Tips for Assisting Customers and Improving Service

Florist gives customer advice on growing hydrangeas
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What does assisting a customer mean to you? The most common customer service situation is a customer or client seeking help so it's extremely important to get this interaction right. Properly done, a customer seeking help will not only feel that she or he has been treated well but will be more favorably disposed towards buying products and/or services from your business.

Be Available, Make Eye Contact, and be Cheerful

The first way that you make your customer feel valued is by acknowledging her or him as soon as possible. So when someone enters your store or office, you need to look up from your computer, stop stocking shelves or whatever else you're doing as soon as possible. If your work involves being away from the floor, such as working in a stockroom or workshop area for part of the time, you need to have some system that alerts you when a customer enters so you can attend to her.

Make eye contact, smile and say something such as, "Hello. How may I help you today?" Stop there. Allow the customer to respond and listen to what the customer may request. Do not assume you know what they are going to say before they say it.

Be courteous and respectful to all your guest in a professional manner. Remember, you want to treat customers how you would want to be treated.

Be Eager to Help but Not Aggressive

Remember, first impressions are key when assisting a customer. Customers who have responded to the initial question by saying something such as, "I just thought I'd take a look around" should be approached after an acceptable period (which will vary depending on the type of business, floor layout, and other business specifics) and asked if they have any questions or if they've found what they're looking for. If the customer declines your help, acknowledge their denial and let them know a general area you will be at in case they need your assistance later.

There will be frequent occasions when you will need to respond to your customer and their requests.

Addressing the Problem

When a customer is inquiring you about a problem, listen carefully to what is said. Ask clarifying questions when the customer is finished speaking if necessary to get more details that will enable you to solve the customer's problem. Do not interrupt a customer when he or she is speaking. You can't listen when your mouth is moving.

Show Knowledge of the Products or Services

Be sure that you and your staff know your products and services inside out. And be sure that all staff knows the difference between "showing a knowledge" and "showing off". Customers do not come in to hear lectures about particular products or services. For good customer service, tell customers what they want to know, not everything you know about it.

Know About Related Products

Customers commonly compare products and/or services, so you and the staff need to be able to do this, too. After all, you may be able to save them a trip to another store. You also need to be aware of any accessories or parts related to your products so you can tell customers where they can get them if you don't supply them.

Offer Pertinent Advice

Customers often have questions that aren't directly about your products or services but are related to them. For instance, a customer interested in hardwood flooring might want to know what the best way of cleaning hardwood floors is. The answers you give (or aren't able to give) can be a big influence on buying decisions and how the customer feels about your customer service.

Close the Customer Service Interaction Appropriately

You should finish helping a customer by actively suggesting the next step. If he or she is ready to make a purchase at this point, escort or direct the customer to the checkout where you or someone else will go through the payment procedure with them.

If the customer is not ready to buy at this point, your suggested next step might be a further invitation to engage with the merchandise or service such as, "Is there anything else I can help you with?", "Would you like a brochure?", or "Would you like to try that on?" You should never just say something such as, "Here you go" or "Okay, then" and move on.

The Tricky Part of Customer Service

It may seem basic, but providing good customer service is basic. The tricky part of it is providing good customer service to all your customers all the time. Hopefully, the tips above will help you and your staff accomplish that. If you can consistently provide the kind of customer service that brings customers back, you'll not only be building customer loyalty but gaining positive word-of-mouth advertising and increasing sales.