I am a terrible sales person.

There’s really no disputing this fact. When I was in college, I worked in a retail store where I got paid commission. A customer who was eager to purchase a $300 leather jacket stared into the mirror while she hemmed and hawed over the decision. She finally sighed and asked my opinion.

A good sales person would have told her how great she looked in the jacket and suggested a coordinating pair of shoes to go with the jacket.

But not me.

Instead, I explained to her that she didn’t seem to love the jacket. If she didn’t love it, it was not worth the money. She left the store happy which made me happy. My manager, however, was not happy. This was my first and greatest indicator that I am not great at sales.

However, my managers were loathe to let me go. Why? It was simple: while I didn’t make extraordinary sales I did make our customers uniquely happy. As a result, they changed my position and had me as the dedicated cashier. I was the last line of defense to make sure customers walked out happy. This also gave our sales team more time to sell since they didn’t have to take time to ring a customer up. Additionally, I handled every customer who was blind with rage over a return or the way they’d been treated on the phone. I empathized with them, offered a solution for their problem and treated them with respect.

They left happy, which made me happy.

What I was doing was offering great customer service. While I’ve never believed that the customer is ALWAYS right, I do believe that all customers should be treated with respect. They should be treated as though their concerns matter – because they do. A customer who is pleased with your service will spread that word. A customer who is furious will spread that word as well, perhaps with more vehemence.

So how do you ensure you’re offering great customer service?

  1. Listen – Before you tell them how you’ll fix things, make sure you listen to their whole story. The devil is in the details and not all issues are what they first appear. This is crucial to making sure you offer the right solution.
  2. Acknowledge – Acknowledging their situation and feelings can do a lot to set the tone of the exchange. People almost instantly calm down when they understand that what’s going on.
  3. Empathize – The words “I understand you don’t want to be in this situation” and MEANING it, can do a lot. Plus, this about it. If the situation were reversed, would you want to be in their situation? No. Whether or not they are right is not the point. They are upset and you don’t like being upset either. Genuinely empathizing helps your client know you value them.
  4. Offer a solution – Offering a solution can be subjective. Perhaps a full refund is in order. Perhaps an exchange or simply an explanation is in order. Whatever the case may be, be sure you explain to your client what you’re doing and why it helps them. Sometimes simply being trained on how to use the good or services they’ve purchased can go a very long way.
  5. Help them avoid the situation in the future – Explain how they can avoid the situation in the future. If possible, write down any tips that might be tough to remember. This helps them feel confident about working with you in the future.

There’s a lot of talk now about customer service. I’m of the mindset that great customer service will eventually lead to more sales. Yet it seems that many are ignoring existing clients in order to chase new business.

In a world that seems to be moving away from fantastic customer service, let’s bring it back.

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