Providing great customer service; the ultimate guide

Providing great customer service; the ultimate guide

It’s no secret that a main priority of a retail store is providing great customer service.

Providing great customer service is an important aspect your employees must represent the brand and make customers feel welcome. We believe that the two key areas to are product training and people interaction training.

People Interaction Training

This tends to revolve around three main concepts:

  • General Interaction – This refers to how you react to customers in casual situations, non-verbally and verbally. Yes we know… it sounds simple… but you’d be surprised what subconscious body language can show!
  • Active Listening – Active listening is an acquired skill when dealing with customers, using your full attention to understand the needs of customers is what they’ll appreciate and will only benefit you when providing great customer service.
  • Conflict Management – Although body language and listening skills help, they can’t always prevent an angry customers from causing an in-store scene. Conflict management training is needed for these situations to be able to keep the customer calm and provide a suited solution.

Read on to find out more in depth about these three concepts to learn more about providing great customer service training to your employees.

General Interaction

If you want some ideas on how to train your employees in general interaction, try these…

  • Role playing – Get your employees/colleagues acting out lightly scripted situations that might happen in the work place for learning purposes. This will encourage them to engage in instances they might have to actually deal with.
  • Extra training on the job – It can be intimidating at first when you start a new job, so a bit of extra coaching will help your employees and give them the courage to be confident in their new role. Learning on the job will teach them the right way to handle situations.

These will allow you to access your employees strengths and weaknesses to suss out what sort of extra training they need to help them be the best they can when providing great customer service.

Active Listening Training

Listening to what your customer has to say is so important! Being a good listener allows you to understand exactly what the customer needs/wants rather than assuming and getting it wrong.

In our opinion there are 7 basic steps to becoming an effective listener:

  • Face the other person / maintain eye contact
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Pay attention to the nonverbal clues
  • Empathy – understand why they feel the way they do
  • Relax – be attentive
  • Ask questions to clarify your understanding only
  • Keep an open mind

You can find out more about effective listening in this Forbes blog.

Make sure you’ve listened to their request/complaint in full, gathered all the information before you offer a solution. There are many activities that can help teach the importance of the listening skills when providing great customer service… here’s one of the most effective.

“Tell me what I said” game.

In one of your meetings, gather all your employees and give them paper and a pencil. Completely out of the blue tell them a random story such as:

“Yesterday at 3pm I was walking my dog to the park. Once I got there I counted 5 brown dogs, 3 white dogs, 9 black dogs and cat who was sat on the blue climbing frame.”

Get them to write down exactly what you just said. You’ll get all sorts of funny responses that weren’t even similar! Then do the same thing but this time, tell your employees to “listen closely”. We guarantee you one or two people will get every word you said this time round.

This game illustrates how someone should be listening to customers from the first word that is spoken, not just when they’re told to listen. Being able to apply this skill will install a great sense of understanding and make customers feel more valued.

Conflict Management Customer Service Training

Sometimes you are going to get customers coming into your store not in the best of moods… it’s inevitable. But the important part of the experience is the way you handle it and how you make the customer feel when they walk away.

You can tell from a mile away when a customer has walked in with trouble on their mind. It’s just like when you’ve had a bad day, a customer’s body language and tone of voice speak a thousand words. So the first part of conflict management training would be to spot a potentially volatile situation in advance.

Next you need to know how to approach and speak to them without causing them distress…

Here’s 3 points to follow:

  • Listen to what the customer has to say – Let the customer speak, no interruptions, no assumptions! In most cases customers just want to express their frustration, once they’ve done this they’ll move onto… “what can be done about it?”
  • Try to relate – Show the customer empathy, let them know you understand what they’re telling you, give them that hope that you WILL do your best to provide a solution. Lighten the mood and build the trust with a quick story if you or someone you know has experienced the same before.
  • Offer a solution – This is the end stage, hopefully you would have gathered all the information, diffused any uneasiness or hostility and now you can focus on fixing the problem. It’s important that your employees know the resolutions they can provide the customers and the authority in which they have to provide one.

You could provide your employees with on-the-spot questions in team briefs. Make sure that they know how to resolve a difficult situation/what solutions you can offer what problems so that they get used to being put on the spot regarding that situation.

The only real way to get good at handling these situations however, is practice unfortunately. Your first unhappy customers can be frightening, but if you are focused on their needs and you stay relaxed you’re sure to reassure the customers. And if you’re unsure, know that you need to ask a team member who does know, or you line manager.


Product Training

Now it’s time to dive into the second key area of providing great customer service: Product Training.

It’s important your employees know as much as they can about the products you offer to win over the customers. Put it this way, if you walked into a phone shop and asked an employee about a particular phone and they had no idea what to tell you, would you trust that store?

There are three ways you can provide the product training to your employees… which will help employees get the information needed to provide excellent customer service.

  1. Promote items internally
  2. Weekly training sessions
  3. Vendor training

Now, we’ll take a closer look to see what these entail:

 Promote items internally

Everyone loves a bit of a competition. Each month you pick particular items to promote and sell and the person with the highest amount of sales wins some predetermined prize.

Using this technique to train product details not only gets the employees motivated to encourage more sales but they’ll also learn more about that product to be able to sell it!

Weekly training sessions

The best way to explain this technique is to give an example. The retail store, Argos uses product training highly within their employee hiring process. They have an online system that their employees have to visit to completely regular reading and quizzes based on the sectors within the store, the products and how to handle customer situations.

Misinformation is one of the main reasons that customers become irritated and difficult to handle. We’re not saying you should create a whole system for your employees to visit but during team briefs maybe you could hand out a list of facts to your employees and in the next team brief quiz them.

Vendor product training

Who knows your products better than the person who makes and supplies you them? Your vendors are a great source for employee product training because they already have the information!

You’ll never know if you don’t ask! Get in contact with any of your vendors who service your store and ask if someone would be willing to talk to some of your staff about the products. Vendors usually jump at the chance to talk about their new products and lines so there’s no harm in asking!

Providing great customer service is a commitment, it’s what customers notice from the experience of the store. Every customer that walks into your store, brings opportunity… they have needs, wants and habits that will challenge you, but learning how to deal with those will give your store the recognition it may need.

Just remember that it all starts with YOU. You need to lead by example when it comes to providing great customer service because then your employees will respect you, your store and the customers!

Let us know what you think about this guide and whether it gave you some extra training tips! You can find more tips on how to adapt your store on our blog! Check it out today.

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