The Telephone Doctor: 21 ways to great customer serviceNancy Friedmantelephone courtesies OK, OK! Yes, there are certainly more than 21 ways to great customer service, but rather than overwhelm you, we wanted to start out with an easier number, and 21 sounded like a good number to me. Any one of these tips will produce better relations between your clients and your customer service department. Here we go. 1. Smile! Don't kid yourself. Just as it can be seen in person, it can be heard on the phone. So, as Nike says, "Just do it!" 2. Say something nice at least once a day to someone. I was at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport a while back, and the skycap came up to me and asked, "Are you going first class, or does it just look that way?" That was more than 10 years ago, and it still seems like yesterday. People remember nice things, just as they remember the not-so-nice things. 3. Don't ever argue with a customer. You'll lose every single time. Don't even get into the ring with them. 4. If you're sending something to a customer via any method, consider adding a short personal note. Items received without any note or mention of a transaction are perceived as cold and rude. A simple thank you on company notepaper will do the trick. It says you stopped to do something special. 5. Use "we" statements, when possible, rather than "you." "We" is consultative, feels friendlier and is far less confrontational. 6. Do you see someone walking into your store/branch/location/office? Say "hello" loud and clear. Ignoring people, even fellow employees, isn't good customer service. 7. Keep the fences in your organization low. We all know that there needs to be rules, guidelines and policies. However, when there are so many of them, they can make doing business difficult. It's not worth it. 8. Be a double-checker. Often, we can miss something or not know all the details. Most people appreciate hearing, "The last time I checked, we were out of stock on that; however, let me double-check for you." That particular statement is so comforting. Everyone loves a double-checker. 9. We cannot do two things well at once. If you're working with a customer, on the phone or in person, then focus on that person. Trying to type, file or do some paperwork, while you're communicating with a customer, is dangerous and rude. 10. If your attitude stinks, change it. No one - absolutely no one - wants to be connected with someone with a bad or negative attitude. 11. Respond rapidly. When you receive information from a client, it's a good thing to let him know you did receive it. That's good communication. 12. Extend a firm handshake when being introduced to a customer. "Firm" is the key word. That loose, fish-like handshake is not a sign of confidence. "Firm" is key. 13. Thank you notes are still thought of as great. Take the time to jot several off a day to new or, better yet, older clients. 14. Use your name when you answer the phone. Everyone likes to know whom they're talking with. 15. Use your listening skills more often. We all like to talk, mainly to show off how much we know. But listening to what the customer knows is much better. Let others have the stage. 16. It shouldn't take two people to give good customer service. Learn how to handle the situation yourself, rather than trying to get rid of it by shipping it off to a co-worker or supervisor. 17. Show some empathy or sympathy when a customer complains. Doing or saying nothing when he feels he has a problem will put you in the doghouse fast. 18. Learn to say, "I am sincerely sorry for what happened," or something that will allow the customer to feel that you are apologizing. That quick "sorry 'bout that" statement sounds as though you're throwing the statement away. 19. Be prepared. If you're in customer service or any frontline position, expect things to happen. "Be prepared" is not just for the Boy Scouts; it's for anyone who works with customers. Prepare for the unexpected. 20. When in doubt, leave it out. Are you writing a letter to a client or calling him? If you're in doubt that the use of a certain word is appropriate, leave it out or use something else. 21. This space is reserved for you to put in your own customer service tip. And if you have one you'd like to share with us, send it on to [email protected] It could end up in one of our new books. You will, of course, receive full credit. Thanks for taking time to read and share this article. Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training in St. Louis. For more information, call (314) 291-1012 or visit www.telephonedoctor.com.