by Bina Sethi
Most of us students probably have some form of part-time work that requires us to interact with members of the public. It’s crucial that we deal with them in the right manner without causing offense. There are some things that we should consider when dealing with customers
1) Assess the need: You may come across rude, polite, aggressive, shy people as well as elderly, children and pregnant ladies. Make sure you understand their needs. For example, if you work in retail and you have a customer ask you where clothing may be rather than point try to take them to that direction (Unless they say they will be fine). Analyse the person that you have in front of you, if it is a person in a wheelchair, an elderly person perhaps they will need some more assistance. Try to go the extra mile without seeming patronising.
2) Listen…don’t just hear sound: If you haven’t understood what they have said and try to second guess, the communication bridge will break down. Ask them to repeat again if necessary. If you have a customer presenting difficult behaviour shake it off, remain calm and proceed with your task.
3) But they’re exhibiting difficult behaviour: Angry, impolite, rude or curt…they can get to you and you’ll want to speak back in the same manner. Calm yourself down and try not to get into a tennis ball match. By you getting angry yourself you won’t be able to solve the problem, because logic has flown out and there is only bitterness with the need to retaliate.
4) Pass them onto the right people: ‘the customers always right’ please…no one can be right all the time but it’s up to you to deal with it justly. You’ve tried your best and it’s still not working. So pass them on to the next best person whether that’s someone better equipped to deal with the person, your senior, manager or another work colleague (for example someone who’s worked there longer)
5) Don’t label customers with specific names: For example, an elderly person may walk in and become agitated with you or they don’t seem to understand you. You might find yourself getting annoyed and you’re thinking it. I know you might be you cheeky one ‘that silly old man/woman’. We may all get there one day with the severe aches, pains, our visibility and hearing decreasing and we would want staff to be patient with us just as the same elderly person walking through the door wants us to be patient with them. It’s not just elderly that are subjected to that, any type of group could be looked down upon. Do remember that it is all about equal opportunities. The customer is the one bringing in the service but remember you are the one that will keep that service.
6) Body language: How you convey this is crucial. Direct your body towards their direction and provide your complete attention. A person will be able to walk into a workplace and figure out what type of person you are by your actions. If you walk in, ask for something and the worker gives you their complete attention whilst greeting you with a friendly smile you know the person cares about their job.
7) Jargon language: I don’t think much need to be added apart from use proper simple English and do not come across unprofessional and immature.
8) Their first language isn’t English: Try to speak at a slower rate as the person may be trying to lip read because they may not understand what you are saying. Take that extra time to talk to them and cater to their needs. Be patient, don’t get annoyed and try to be creative. Maybe you could write down what is needed or try to find someone in your workplace that may speak the same language. (it may be a nifty idea to get to know your work colleagues and find out what languages they speak…you never know when it would come in handy)
9) Problem solving: If you couldn’t do it the first time round don’t worry. You may have passed the situation onto another worker. However, watch as to how they deal with situation and file it away in your mind for a day it may be useful.
Remember where ever you work see it as more than just a job. Of course the money is the incentive but this is an opportunity for you to learn more skills. Have the right mind-set and you will succeed.
This article was written with the complete advice and aid of Bina Sethi. She works as a manager for Ealing borough and has over 25 years of customer care experience.