t exist! start the conversation with apologising for the delay
Styles of address Should you be formal at first or act familiar? If you know a customer’s name then use it, eg, “Good morning, Mr Stevens”.
Corporate style ie using a specific greeting when answering the phone, identifying themselves by the first name and then asking how they can help: “Hello, Compass Software, Lee speaking, how can I help you?” “Goodbye. Thank you for calling Compass Software”.
No corporate style? Use “Good morning or afternoon” is more formal than “Hello” or “Hi” which is even less formal Try to use someone’s name during the conversation Saying “Goodbye, thank you for calling” is appropriate for external call, saying “Goodbye” to senior members of staff and “Bye” to end a call with a colleague of your own age.
Procedures for … Handling a person making a complaint (page 138) Keeping information confidential (page 139)
OVER TO YOU! How long are you kept waiting in different places, in person and on the telephone? What techniques were used to cope with problems? What organisations do you rate? What organisations don’t you rate?
The art of communication Questioning probing for information you need – not an interrogation! not jumping in too soon allow them to respond if the matter is personal or the person is nervous or anxious then you may need to adopt a gentle approach clarify issues to ensure you’ve understood (notes on page 145)
The art of listening Listening it’s pointless to ask questions if you don’t listen active listening occurs when you concentrate more on the other person than yourself guidelines on page 146
Appropriate tone and manner Being too friendly with a customer – or being over-familiar- is off-putting. You will avoid this if you keep your conversations strictly professional Customers may not understand many of the terms used in your organisation or in your type of work. Therefore you should explain clearly any abbreviations or jargon which you have to use
Being helpful at all times Stay positive – try putting yourself in the shoes of the customer. concentrate on the customer’s needs and remember … few people are deliberately difficult unless they are having a problem! Your job is to help to solve that problem. If you can’t, then ask for help.
Being polite, calm and confident If a customer is agitated or annoyed then it is easy to become ruffled yourself, especially if you don’t know the answer to many questions that you are asked. You can avoid many problems if you focus on staying in control of the situation. Confidence comes with experience – there may be situations at the start where you are nervous and unsure, it can help to watch your colleagues and copy their approach. Be patient with yourself.
Convey information clearly and accurately accurate and up-to-date information prevents speculation, rumours and worry clear information reduces the danger of doubt or misunderstandings concise information means you don’t waste people’s time with unnecessary details timely information reduces problems and saves other people time and unnecessary effort complete information means that people don’t have to come back to you to fill in the gaps.
You will improve your accuracy and clarity by … checking your facts and never guessing information noting down the details of a complex matter before you start to communicate checking facts you are given by repeating them back (ie times, places, tel or catalogue numbers) writing clearly checking spelling of people’s names and addresses being alert for feedback to make sure the receiver has understood you rephrasing what you are saying, or explaining yourself, if there is a communication problem
Confidentiality and the limits of your own role never speculate about the reaction or response of another member of staff to a situation never disclose internal discussions within the dept to anyone outside it never discuss internal matters which are not directly relevant to the external customer never talk about one customer in front of another watch what you’re saying over the telephone or to your colleagues when you are within earshot of a customer if you’re in any doubt at all about whether you should disclose information, always check first
Resolve difficulties using organisational procedures Customers may have special requirements for many reasons, including: their own personal circumstances they have a physical impairment or disability they do not speak English very well they have particular requirements linked to their culture or religious beliefs they have an individual or unusual request
Procedures today most employers promote equal opportunities to all their staff and visitors in all organisations, there will be specific procedures for dealing with people with disabilities in an emergency evacuation for example these procedures are there to help you and your customers
Special requirements of customers Please look at the examples on page 154
Tips on dealing with customers I’d like you to produce a booklet with details of how to … handle a person making a complaint (p138 and 156) how to deal with difficult customers (p158) how to keep information confidential (p139) how to deal with the special requirements of customers (p154) how to deal with customer enquiries (157)
Expressing regret without admitting liability all organisations will expect staff to express regret if a customer has a complaint or is experiencing a difficulty. organisations have found that keeping customers well informed, being courteous and providing pleasant surroundings has had more effect on customer patience and tolerance than any number of glass screens and security measures.
Expressing regret … when you express regret – or apologise to a customer – you are not making a personal admission of guilt you are acknowledging how the customer feels and saying sorry on behalf of the organisation for those feelings. this is still valid even if the customer is later proved to be wrong, but at the time thought that they were correct
Admitting liability if you admit liability you are actually confirming that you – or your employer – is in the wrong There are two reasons why you should never do this: 1. you don’t know enough to admit liability unless you know all the facts of the case. A customer will tell you only his or her side of the story. Investigation is needed 2. if you admit liability the customer may be able to use this in evidence if the matter went to court and this could affect the final court judgement