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Are You Surly, Slapdash & Dreadful? Customer Service Skills You Need

This week we’re talking customer service.

Back in 2011 celebrity chef Michel Roux Jr called British customer service “Surly, slapdash and dreadful.” Eek!

Four years on and the Institute of Customer Service (UKCSI), reports that UK Customer satisfaction is at its lowest level since 2010. Ooh!

Not in the service industry? Think customer service doesn’t apply to you? Think again! Tweet: Not in the service industry? Think customer service doesn’t apply to you? Think again! @Angel_HR_UK #Q&Angel

First, up. This sounds obvious, but what is customer service exactly?

Well, in an increasingly tech-dependant and competitive marketplace that’s what a lot of businesses are asking themselves – the specifics change year on year.

But, ultimately I’d say it’s about making a customer feel welcome and important. Their experience.

Meaning bad customer service could cost your business big time?

Absolutely, Michel Roux Jr actually said when it comes to dining out, for example:

Good service is as important as good food. Tweet: Good service is as important as good food. @Angel_HR_UK #Q&Angel

Sounds a bit crazy, but if the wait staff are snooty or unobtainable you’re unlikely to go back to that restaurant.

Marketing guru Seth Godin says that businesses who concentrate on service are often more successful:

“[I]t turns out that caring for people is a useful shortcut to trust, which leads to all the other things that a growing organisation seeks. Your customers can tell.”

And, that’s definitely the stance Angel takes when interacting with our clients and candidates.

So, what are customer skills exactly?

Customer service skills cover a wide area, but the essentials are probably: great communication, EQ – or Emotional Intelligence – product knowledge, flexibility, timeliness, an ability to think on your feet, presentability… The list goes on.

In fact Guardian writer Oscar Rickett says: “I like to argue that the vast majority of competencies relate to soft skills and, in turn, soft skills is often just a byword for customer service.”

So, competencies relevant to almost every role, everywhere?

Yes, when you think about it in terms of core competencies great communication skills, knowing your sector, company products, reliability, being able to use your initiative and just plain being bothered about others are vital in pretty much any role where you’re dealing with people.

I used to work for an SME where the CEO couldn’t remember my name. Ultimately it made me feel less valued as an employee. But, also, when I mentioned it to colleagues some of them were truly aghast:

The message to them was loud and clear: he didn’t really care. Tweet: Also, customer service is a competency which can be applied to job hunting itself! @Angel_HR_UK #Q&Angel data-cke-saved-src=


Customer service is actually integral to the entire lifecycle of job-hunting

Basically, applying for jobs is about selling what you have to offer. It’s pretty popular right now to talk about people in terms of brands. Want to learn more? Read out article on PERSONAL BRANDING

So, write a CV which ‘sells’. By which I mean: a clear and concise document aimed at your target customer (your ideal recruiter).

Ever go into a restaurant with too many things on the menu? Overwhelm right?! You stop reading. Or skim – which means you might miss the juicy parts.

What else?

At interview take the JFK approach: Ask yourself what you can do for them and their company – that’s what a great customer service provider would do when serving a customer or client.

What are some of the biggest challenges to providing good customer service?

Not responding promptly was one of the complaints on the UKCSI naughty list.

The face of customer service is changing. Technological advances provide more ways to communicate and share information and while you could reply to an email by the next day, now:

39% of modern consumers expect a reply within 4 hours! Tweet: Tweet: 39% of modern consumers expect a reply within 4 hours! @Angel_HR_UK #Q&Angel

Any closing comments?

Yes, I just wanted to say something about attitude. There’s an idea that service in this country can be poor and it’s often blamed on our attitude to those serving others.

But I like this thought from US-based entrepreneur Marie Forleo who says:

“I’m fascinated with great customer service.

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent years of my life as a bartender and waitress.

Or, more likely, it’s because truly outstanding customer service demonstrates the best of our humanity: honesty, vulnerability, forgiveness, generosity and ultimately — love.”

Sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s true.


As usual, we’d love to hear from you!

Share your questions and insights using the hashtag #Q&Angel

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