10 Ways to Avoid Awkward Customer Service
Customer service is not just a checklist of activities. There is an art, style and grace to customer service. When performed well, excellent service provides your customers with a feeling of comfort, security and well-being. However, service that lacks finesse can leave customers feeling uneasy and uncomfortable. Avoid awkward customer service by following these guidelines:
#1 – Make Eye Contact with Customers
When you avoid eye contact or look down or to the side instead of looking at your customer, you create an uncomfortable atmosphere. At The Ritz-Carlton, we practice the Three Steps of Service, which begins with “a warm and sincere greeting.” By making eye contact, you make the customer feel welcome. You should also make eye contact with customers that are waiting in line. This shows customers that you’re aware of them, which will make them feel better about waiting.
#2 – Be Careful Not to Hover or Over-Serve
The Credo at The Ritz-Carlton promises that guests will enjoy a “warm, relaxed yet refined ambience.” Hovering kills a relaxed ambience. It’s thoughtful to check in with your customer, but thoughtfulness can quickly become uncomfortable if you linger too long or check in too often. Pay attention to the body language and verbal cues of your customers.
#3 – Refrain from Doing All the Talking
Your customer does not want to hear about your latest speeding ticket, or the drama going on with your ex-boyfriend’s parrot. More importantly, if you’re doing all the talking, then you aren’t listening. Try to avoid talking about yourself and instead ask your customer leading questions that will help you uncover their expressed and unexpressed needs.
#4 – Practice Discretion
It’s important to engage your customers, but if you ask customers questions that are too personal, you will make them uneasy. You will also want to avoid any controversial topics like politics. At The Ritz-Carlton, we strive to protect the privacy of our guests, and therefore, we ensure our conversations are respectful.
#5 – Respect Your Customers’ Time Frame
Depending on your customer’s situation, you may need to adjust the speed of your service. If your customer is in a hurry, do not force a customer experience on them. However, customers also don’t want to feel like they’re on an assembly line. You will want to give them time to enjoy your service, and most of them will welcome an engaging experience.
#6 – Explain Physical Contact
This is especially true if you work in healthcare. You may need to touch many patients throughout your day. However, some of your patients may not feel comfortable being touched. If you explain the “how and why” throughout their visit, it will help reduce their stress and alleviate their concerns.
#7 – Ensure Your Service is Hygienic
If you are visibly (runny nose) or audibly (sniffles or cough) not feeling well, you should probably stay home. One of the Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton is: “I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.” While your customers or patients may respect your commitment to your job, many of them will not feel comfortable interacting with a potentially contagious service professional.
#8 – Beware of Strong Scents
Heavy perfumes or colognes can disrupt the customer experience. An overpowering scent may not only be distasteful to a customer, but may raise concerns about having an allergic reaction. You want the customer to leave your place of business with a memory of your excellent service—not your overpowering fragrance.
#9 – Leave Offensive Clothing at Home
At The Ritz-Carlton, we strive to ensure that our employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—are professional in their appearance. You represent your organization. Wearing t-shirts with a controversial or opinionated message can detract from your customer’s experience. Dirty, unkempt clothing can also undermine your customer’s experience—particularly if you work in a restaurant.
#10 – Always Use a Friendly Tone
You want to use a warm and inviting tone with your customers and patients—whether you are talking to them in person or over the phone. You may be having a busy day, but your customers should not feel like they are burdening you or interrupting you. An abrasive or condescending tone will create unpleasant memories for your customers.
Employees with superior people skills tend to thrive in the profession of customer service. However, employees who are more reticent around people can also provide excellent customer service if they follow the above guidelines and strive to make their service respectful, comfortable and inviting. ∞
The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.