9 CUSTOMER SERVICE SKILLS
EVERY BUSINESS OWNER NEEDS TO KNOW
Article by Cinthia Singleton
The hardest part of running your own small business is when a customer presents you, the sole proprietor, with a problem to resolve and a challenging attitude. They’re dissatisﬁed maybe. They’re frustrated with how something didn’t turn out as anticipated. Hard to know how to respond to that energetically, unsettling even. But got to you must to serve your customer’s needs. Is it even possible when that customer seems [ sad, upset, unpleasant, unfair, obstinate, unreasonable, hard to understand, angry ]? It is. First, get steady on your feet.
1 | Greet the person (and problem) with positive energy. Immediately shake off any uncomfortable feelings associated with your internal reaction to that initial “we need to talk.” Don’t think the worst. Don’t review what happened the last time this happened. Treat it fresh and new. Imagine yourself conﬁdently dealing with the problem and making things better. Remember - it IS a problem but you yourself are not the lost package or button that fell off the shirt; rather, you are the person who can HELP.
2 | What is the problem anyway? Really? Sift through the emotional energy of the complaint and discern what the issue. Knowing what exactly is wrong makes it easier to know how to ﬁx it.
3 | Immediately empathize with your customer: "I can see why you’re upset about the package going M.I.A. I would be too!"
4 | Once you get past the initial “The colors ran when I washed it. I want my all money back,” ask questions, request photos, look at the situation together, etc. Engagement turns ME GOTTA PROBLEM into WE CAN FIX THIS. It shows you care about focusing on resolution and, therefore, your customers.
5 | Offer solutions as you can provide them. You may not be able to solve the problem entirely but you can, with your business’ guidelines, ﬁnd ways to go an extra mile or two for the customer, i.e. accept a return, send them a similar button, extend free valet parking, offer a discount on future cupcake orders, etc. There is generally something to offer, even in the most unfortunate or dead-end situations.
6 | Because of 5., it is imperative that your business has transparent guidelines or policies in place. Your business, your rules. Clear expectations from the get-go are incredibly important. No returns or refunds? Say so. No shirt or shoes, no service? Hang a sign by the front door. Don’t be afraid to express your parameters. It’s ok to have boundaries.
7 | It’s also ok to say no. Sometimes it is simply unavoidable. Sure, there could be pushback, but continue to offer customer service with a smile. I am unable to seat you by the window for another hour but maybe you’d enjoy cocktails in the bar area while you wait?
8 | It may just not be your service and/or product. That unhappy customer could be, in fact, a real [ sour puss, sad sack, drama queen, angry person, poor communicator ]. Or the negative energy could be more about transference** than your service and/or product.
** a redirection of a previous experience stemming from their past experiences.
IMPORTANT: THIS CAN GO BOTH WAYS, meaning you too, when threatened, could be doing some transferring. If you feel some of this coming on, revert back to 3) and 4) above. Always, ALWAYS ﬁnd ways to detach from the emotions and get back to focussing on the resolution.
9 | Maybe the customer is always right, but sometimes they are truly wrong and not even patient old Job can make them happy. It’s random that they found their way to you, but it’s not personal. No need to tell them so. In fact, don’t bother. Deﬂect and, as if a manifesting prayer, silently wish them a better experience elsewhere. White light for them. Pink, healing light for you.
- Empathize with customer
- Give your all toward resolution
- Resolution is the end goal not who ‘wins’
- Don’t get personal but be warm
- Don’t take the bait when emotions get hot; remain resolution-oriented
- Your policies are a basic boilerplate for conduct
Most important piece of wisdom? One tough customer service experience isn’t the sum of your business or a curse. It’s just one test, one experience in owning your own small business. ; )