For four years, I have worked in retail and while it does get a bad reputation on social media (as well as hospitality, or any job that involves customer service) that may scare people away from the industry, I have some tips for those brave enough to enter.
Smile – When you smile, your voice automatically comes out as friendly. Although you may not feel like putting on a happy face, when you get a happy response from the customer you are helping, it will make your day better. When training up to work, I was told to smile at everyone because you could be the only person that smiles at the customer that day. Everyone knows smiling is contagious,
Eye contact – Looking a customer in the eye when they are speaking to you makes them feel like they are being heard. While you may be used to having conversations with close friends and family and not looking them in the eye, you are dealing with complete strangers who will think you are being rude. Being focused on the customer talking to you makes them feel reassured that you are going to help them and you are prioritising their needs.
Body language – You may be good at hiding your mood and putting on your ‘customer service’ voice, but actions talk louder than words. You may not realise it but you could be emitting defensive or angry body language. For example, if you stand there with your arms crossed and weight on one leg, you will look like you are being defensive and it definitely does not help with a face mask on. That may be your normal stance, but you may get a dismissive or angry response from the person you are serving. Keep your arms by your side, maintain eye contact and keep at a distance (for your own safety and social distancing).
Keep them updated – As a customer yourself, it is annoying to be left standing in the store while someone goes and look in the back for you. So, if you need to go in the back, ask the manager or get another colleague to help, let the customer know. The longer you leave them waiting there without a clue what is going on, the more agitated they are going to be when you return.
Flexibility – Not every customer is going to have the same problem, treat you the same or react the same. You have to be flexible and ready to deal with any situation. This means learning from all your encounters. If you make a mistake then think about what you could have done better and apply that to your next similar customer. Additionally, watch how a colleague deals with the customer, listen to what they say and watch their body language. Every day is going to be different, this is not Groundhog Day, you need to be prepared for anything. So get that customer service smile on your face and get out there!
Patience – This will help you stay calm in desperate times. For example, if you work in the hospitality industry, with lockdown restrictions lifting everyone is wanting to go to their local pub or have a nice meal out. Patience is something you are going to need when you are returning to work and it is going to busier than ever. Take deep breaths when in stressful situations. Similarly, if you feel like you cannot deal with the problem, go to a colleague and ask them to take over or for help.
Listen – Do not start talking until the customer has stopped. It is rude in any conversation to interrupt or talk over someone. Similar to eye contact, staying quiet and listening to what the customer saying makes them feel valued, heard and they know that your sole focus is on them. Not only that but if you listen then you will not miss anything they say and decrease the risk of you making a mistake with an order or question.
Treat others how you want to be treated – Everyone knows this saying, this one tip summarises all the others above. Yes, you may come across a difficult customer sometimes but you have to put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself how you would want a colleague to react and respond to you.
As tricky, and sometimes dehumanising, as working in customer service, if you use some or all of these tips, then it may improve your experience. Let us know all about your customer service experiences on our Instagram!