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Cater to Your Customers
Qualities to Launch Your Career in Customer Service
by Craig Harrison
Published in the April 14,2002 
edition of
The California
Job Journal

Careers in customer service don't require a Ph.D. or even graduate school. At their core, customer service jobs are about serving others. If you're ready to serve, the following tips will catapult you to a successful service career.

The Golden Rule Rules!

That basic rule you learned in kindergarten is the core of customer service: treat others the way you'd like to be treated: with dignity, respect and courtesy. If you can follow this rule consistently you will be well on your way to becoming a customer service pro. It's easy in principle but often gets overlooked when problems arise. Treat your customers as intelligent people worthy of respect, entitled to information


Remember as a kid when you scraped your knee and ran home crying to mom. She consoled you, kissed it and made it better. Long before President Clinton, mother "felt your pain." That's empathy: the ability to feel another's pain, hurt, frustration or other emotion. In customer service, it's not enough to fix problems and replace defective equipment. It's important to customers that you feel their pain and appreciate their suffering. The more empathic you are the more soothed the customer feels.

Hear Hear

We've been blessed with two ears and one mouth. This suggests we should listen twice as much as we speak. In customer service situations, listening skills hold the key to satisfying customers. Before you can solve customers' problems you must understand them. You do this by listening. Really listening. Listen for words and concepts; listen for facts and emotion; listen for problems and solutions, which are often embedded in the information customers give you.

Attitude Rules!

"Hire for Smile and Train for Skills" is Southwest Airlines' hiring philosophy. It reflects their belief that a new hire with a positive attitude can be trained for new skills, whereas a skilled hire with a bad attitude is far more toxic, to customers and other employees alike. Whatever your skill level, your attitude can enhance it. Stay positive and endeavor to make a difference and you will. And remember, your attitude is contagious. If yours is positive its effect will be too.

"When I hire I look for two qualities" says Matt Townsend, Private Party Manager with Trader Publishing, Inc., publishers of AutoTrader Magazine. "#1, are they nice? You can't train nice. . I look for nice people. If you're nice and up front about problems you can build a solid customer relationship. #2, I look for critical thinking. Can my people think their way out of problems?"

The Customer is Always Your Customer

The customer may not always be right, but the customer is always the customer. In a sense, you work for your customers. They too are your boss. Keep them happy and you'll keep your boss happy.

Step Into Your Power as a Service Representative

Many customer service representatives fail to realize the important role they play within a company. Companies spend thousands of dollars attracting new customers, yet a skilled service rep can save such hard earned customers from migrating to competitors when problems arise. CSRs protect their company's investments — their customers —through their ability to fix problems and correct bad situations.

When an irate customer calls tech support or customer service to voice a complaint, the TSR or CSR is often, at that moment, more important than the company's CEO. The rep has the power to save or lose this customer during a critical moment of truth. You're the solution provider. You do more than just field complaints and award coupons. You salvage wayward relationships, protecting the lifetime value of customers to your company.

Accept the Challenge: Be A Service Star

In a service economy there is always employment for those poised to serve. When you employ the golden rule, listen empathically, project a positive attitude that you can fix whatever ails your customers, and partner with your customers for success, you'll earn your wings for companies dedicated to service excellence.

© Copyright 2002 Craig Harrison. All Rights Reserved.

Craig Harrison is a professional speaker, corporate trainer and consultant who makes customer service and communication skills fun and easy for his clients.

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