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Diploma in Customer Service
Customer Service in the Retail Industry
Communicating with the Customer

Communicating with the Customer
Given the frequency with which retail employees interact with customers it is essential that they develop exceptional communication skills. The communication skills needed are divided into the following four areas:
1. Listening Skills
2. Positive Verbal Communication Skills
3. Positive Non-Verbal Communication Skills
4. Solving Customer Problems

Listening Skills
Listening to customers is the first communication skill needed to effectively interact with customers. This skill is perhaps the most important as staff cannot give customers what they want if they are not aware of their needs. To communicate well with customers retail staff should follow the following procedures:
Do not interrupt your customer
Stay focused and pay attention to everything the customer says
Ask questions if you are unclear about anything
Repeat critical information
Keep a positive attitude
Don’t get defensive

Positive Verbal Communication Skills
Positive Verbal Communication Skills
When you speak to customers you must use positive language. Ensure that your phrasing tells customers that you are eager to help.

Furthermore, employees must remember that they are representing their organization. Everything you say should portray the organization as one that is dedicated to superior customer service.

Many phrases that are used in everyday conversation are unsuitable for speaking with customers.

Click on the markers below to explore these phrases and learn customer appropriate alternatives.

I Don’t Know
Nothing harms customer confidence in staff more than the phrase “I don’t know.” This phrase suggests that not only does the employee not know the answer to the customer’s question, he/she is uninterested in finding an answer.

Instead of saying “I don’t know”, staff should say “That is a good question, let me check and find out”

Negative Responses
Often a customer will make a request of a retail employee. If you are unable to fulfil this request you should never give a negative response that does not offer some sort of solution. “No”, “I can’t do that” or similar phrases tell the customer that their request cannot be granted in any way.

The vast majority of customers are reasonable people. If you are unable to fulfil a specific request but try your best to help the customer they will appreciate your efforts.

Instead of saying “no” say “let’s see what we can do” and offer the customer an alternative solution to their problem.

Telling the Customer what to do
You should never tell the customer what to do. The way you phrase a sentence can make the difference between a demand and a polite request.

Example: Occasionally a customer will wish to return an item without a receipt. In such a situation, never say to the customer “you will have to bring me the receipt to receive a refund.” Instead, make a well-mannered appeal to the customer such as “If you could please bring me the receipt then I would be in a position to help you”.

Phrases like this let the customer know that you are doing your best and make them more likely to be understanding.

Patronizing the Customer
You should never patronize or talk down to the customer. Customers must never be addressed in a patriarchal way or in a manner that suggests that you are in charge at the store.

Furthermore, you should never talk to the customer as if he or she is unintelligent. After explaining something to the customer, never ask them “do you understand?” Instead ask “am I explaining myself well enough?”

Positive Non-Verbal Communication Skills
Introduction: Positive Non-Verbal Communication Skills
While verbal communication plays a huge part in the retail customer service experience, non-verbal communication plays an equal if not more important role.

Click on the numbers below to explore the key aspects of non-verbal communication in retail customer service

Step 1: Eye Contact
Make eye contact with your customers to acknowledge that you are paying attention.

Keeping eye contact while you are communicating or listening to your customer ensures you remain focused and lets them know are interested in providing good service.

Also, if you are spending a long time serving a particular customer, it can help to make eye contact with the next customer in line. This will let the customer know that you are aware that he/she is waiting and may help to lessen the customer's frustration.

Step 2: Facial Expressions
Keep facial expressions positive.

Smile. Don’t let facial expressions communicate negative emotions like anger, impatience, disbelief or boredom.

Raised eyebrows, rolling your eyes, smirking, tightly set lips, yawning and staring past the customer are all body language that is not customer friendly.

Step 3: Sincerity
You should be natural and sincere when greeting and interacting with customers. Recognize the customer as an individual; don’t offer him/her a mechanized script.

Be honest and sincere, focus on the person, and give him/her your full attention.

Remember what an important role you play in customer satisfaction. You can make the customer's day better by being friendly and helpful.

Step 4: Appearance
Just as you maintain a tidy and attractive store, you should take pride in your own appearance.

When your customers describe your service to their friends they will focus on their observations of tangible things. You want those tangibles to reflect well on your store and the service you provide.

Solving Customer Problems
As hard as you and your organization try to provide excellent customer service, problems with customers will inevitably arise. When they do, you should adopt the following attitudes and practices:

1. Assume Innocence: “Guilty until proven innocent” is not a good approach to use when trying to help your customers. They may be having difficulty explaining their problem well or they may have received incorrect or misleading information. Listen well, and try to help solve their problem. Use sentences that begin with “I understand what happened...”

2. Believe Your Customer: Give your customer the benefit of the doubt, they may be absolutely correct and you may be mistaken. Use phrases such as "let me confirm that….we will be sure to correct that problem.”

3. Look for Teaching Opportunities: Try to provide the information or directions customers may have needed to avoid the problem. Assume responsibility for the customer not being aware of this information. Use the phrase “I am glad you brought this to my attention…we will try to make this clearer from this point on.”

4. Beware of Responding in Kind: If your customer is upset you must remain calm. Meeting anger with anger, sarcasm with sarcasm, etc. can leave you and your customer feeling exasperated. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. Sometimes it takes more than just fixing the problem, sometimes you have to concentrate on “fixing” the person as well. You want your customers to walk away satisfied, not angry or frustrated.

5. Be Empathetic: Empathy is the degree of caring and individual attention you show customers. Customers come with a variety of wants, needs, expectations, attitudes, and emotions. They want to be treated as individuals, not as a number. Recognize your customer’s emotional state and figure out the best way to effectively serve them. Make them feel comfortable and important to you.

When emotions run high, don’t get caught up in the emotional tangle of your customers. That will hinder your ability to serve customers effectively. When things go wrong, you have to separate the person from the performance and focus your energy on solving the problem.

Communicating with the Customer

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