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Communicating with Customer Focus
By Terence Traut

Having a customer-focused mindset is important in providing exceptional customer service. Applying effective communication skills is equally important.

Key communication skills include:

· Presence: The level of confidence that you portray. Can the customer believe that you are able to help them? One way to demonstrate presence is to use a standard greeting that conveys to the customer, “You’ve called the right person; I can and want to help”.

· Relating: Relating is the comfort level between you and your customer. This includes, building rapport, matching communication styles, and being professional. An example of matching communication styles is as follows: If a customer talks fast and loud, and is bottom-line, results oriented, we match his/her communication style by talking at a comparable pace and providing them with the bottom-line information they desire. This customer would not relate to chit-chat or soft-spoken responses.

· Questioning: Questions help you to service your customers by:

· Helping you get the necessary information to understand the situation fully.

· Giving you control of the conversation.

· Allowing you to test for commitment.

· Serving as a powerful tool for handling objections.

· Building rapport.

· Listening: Hearing is a passive skill; listening is an active skill. You make an active choice to listen well. Indicate that you are listening by using phrases such as “I see” or “uh huh”. Demonstrate that you’ve listened and understood by paraphrasing what you’ve heard.

· Checkbacks: Checkbacks are questions used to get the customer’s reaction, feeling, or opinion about what you have just said or done. What is the customer thinking or feeling about information you may have provided? Choosing Your Words

Let’s experience the difference that our word choices can make. The following are samples of responses to customers. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and ask yourself, “How would I feel if a Customer Service Professional (CSP) said this to me?”

A CSP who is NOT customer focused might say this: You’re not listening to me!

Whereas a customer-focused CSP might say this: I’m not sure I said that clearly, let me explain that a little better.

A CSP who is NOT customer focused might say this: That’s not my department!

Whereas a customer-focused CSP might say this: We don’t handle that in my department, but let me transfer you to someone who can help you with that.

A CSP who is NOT customer focused might say this: I don’t know!

Whereas a customer-focused CSP might say this: That’s a great question. If you’ll hold on, I’ll get that information for you.

A CSP who is NOT customer focused might say this: That associate must have given you the wrong information. She shouldn’t have told you that.

Whereas a customer-focused CSP might say this: I understand what you were told; I apologize for the misunderstanding. Let me explain….

A CSP who is NOT customer focused might say this: If you would let me help you, you probably won’t need a supervisor, because she will just tell you the same thing I told you.

Whereas a customer-focused CSP might say this: I would be happy to get a supervisor for you. Would you be willing to let me try to help you first? And if you aren’t satisfied, I will get a supervisor right away.

Your choice of words is critical to not only making your customer feel well cared for, but also to a successful outcome of your customer-focused interactions. The best tip for choosing your words is to think first and ask yourself, “If I were a customer, how would I feel if a Customer Service Professional said this to me?”

See Also:

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Productivity And Your Business
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This information comes from Communicating Effectively, a module in Entelechy’s High Performance Customer Service program. Check out this module as well as our 40 other modules, training tools, and eGuides at

Terence R. Traut is the president of Entelechy, Inc., a company that helps organizations unlock the potential of their people through customized training programs in the areas of sales, management, customer service, and training.  

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