QUESTION: I am starting my business and will have a number of employees interacting with our customers. These will be mostly young and part time employees. I can give them the technical training  they need but what other skills should they have before dealing with my customers

ANSWER: First of all, remember that your employees are the face of your business. Next, remember that you only get one chance to make a good first impression on the patron. So, in addition to the technical training, you should be sure to give them training in customer service.

Let's talk about a typical everyday event like going to a fast food restaurant. I walk up to a fast food counter and begin to give my order. The employee is asked a question by a coworker, ignoring me for the time being. The employee then walks away to help the coworker. In about 30 seconds she comes back and takes my order, not saying she was sorry I had to wait. What is going on here?

Should I have been ignored for 30 seconds? Should the coworker have interrupted my server? Could my server have said excuse me a moment while I help this other employee? Do I want to go back to this place? Not really, I don't feel appreciated.

Another example, I have a confirmed appointment with you and the telephone rings, interrupting our meeting. You take the call and I sit there waiting. Phones should be answered by someone other than the customer service representative. If it is necessary for the CSR to answer the phone, they should answer by saying they are with a customer, and promptly call them back once our meeting is concluded.

Employees need training in how to deal with customers. You need to give them basic examples of everyday situations and show them how to react.  When with a customer, this is where your complete attention should be directed. Other employees and telephone calls should not interrupt; but if necessary to interrupt, then permission should be asked of the customer.

What is customer service?  Basically, it is treat people like you would want to be treated. Remember the adage “the customer is always right” refers to their opinions, not yours. Always give the impression you understand how they feel, even if you are unable to resolve their problem. 

Your attention to detail can make the difference between attracting and retaining customers or missing this golden opportunity. Make customer service as high a priority as the technical training and it will pay off with more business and ensure long term customer loyalty.

One last thing…when hiring, take the time to assess the applicants "people skills" Are they friendly, talkative, smiling, good listeners and continually make eye contact when speaking and listening? These people skills are something that can be developed but it helps if they come naturally to the individual. 

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Gray Poehler is a volunteer with SCORE Naples and can be reached at www.Gray.Poehler@scorevolunteer.org. Business counseling is available, without charge, from the Naples Chapter of SCORE. Call (239) 430-0081 or visit https://naples.score.org/content/find-mentor-165.The SCORE business office is located at 900 Goodlette Road North, in the Fifth Third branch bank building. Office hours are 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.