As holiday shopping season gets underway, many businesses are stepping up their focus on customer service. They spend millions of dollars developing customer-service practices that include employee training and corporate engagement because they understand customer service is not a seasonal exercise.
It is both art and science. Best practices help us design, execute and deliver. How we go about it is completely art. It depends heavily on the human element since not all components of design come with hard-and-fast rules that we can rely on as we regularly promote in design thinking.
What’s often missing is a smile, a key element of customer service and business interactions.
Here are four reasons why excellent customer service should start with a smile:
1. A smile is more than an expression. Smiling isn’t just something your face does. It communicates your state of mind. A smile—or the nonvisual sense of a smile for telephone customer service representatives—can be the most significant part of a business transaction. In retail, it can influence people’s perception of a brand and their customer satisfaction.
It can enhance the exchange of a product, the sharing of knowledge, or the offer of a solution As Internet and mobile commerce take market share from traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, smiling as a state of mind is more important than ever.
2. A smile is more about a mindset. Smiling is as much a reflection of an organization as it is a validation of that organization’s promise. It helps form the customer’s first impression, an indication of a pledge to offer a satisfactory product or service. It plays a role in everything we do, in every transaction we touch, in our relationship with every customer we help. It starts before we first interact with our customers, and it certainly does not end when the transaction is complete.
3. A smile is an attitude. Smiling tells our story beyond first impressions. It is a personal touch that extends our customer service promise and reflects our passion. Smiling says that we want to be here serving our clients and customers. It says that we are ready and willing to go the extra mile. And we smile even when we are not face-to-face with clients or customers. Our tone of voice on the phone and style of our correspondence communicate a virtual smile—or the lack thereof.
We cannot control everything that unfolds during customer interactions, but we always control the attitude we convey, such as amiability, energy and excitement, as well as commitment to satisfying the customer’s wants or needs. Even though a smile can’t solve every problem, in many cases, our attitude can triumph over many complications that can occur during the transaction and our smile can become a competitive edge.
4. Most important: A smile is an invitation. Smiling sets a tone. It establishes a rapport and initiates trust, the cornerstone of every business relationship. This last point is more relevant than ever as we struggle to retain that integral factor in our fast-paced, smartphone-addicted, multitask-driven culture. Technological advances, globalization and new business models have us spending more time working remotely on our devices, which also makes us more remote.
Bottom line: Whether the transaction is business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C), a smile is one of the easiest components to get right. Omitting smiles from the equation leaves out the crucial ingredient in any business interaction.
And when we forget to smile, we forget how to smile.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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