by Terence R. 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
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
· Questioning: Questions help you to service your customers by:
- Helping you get the necessary information to understand the
- 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
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
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?”
About the Author
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. Check out our
40 customizable modules, training tools, and eGuides at
www.unlockit.com. Terence can be reached at 603-424-1237 or