Customer Service

Businesses that practice exceptional customer service achieve strong customer and brand loyalty that translates into higher sales and revenue.

Customer service is best described as a set of behaviors and communications. We usually think of customer service as practiced by a store staff toward its customers. In fact, the principals apply to all forms of communication.


Here is an outline of basic customer service behaviors:
  • Acknowledge and welcome the customer
  • Determine the needs of the customer
  • Offer options
  • Ask if there is more you can do
  • Ask if the customer is satisfied
  • Thank the customer

 Here are a few things to keep in mind as you are communicating with customers:

  • Common language – Communicating with and satisfying the customer can be difficult even when all parties speak the same language. Those difficulties are compounded when the language and culture are different. If there is no one in your organization who shares your customers’ language, you can try drawing pictures, using sign language or showing products that may fit the needs.
  • Listening – Be a good listener by concentrating on the speaker, using good eye contact, avoiding interruption, understanding the speaker’s frame of reference, noting non-verbal cues, being alert to emotional content, taking notes and providing feedback. Restate the speaker’s message as you understand it and ask for clarification or confirmation.
  • Avoid slang and jargon
  • Enhance communication by showing and demonstrating your product or service
  • Promote two-way communication by asking for your customer’s response
  • Provide a sense of closure by asking the customer if you can provide an additional service, asking them if they are satisfied, closing them, thanking them and saying goodbye.

 Here are a few suggestions that will help you deal with an angry or dissatisfied customer:

  • Take personal ownership of the problem or quickly identify and secure someone who can help
  • Apply active listening skills
  • Apologize
  • Empathize
  • Identify the problem
  • Identify points of agreement
  • Determine the desired solution
  • Provide solution options
  • If you can’t satisfy the customer tell them, explain why, and let them know what you can do
  • Ask if you can provide additional service and if the customer is satisfied
  • Exceed expectations

The key to developing long-term loyalty is to understand why customers stop doing business with you. A few of these reasons are out of your control. For instance, 1 percent die and 3 percent move away. You have control over the remaining 96 percent:

  • 68 percent are upset with the treatment they received
  • 14 percent are dissatisfied with the product or service
  • 9 percent go to a competitor
  • 5 percent seek alternatives or develop other relationships

Customer loyalty is key to a successful business. Remember that it typically costs five times as much to develop a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer.

 Here is a list of common customer service problems and their solutions:

  • Uncaring employees – Caring about people you don’t know does not occur in a vacuum. An organizational culture of caring must exist.
  • Poor employee training – You must provide training about the products and services offered, and about what good customer service means and how to achieve it.
  • Differences in perception between what businesses think customers want and what customers actually want. Successful businesses are constantly polling their customers and adjusting their product and service mix to meet customer demands.
  • Differences in perception between the way businesses think customers want to be treated and the way customers actually want to be or are treated. Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.
  • No customer service philosophy within the company. Clearly articulate your vision of good customer service. Then back it up with training, standards, policies, expectations and rewards.
  • Employees are not empowered to provide good service, take responsibility and make decisions that will lead to customer satisfaction. The best companies delegate responsibility and authority.
  • Poor “internal” customer service – In order to foster a culture of customer service, you must treat your employees with the same consideration as you would a valued customer.

Start by answering the phone with a smile. The customer will hear it in your voice. Minimize hold time, be accurate with transfers and use positive language. For instance, rather than saying “I can’t approve that you must talk to my manager,” say “My manager can approve that. I’ll arrange it immediately.”


Washington SBDC online
  • Washington SBDC eLearning Classroom has Customer Service Basics and Customer Service Representative certification courses for $15 ea
  • Virtual Advisor has one free Personalization Strategies to Attract and Retain Customers

On demand webinars sponsored by Microsoft:


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