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Professional People Person: 7 Tips For Succeeding In A Customer Service Career

How to become more successful in the customer service industry.

It's no secret that a customer service career requires you to work long hours addressing the demands and high expectations of clients and managers. However, customer service also offers rewards -- both personal and financial.

It's hard to top getting a note or other recognition from clients who recognize your hard work on their behalf. Here are seven tips to help you give exceptional customer service that'll earn you rewards for your hard work.

Understand Your Client's Expectations

The conventional wisdom about putting yourself in the other person's boots, stilettos, or sandals certainly applies to providing high-quality customer service. First, think about your business from the customer's perspective. Consider what your business promises to deliver in exchange for a set price. What level of service or product do they expect to receive for plunking down a chunk of their hard-earned cash?

Understanding your customer's expectations helps you begin to anticipate what will satisfy him or her. It also enables you to find potential pitfalls that could lead to a disappointing experience with your company.

Recognize You're an Ambassador

In a customer service career, you're on the front line of making customers happy and addressing their concerns. That means a great deal of responsibility rests on your shoulders. Pay attention to your company's values and its mission. They're not just cheesy, feel-good words someone scrawled on the back of a napkin. These statements differentiate your company, lay out the corporate culture, and direct employees toward a common goal. Live these statements as you interact with customers or guests to make sure you're reinforcing your company's brand. This helps build loyalty that leads to repeat business.

Walt Disney World is an excellent example of turning customer service professionals into ambassadors. They instruct all employees to deal with the public in an "aggressively friendly" way. They call people who work in the parks "cast members," to emphasize that they play a key role in creating the Disney magic that guests expect to experience. Make sure you take your responsibility as an ambassador for your company seriously.

Give Customers Respect

Without customers, you wouldn't have a job. That fact alone is a good reason for having an attitude of respect and patience when dealing with clients. When you face an angry customer, remember that he or she needs a sympathetic ear, not someone who relentlessly defends the company or is argumentative. Listen, empathize, and begin to craft a plan to address their grievance.

Handling angry customers with respect not only wins many of them back but may convert them into cheerleaders for your company. Look at angry customers as opportunities to show them how much your company cares about its clients. While there will be a few who will never be happy no matter what you do, most people appreciate being treated with respect and being offered a reasonable remedy.

Use the CARP Method With Angry Customers

Once you've listened and demonstrated respect, use the CARP approach to defuse the situation. CARP stands for control, acknowledge, refocus, and problem-solve. To control the situation, show that you're capable of handling the guest's problem. Next, acknowledge the problem verbally. Begin to refocus the discussion and frame the situation in a more positive light. Offer to problem-solve so that the customer feels your company is looking for the right response.

This systematic approach, coupled with respect for the customer, is an excellent way to bring peace to the conversation and create a positive outcome. You'll increase the chances that the customer will do business with your company again.

Create Memorable Experiences

Communications expert Al Tompkins asserts that people remember how the situation makes them feel and not the facts surrounding particular events. So, it's worthwhile for customer service professionals to do all they can to create pleasure and happiness for their clients so they associate positive feelings with your company. This may include providing them with an unexpected or unsolicited upgrade or "extra." This is one way to make each guest feel like a VIP.

You can engender goodwill by anticipating customer needs. These extras may trickle over to social media shout-outs from clients. In a restaurant, that means re-filling drinks before requested. In a hotel, you should offer a crib or a ground level room when a guest checks in with a baby.

Communicate Clearly

In person, clear communication requires you to maintain good eye contact, speak directly to the issues the customer raises, and listen. Don't argue with customers or escalate a conversation. Your goal is to keep the discussion on an even keel and offer a resolution that'll satisfy the customer.

If you deal with customers online, it's even more critical that you practice clear communication. That means addressing issues directly and in a timely manner. If you must send automatic responses to customers through email, make it informal in tone and explicitly state how quickly someone will contact them.
On the phone, practice active listening and don't interrupt the customer. If you're unable to help the customer yourself, offer to connect him or her to the person who's able to solve the problem, whether it's a supervisor or someone in a different department.

Be a Professional

Being a customer service professional requires you to uphold your brand and your company's values. You should avoid saying bad things about your company in front of your co-workers or clients. In addition, keep snide comments about guests to yourself. Don't make customers wait while you finish up a personal call or an email. If you meet with clients face-to-face, make sure you're well-groomed. Make your appearance consistent with your company's brand and reinforce the idea that you're approachable and friendly.

By following these tips, you can seriously up your game as a customer service professional and set yourself apart from others competing for these jobs. What advice do you have for customer service professionals who are just beginning their careers?

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