How to Build 'Natural' Customer Service

In order to achieve consistency in customer service, you need to set standards. These standards are guidelines that provide structure to important components of the customer interaction.

The best customer service happens when employees understand how to use their own personality in customer interactions.
The best customer service happens when employees understand how to use their own personality in customer interactions.

One of the major concerns that many customers have is building consistency in how their customers are serviced. For example, leaders of these companies want the phone to be answered in a similar manner (a positive and upbeat greeting). They also want to make certain that their employee always gets the customer’s name. This is reasonable. 

In order to accomplish this consistency, you need to set standards. These standards are guidelines that provide structure to important components of the customer interaction.

You see these standards all the time – for example when you go to a fast food restaurant, the time it takes to greet you and the way you are greeted are part of a company standard. When you check out at a grocery store, you are often asked if you were able to find what you needed.

Not only do standards build consistency, they also provide training and coaching opportunities. The standards should model behaviors you can observe in your employees. When they do them well, you can recognize them. When they don’t apply the standards, you can coach and develop them.

The standards are also good for employees because they know what is expected of them. The more specific they are, the easier they are to follow. For example, telling employees you have a standard of ‘being nice’ to customers doesn’t provide much guidance. It is vague and left to the employee’s interpretation. Your employee’s definition of "being nice" may be entirely different than yours.

So, standards are a good thing. Well-run companies that are customer focused typically have measurable standards defining how your employees interact with customers.

However, with the implementation of standards come some things you need to watch for. Concerns we get from our customers are that they are afraid that their employees will sound too scripted or robotic. They will not sound natural. That is a legitimate concern. You want your customer service to be personalized and focused on the customer. You want it to be genuine.

You can have it both ways – standards that build consistency and a natural and fluid customer experience. Here is how you accomplish that: 

  • Tone – the matter in which the message is delivered makes all the difference. Your tone defines you. It should be upbeat and friendly, not monotone.
  • Develop the passion – you can tell when an employee likes his or her job and it makes a huge difference in the customer experience. Your customers deserve your best and part of being the best is being serviced by an enthusiastic employee.

I am not proposing an over-the-top, bubbly interaction, just a good sincere encounter delivered by an employee that cares. Your employees need to buy-in to the fact that the service they deliver does make a difference.

  • Body language – your body language is a dead giveaway to how engaged you are in the interaction and this applies to both in person and on the phone. Lack of a smile, being distracted and crossing arms are examples of negative body language  

There are several techniques and tips that can help you build a culture in which you have effective customer service and sales standards that sound natural and are delivered with passion. Here are some for your consideration: 

  1. No scripts. Your standards should be guidelines, not word-for-word directives that lend themselves to sounding robotic. For example, if getting the customer’s name or asking for the rental is part of your standards, you should leave it up to your employees as to how they feel most comfortable doing those skills. As long as employees follow your standards and service the customer with passion, their specific words should not be the overriding issue. Both the employee and your customer will resent being addressed with something that sounds like a script.
  1. Use recorded calls to coach and develop. If you or your employees are worried about sounding unnatural, then record some calls. Use these calls with employees to help them sound more natural. At Signature Worldwide, we conduct over 15,000 mystery phone shops per month and our clients love being able to hear how their employees are interacting with customers. They also see the calls as a great measurement tool.
  1. Role-play. Practice with your employees so they sound more natural when applying your standards. Just like most skills, the more practice they have, the easier and more natural it becomes. These role-play sessions can be quick and will provide your employees the confidence they need to deliver that exceptional service that is important to you.
  1. Training. It is hard to expect a change in behavior if employees have not been trained. The training will help develop buy-in and teach the specific skills related to your standards of sounding natural and genuine.

Your standards will provide important guidelines and build consistency as to how your customers are serviced. They will also help convert an inquiry to rental. Implement specific guidelines and then provide the training and reinforcement so these standards become second nature. As you get busier and bigger, you will be glad you have standards in place that help your organization sound more professional.   

*This article was originally published in 2012.

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