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A Look at Customer Service

A Look at Customer Service

I'll start things off with an acrostic: when you read down the first column of letters, a word is formed. In this example, the word “S M I L E” appears.

S incere – Be someone who cares about people.

M otivated – You really want to help the person in front of you.

I nterested – What is going on with the other person?

L istening – This is the way to get information.

E nthusiastic – You have energy to help with the customer's needs.

S M I L E – When you smile, it shows the customer that you are friendly, kind, caring, and helpful.

Customer service can apply to all of the following industries and more: restaurants, retail stores, car washes, housecleaning services, contractors, maintenance and repair workers, health care, nursing, fitness, your own business, a franchise, or a big company.

You may have heard the popular expression, “The customer is always right.” Is it true? Is the customer always right? I think the idea here is that it is never good to argue with a customer. If you listen and try to help the customer instead of arguing, then the customer will leave with a good feeling about your service. They might tell their friends, which could bring more business to your company.

Who is the customer? It may sound like a silly question. Sometimes the “customer” is one of your co-workers. One time, I was working with a client (another word for customer), when a manager from a different department came over.

I'll call the manager “Brenda.” (It's not her real name.) Brenda was interrupting. She was not polite or patient. She wanted me to stop working with my client and help her with something right away. I told her that I was busy, and that I would not be able to help her.

Back then, I did not realize that Brenda was a "customer" too. By this I mean that it's useful to think of any person who can help you keep your job or improve your work skills as a "customer."

This story did not have a happy ending for me. I don't even work there anymore. I missed a chance to practice being helpful. I am telling you this, so that you will not make the same mistake I made!

Now that some time has passed, I have thought about how I should have handled the situation with Brenda. A senior manager at my company also gave me some valuable feedback about the incident. Here is what I wish I had done.

First, I should have smiled at Brenda. It's an easy way to show people that you are sincere and care about them.

Next, I should have gotten motivated to make a sincere choice to help her. I should have politely excused myself from the client I'd been working with. That client probably would not have minded waiting for a few minutes.

Then I should have given Brenda my attention. Since Brenda had been telling me that what she needed was urgent and couldn't wait, I should have shown interest in finding out what she wanted.

My focus should have been on listening carefully, asking questions to get clear about what she was saying, and trying to identify how to solve her issue.

Even though Brenda had not been very pleasant in the way she had approached me, I should have shown enthusiasm for helping her with what she needed. Who knows, maybe she would have appreciated the help, and ended up in a better mood herself!

If I had used S M I L E, a difficult situation might have turned into a good experience for everyone involved.

I learned from my mistake, and now I make an effort to S M I L E as much as I can at work.

If you have had any similar experiences working in customer service or getting along with co-workers, please post a comment (below), and keep on smiling!

Hal Bogotch is an experienced teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL) and Computer Skills, as well as a published poet. Hal is pleased to have co-written Compelling American Conversations, published in Los Angeles by Chimayo Press.

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