Simple guide to the basics of customer service
June 11, 2024

The Basics of Customer Service: A Simple Guide to Elevate Your Business

In the world of retail and business, basic customer service is the cornerstone of success. It’s not just about transactions; it’s about authentic connections that leave a lasting impression. It is essential, but often taken for granted. In this simple guide, we’ll delve into the foundational elements of customer service. 


Customer service is not just a set of protocols but an attitude that should permeate every interaction. It involves simple yet surprisingly overlooked actions like greeting customers with a smile, offering assistance, asking questions, actively listening to their needs, and finding solutions for their concerns. Imagine the impact of a genuine smile or a heartfelt “How can I help you today?” Every interaction is a moment to nurture a customer relationship and create a happy experience, setting the stage for loyalty and repeat business.

Understanding the Fundamentals: 

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the world of customer service, this guide is designed to equip you with the essential building blocks to foster strong customer relationships.


1. Welcome Customers:

From a smile of acknowledgement to a warm greeting, the beginning of every interaction is an opportunity to convey gratitude that the customer chose your business. Picture the positivity that radiates when a customer feels truly welcomed and appreciated when they visit a business. By recognising the value of each individual, we lay the foundation for a positive customer experience. 


2. Offer Assistance:

It doesn’t need to be an aggressive sales tactic, just a quick and open-ended: “What are you looking for today?” This gives the customer the opportunity to share what they need or establish their boundary. The customer who prefers to browse will say so and won’t be put off, but the customer who needs assistance may go elsewhere if they have to be the one to engage staff. Why risk it? 


3. Ask Questions:

A customer knows what they want, but your team members know what they sell. For example, a customer may ask for a cream fabric lounge for their media room because they love the Hamptons look; however, the team member knows a leather lounge may be more suited to a family with young kids and dogs. By asking questions of the customer and understanding their needs, the team member can suggest the most suitable options. 

4. Share Product Knowledge:

We are not suggesting team members recite a list of features and benefits, but they should be able to relate the details back to convey to the customer the product’s value. A team member in a store should know what a product is made from and how that will benefit the customer. A team member in a restaurant should be able to offer information about the menu and choices. The Retail Doctor outlines in this article the reasons customers return to a business, saying that “Wisdom is everything.” Wisdom is what a team member can offer a customer in a bricks and mortar location that can’t be achieved by the customer scrolling on their mobile phone.  

5. Anticipating Needs:

Imagine the delight on a customer’s face when their needs are not just met, but anticipated and fulfilled before they even voice them. By anticipating their needs, we elevate the customer experience and showcase the value of proactive service. The customer may want a lounge, but you realise they don’t have a coffee table and know the perfect coffee table to compliment the lounge. Or the customer has ordered a main meal, but no entree and you know there is a special on garlic bread today. Many team members are hesitant to suggest additional items, not wanting to be “pushy”, but we are merely anticipating the customer’s needs and providing a whole solution. 


6. Seamless Problem-Solving:

When challenges arise, it’s an opportunity to shine through seamless problem-solving. Whether it’s a product issue or a concern, the approach to resolution can leave a lasting impression. Overcoming an objection is turning an obstacle into an opportunity to ensure customer satisfaction. If they are hesitant about spending so much, mention your payment options or reinforce the value in the product. 


7. The Value of Closing: 

Imagine the previously mentioned sales points as stepping stones on the way to closing the sale. Like with any path, it’s much easier to reach the closing stage if you land on every step. Arguably, the hardest step is the close. So many times we read mystery shopping reports where the team member has been brilliant all the way. They offered assistance, asked questions, and demonstrated the product, but they don’t ask the customer to purchase. The most basic of customer service skills is to ask for the sale. Just like when offering assistance, asking for the sale won’t alienate a customer. There are even 5 easy ways to do it: Direct, Indirect, Assume, Alternative, Incentive. 


Implementing the Fundamentals: 

It’s all well and good to understand what is needed, it’s not rocket science, but where to from there? 


Following Up with the Team:

It’s not enough to understand the basics of customer service; it’s equally important to ensure that every team member is on board. This means teaching the plan to every team member, conveying the importance of simplicity, and not assuming that they are already up to speed with the basics. A lot of it is common courtesy, for which you don’t need a “cheat sheet” pasted to the counter. Regular follow-ups, training sessions, and open communication channels will reinforce the basics of customer service.


Measuring Customer Service and Accountability:

Mystery Shopping can be a valuable tool in measuring the effectiveness of customer service, both basic and more refined techniques. By consistently evaluating the customer experience, businesses can gain valuable insights into areas that require improvement and recognise team members who are excelling in their customer service efforts. These tangible measurements will test the established standards.


The Light Switch Analogy:

Think of the basic customer service tenets we have mentioned as the act of turning on the lights when opening up the shop for the day. Just as the lights set the tone for a welcoming and inviting environment, basic customer service sets the tone for the overall experience a customer will have. Keeping it simple and not overcomplicating things is essential. Every team member should understand that good customer service is non-negotiable and forms the bedrock of the business’s success.

In conclusion, the basics of customer service are not complex, but they are incredibly vital. Every team member must understand, practice, and embody these basics to ensure a positive and lasting impression on every customer. Please contact us if you would like assistance with measuring the key components of maintaining a high standard of customer service. By keeping it simple and reinforcing the fundamentals, you can build towards providing exceptional customer service.


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