Wednesday 2 October 2013

What basic customer service skills does your staff need?

I went to a coffee shop yesterday to meet with a friend during my lunch break. The plan was to have a pleasant conversation and catch up since we hadn't seen each other in a while but sadly the whole experience was basically ruined by an unimaginably rude waitress. First of all, when she came to our table, she had one of those “I hate my job and I hate you, too, even though I've never met you before” expressions. I didn't make too much of it – I can imagine that for a 30-something-year-old woman, waiting is not the dream job. I get that and even though it's not really my problem, I decided to be understanding. Then, however, she got our order wrong – how hard is it to remember 2 coffees, one with cream no sugar, the other one with sugar, no cream, a diet Coke and an orange juice? She brought us 2 coffees with sugar, no cream, and two diet Cokes. When I told her she had made a mistake, she frowned upon me and said that was our order and just left! She must've had a really bad day and I really didn't want to make it worse by calling the manager and getting her into trouble. Maybe she had personal issues and even though, again, it's not my problem, I decided to be forgiving. After all, I've worked as a waiter, too and I know how stressful it can be. However, the experience was still frustrating, so I just asked for the check, paid it and left. My friend and I went to another coffee shop where the service was much better and you can be certain I'm never going back to the first one. The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I felt, so I decided to sit down and write this article. So, what basic customer service skills does your staff need?

I get that some clients can be insufferable (I might have been, too, or maybe given that vibe), but it's your job to work with people so you need to have patience. It's not fair to be yelled at by customers for other people's mistakes, but that's what usually happens and your staff needs to learn to deal with it and just brush it off. It's nothing personal.

Your employees need to listen to the customers in order to provide good service. Some people are capricious but some have a reason for not wanting onions in their salad (for example) because they might be allergic. Either way, when people tell your retailers exactly what they want, whatever the reason, your employees need to listen.

Clear communication skills
Your employees need to know how to communicate properly. This means no mumbling, no telling clients their lives' story and clearly conveying each and every message to the customer. Miscommunication can be problematic so this bit is really important.

Knowledge of the product
When I started working in a restaurant back in the day, the biggest challenge was learning the enormous menu. In the first few days people would ask me about this salad and that dish and I couldn't give them an answer. In embarrassment, I would ask co-workers but I'm sure I've left bad impression on more than a few people. Knowledge of the product is essential for inspiring confidence.

A friendly attitude
“Serve with a smile...”, one of the more experienced waiters was always telling and in time I found out why – looking friendly, smiling and having an overall friendly attitude will open most people to you and make their stay more pleasant. Your customers must be friendly. This way, they provide a better service which means that your business might get recommended. Think about the rude waitress, for a second. Think about what I would tell people about that place if someone asks. That's negative exposure – too many such complaints can have a severely negative impact on your business.

Those are the basic customer service skills your employees need to be half-good at what they're doing. Of course, if they want to be really good, there are way more requirements, but as far as basic goes, this is it.

Do you have have any questions or suggestions? Fill free to write in comment section.

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