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How to be a Customer Service Practitioner

Customer service is the key to a successful business. Keep the customer satisfied and a business will flourish.

There are so many apt quotes about the importance of customer service: “Make a customer, not a sale”, or “Satisfaction is a rating. Loyalty is a brand.” Yet, a business is often only as good as the people who work there and organisations who look after their employees see the money rolling in.

Billionaire Richard Branson knew that from the start when he hardly had two pennies to rub together: “I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised.”

The British businessman who was knighted for services to entrepreneurship is a people person, well known for his joie de vivre, as well as his philanthropy and his spirit of adventure. And he has always aimed for it to be part of the DNA of his businesses, which now number around 400.

Everyone is familiar with the phrase ‘people person’, but what is one? A people person is someone who is a natural around people – and enjoys it. If someone is not naturally like this then it can be worked on, and if you’re considering a customer service role it’s certainly an advantage, because it’s always near the top of job specification requirements.

Someone who is helpful, friendly and trustworthy is an ideal candidate for a customer service practitioner role.

These kind of people could have a good go at ‘selling snow to Eskimos’ and ‘coal to the Geordies’. They enjoy working closely with and speaking to other people. They love going that extra mile and providing a service or information. Crucially, they enjoy helping others solve problems and take satisfaction from doing so.

The good thing is that if you identify as this kind of person or want to, then more skills can be added, and it can also be taught to unleash that latent bonhomie.

The role of a customer service practitioner is to deliver high quality products and services to the customers of their organisation. A core responsibility is to provide a high-quality service to customers which will be delivered from the workplace, digitally, or through going out into the customer’s own locality.

These may be one-off or routine contacts and include dealing with orders, payments, offering advice, guidance and support, meet-and-greet, sales, fixing problems, after care, service recovery or gaining insight through measuring customer satisfaction. You may be the first point of contact and work in any sector or organisation type.

The best recommendation for any business that provides a service is, of course, word of mouth. Make a mistake without trying to fix it, not delivering what it ‘says on the tin’, provide a half-hearted service or just be unfriendly, then you won’t win repeat custom. That disgruntled customer will tell friends and family, and worse still might spread the ‘word’ as far they can through social media.

That’s why a customer service practitioner’s actions will influence the customer experience and their satisfaction with an organisation – even Richard Branson’s. A bad experience flying Virgin and it’s BA or similar next time!

Therefore, a customer service practitioner will demonstrate excellent customer service skills and behaviours as well as product and/or service knowledge when speaking and delivering to customers. The service will be provided in line with the organisation’s customer service standards and strategy and within appropriate regulatory requirements. This goes across all engagement channels and situations which may be: face-to-face, telephone, post, email, text and social media.

And no two days are the same. Every customer you meet will be different and have different requirements. It means that you have the opportunity to spend every day speaking to new and – hopefully – interesting people.

It’s a job that requires excellent communication skills, patience and kindness, helping you, and your organisation to build (lasting) relationships. It is the customer, after all, who pays the wages!

Make no mistake, a customer service practitioner’s role is a key appointment in any organisation. If you don’t embrace it, it could become a chore; if you do, you will flourish, you will be an asset to your customer service team and will be well on your away to advancement and a great and varied career in sales or any customer facing role.

And finally, the key to any relationship is the ability to listen. Learning how to serve a customer comes from listening not talking, and then as Richard Branson might say, you will exceed their expectations “preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.”

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