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Five HR Tips for Improving the Customer Relationship

A nice smile isn't enough if your employees don't know the products in and out.

April 23, 2002
  • Look for customer-pleasing personalities. The ability to empathize with others, flexibility, and emotional resilience under pressure are qualities that aren’t easy to teach. Design a structured, situational interviewing process to find those special people.

  • Don’t be afraid to emphasize the negative. Good service isn’t always noticed, but bad service invariably is. Use role-playing exercises and encourage trainees to discuss their own experiences as mistreated customers to help them understand the impact on the company’s fortunes when they don’t make a good impression.

  • Give employees tools for understanding their customers. Your training program should include training in techniques such as “active listening” and advice on how to interpret customers’ verbal cues.

  • Don’t neglect “hard” skills. A nice smile and polite telephone manners aren’t enough when a customer needs advice on which hardware to pick or help with a product that isn’t working. Make sure your customer-service people have a good working knowledge of whatever you’re selling.

  • Promote a service-oriented culture from the top. A company’s customer relationships are heavily influenced by the tone of the management/employee relationship. Sell your top leaders on the importance of company rituals that emphasize service as a core value -- for example, an employee tea or luncheon where executives do the serving.

Workforce, May 2002, p. 28 -- Subscribe Now!