Mastering customer service is a fine art and given my experience in this area, I have never come across an individual who has really nailed it.
A lot of people go into customer service thinking, “How hard can it be? I’m a people person!” this is their first mistake. My friends would describe me as someone who appreciates people for who they are. I am not the most social butterfly on the planet, nor do I tend to walk up to strangers at a party and strike up conversation, in fact the thought of that makes me cringe. Nevertheless, I chose a career in customer service, go figure.
My university degree in Hotel Management didn’t prepare me for dealing appropriately with some customers. It is human nature to want the best service available but the way people go about getting this can vary greatly.
It is all about learning on the job and it is my firm belief that no matter what, it is important to treat people with respect and deal with requests, questions and concerns as quickly as possible. I always like to put myself in their shoes, this really helps me empathise with them and determine the best course of action.
Our mission at Booking Boss is to be the heart of the leisure industry and for us to fulfil this we need to help our customers grow and allow them to give their customers the best possible level of service. We need to make sure that our customers have nothing to worry about; we have their back. Working with our customers and establishing a strong long-term relationship with them is extremely important to us, in fact we are fanatical about it. It is just one of the things that sets us apart from our competition.
We are real people. What makes my day, is knowing I have made one of our customers day a little brighter. That is what I love, plain and simple.
Caring for customers, here are some of my tips (from my hotel concierge days):
1. Great service starts with you!
Love what you do and it will be reflected in your voice and body language. It makes all the difference in providing customers with a positive memorable experience. I always made it clear to my staff that if they didn’t enjoy what they were doing; they were in the wrong job.
This industry is not banking; you can’t hide from customers. If you are a supervisor or manager in the customer service industry it might be worthwhile sending staff who are looking miserable on a quick 5-10 minute break so they can come back a little more positive. I have done this on many occasions even if meant I was a little busier, it was worth it and the employee appreciates the acknowledgement of how they feel. Sometimes we forget that.
Even if there is nothing you can do to help a guest (sometimes you just don’t have that magic wand) you can always show that you genuinely care by respecting why they are feeling the way they are. It is not enough to sympathise. No one just wants a sorry. The customer wants you to care and so you should. They are investing in your business and you should be investing in them. This has the power of turning a very bad experience into a good one helping your word of mouth referrals.
3. Build Trust
This is not limited to customers but colleagues too. You work as a team and need to look out for each other. If a customer has a complaint that is the result of a team member making a mistake, your first reaction should not be “Right! I’m going to find out who did that.” The customer couldn’t care less about who was responsible. They just want you to fix it.
Be supportive and allow people to learn from their mistakes. Customers need to be able to trust that you are going to deliver on your promises. Once this trust is broken, you have a disappointed customer who will inevitably tell their friends about the poor service they received. Customers inherently believe what you tell them (why shouldn’t they) so don’t break that trust - deliver.
Many times I have had a customer who was worked up and would cause me problems, only to realise that after they finished berating me, they had calmed down. Just by listening, without interrupting, they were able to vent all of their anger and nine times out of 10 they would apologise for their rant. Everyone needs to vent now and then.
Just by listening and not saying anything, nodding your head etc. is by far the best way to deal with someone in these situations. You never know, within the rant, you might get some information from them that you can help them with.
Listening also assists you with customers who are not so great at communicating their needs to you; especially international visitors who are unable to speak English. By listening carefully you can pick up key words that may help you assess their needs. You get a lot more information by listening than you do talking. Stop, listen and be patient.
5. It’s the little things
Most customers just want someone who genuinely cares. I can’t stress enough how frustrating it is hearing the same rehearsed script over and over again. Take lining up to check in at a hotel for example. Why would the person at reception greet everyone in the same way? We are not clones people, we are individuals. If you are going to take that approach you may as well address the whole line at once.
If you are delivering great customer service, that transaction will become an interaction.
To understand what I’m talking about, think of a transaction at a supermarket checkout. They ask you how you are every now and then but you know they don’t actually care. Mix it up a bit and be interesting; show the customer a bit of your personality. You would be surprised how many people like to see someone who doesn’t treat them like a number.
It never hurts to smile. I never thought I would speak my mother’s words but I can say that in customer service, it’s completely true. Customers don’t care if you’re having a bad day. You don’t have to say a single word for someone to realise you don’t want to be there and this translates to bad customer service.
Smile with your whole body. You need to think about how you hold yourself whenever you are in the presence of customers. One of the tricks I leant is to smile even when you are on the phone because your tone will automatically sound positive. Remember, it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile and no one wants frown lines; it’s just not a good look.
7. Stay calm, its not personal
Every now and then I had to deal with a customer who was completely irrational and wanted everything for nothing. Wouldn’t it be nice to just give everything for free? If only that utopia was reality. My advice; don’t let that person intimidate and walk all over you.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s awfully tempting because at the time, surely it would be so much easier to give them what they want. If there is genuine reason for you not to give it to them (i.e. it’s illegal, immoral or will put the company out of pocket) you need to explain your reasons as to why that can’t be done and provide an alternative resolution if possible. Keep in mind as they are yelling at you that this isn’t personal.
8. Keep your promises
If you say you are going to do something for a customer, it’s simple, do it! If I told you I was going to send you on an all-expense paid trip to anywhere you wanted, for you to find that when you got to the airport you had to pay for airfare! And the 5 star hotel was actually only 3*, you wouldn’t be happy. Why would you expect any different for a customer? Make sure that if you can’t get something done during your shift, you communicate it to another colleague for them to get done for you. It not only looks bad for you, it reflects on the entire organisation.
9. Know everything you need to know
I have been asked some pretty strange things working in hotels, one of which was being asked “How do you say Sydney Opera House in Australian?” and I kid you not that was a genuine question. I wasn’t sure how to respond to this. If you’re not sure be honest and tell the customer you don’t know but you will find out for them. If you can’t know everything you need to know how to deal with everything.
10. Don’t sell yourself short
To love what you do, know you are good at it. You can’t control others. The reason you are in customer service is because you know what you’re doing.
My personal opinion is the customer isn’t always right but it is our job to make them think that they are. Just because we are there to ‘serve’ our customers, does not mean we are any less intelligent.
These tips can be put to good use in the tourism and hospitality industry where customer interaction is vital.
Have any tips of your own? Share them with us!