#3 Posted: 14 Feb 2006 08:19 Edited by: Ian
Welcome to CSM!
Customer service is more than a job title; it's a mindset that can be applied to just about any profession. As a Secretary you could draw on your experiences and relate them to customer service. Think of the people that you come into contact with on a daily basis and how you deal with them. Do you deal with them face to face? On the telephone? That's customer service. Are you welcoming and polite? Do you offer to solve people's problems? These are customer service skills.
Make a list of your accomplishments in your current job and see how they could be described in a customer service setting. Once you come to see your colleagues as "internal customers" you will realise that you already have an abundance of customer service experience!
See if you can gain some experience dealing directly with your current employer's customers. Offer to make some phone calls or deal with some customer correspondence. Use this experience, however little, as a base for your future development.
Finally, and most importantly, people best suited to customer service have a genuine desire to help others. If you share this desire and are willing to learn, then you will make a great customer service professional!
Ian Miller, Editor
#4 Posted: 1 Aug 2006 09:10
John and Ian's posts have lots of good advice for you, but one thing that was not mentioned was this: I disagree with your initial assertion that you don't "have related experiences in this field."
When I do customer service training courses, as an ice-breaker, I always start with the assertion that we are all customers, so that we all know the difference between excellent, decent, and lousy customer service. Then, to get the class going, I ask the attendees to tell us about a terrible customer service experience they've had. This gets the room going, because everyone has had at least one really bad customer service experience. Then, after a little while, I ask if anyone has been lucky enough to have had an excellent customer service experience. People are usually eager to talk about the positive experiences, too.
After a while, I then tell the class,"Look, you all know the difference between great and lousy customer service! You don't need me. Just remember all the lousy customer service experiences we've discussed, and vow never to do them to your customers. Then remember all the great customer service experiences we've discussed, and strive to always do them. OK, class dismissed!" Then I act like I am leaving. This always gets a bit of a laugh from the class.
Of course, I am simplifying the customer service thing here, but not too much. My belief is that "customer service departments" run into trouble when they start acting like customer service is a job or a function, rather that something that is largely about how you treat people.
One bit of advice I would offer to you is, don't worry so much about your lack of "customer service experience" on your resume. Rather, turn it around, and ask the hiring manager about the company's commitment to its customers. How far are they willing to go to serve their customers? Is the company more concerned about internal metrics (number of calls taken, average length of call, etc.) than about the long-term effect of generating a positive customer experience?
As John mentioned, a key component of great customer service is the ability to deal with people when they are angry. Your goal should not be to get them to not be angry, or to stop yelling at you, but rather, to focus in on the source of that anger, and remedy that as best and as quickly as you can. But ONLY after allowing the customer to have his or her say. Most customers, once they've gotten to the point of anger, do not wish to just shut it off. They feel they have been wronged, and they want you to know about it. The best thing you can do let them know you are listening, that you empathize with their issue, and once they have gotten things off their chest, let them know that you are going to do your best to remedy the situation for them. And never forget to THANK them for sharing this problem with you. This is one thing that customer service people often forget to do, because they are human and don't like to be yelled at. But as a BUSINESS person, the angry customer is giving you food for thought on how to improve your business. I've made a career out of helping businesses deal with angry customers!
Best of luck to you! We customer service evangelists are always happy to welcome another into our fold!
- Chuck Dennis