Zareen Wajid, Talent Acquisition Specialist
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What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the term “customer service”?
- Dialing a 1-800 number and being connected to someone in India, Philippines, or the Middle East
- Being transferred from one person to another or being on-hold because all lines are currently busy.
- The Technicalities- aka the fine print and disclaimers, the expired insurance, the disqualifications, and the sorry-you-must-drive-to-the-same-place-500-miles-due-east-through-the-creepy-forrest-and-swim-across-the-lake-with-sharks statement to actually get your inquiry listened to.
- The automated press-ones-twos-threes or any number to not talk to a human being.
Contrarily, Mahatma Gandhi sums it up really well: A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work, he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business, he is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.
As a high school or college student, you must be wondering what “customers” Mahatma Gandhi and I am referring to. Well, I am talking about your customer service skills with your peers, professors, extracurricular activity chair, the guy at the cash register when you buy your meal. Basically, anyone and everyone you come across. High school and college is the best time to develop and improve your customer service skills. Let me tell you why.
Having great customer service skills is without a doubt, the single, most competitively advantageous skill to have in the real world. Yes, Without-A-Doubt!
Let me explicate further. Ahem… How do you make the best first impression at an interview? How do you build your professional network? How do you meet your managers’ and clients’ needs? How do you get promoted? How do you implement change? Even… How to do ask your soul mate out for coffee? How do you negotiate with your 5 year old?
If you believe any of those aspects are possible without great customer service skills, you need a reality check my friend.
In high school and college, you have an opportunity to interact, informally and formally, with peers and professors, through extracurricular activities and public speaking events, through career fairs and mock interviews, Facebook & LinkedIn, etc. Each situation is a chance for you to develop your professional network and increase your resources. Of course, you must be worthy of those relationships. You must be excellent at customer service.
Customer Service, in itself, encompasses multiple skills. To interact favorably with a “customer”, you must be demonstrate proficiency in the following:
- Patience→ Everyone has a story. Everyone wants to share their story. Trust me when I say this- listening to someone’s story will be more beneficial than scraping to get your story heard. Listen, and listen attentively. In the real world, it’s through patience that you will most likely recognize business needs gaps and cost-effective solutions. Hint: Great managers are very patient because of the types and amount of people they manage (aka listen attentively to) from their team to their bosses to other departments to their clients, etc.
- Empathy→ Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. When you are talking to a person who is frustrated, it is especially essential to be empathic. Helping someone in their time of need leaves a positive and greater mark than being a part of someone’s life when everything is handy-dandy. This is how people remember you in the real world- how helpful and empathic you are. Hint: This is how you get promoted. Remember, you must know how to follow in order to lead.
- Verbal and Nonverbal Communication→ This should be self-explanatory, but communication skills are vital to great customer service. Avoid mumbling, negativity, curse words, bad grammar, etc. Watch your posture- Does it portray that you are a welcoming person? Or does it illustrate how annoyed/bored/angry you are? Hint: Your nonverbal cues determine your impression during interviews, evaluations, project delegations, etc. Cross your arms and sigh wisely.
- Knowledge→ First of all, how passionate and enthusiastic are you about a subject, a product, and even desserts? When dealing with customers, know your stuff. No one wants to be serviced by someone who has no idea what they are doing! If you don’t know something, communicate that you don’t know and that as next steps you will find out more and follow-up in a timely manner. Hint: They don’t ask for Bachelor degree grads and technical skills in job descriptions if they don’t want you to know anything.
- Interpersonal→ This goes hand-in-hand with customer service as both as I-am-a-people-person skills. Interpersonal skills, to say the least, means building relationships, working well in teams, being able to read people, keeping your cool, and staying focused. Be interactive. Hint: This is how you single-handedly expand your professional network.
- Continuous Learning→ This is a no-duh. Continuous learning is imperative to success. With each person you meet and talk to, you will learn new things and see new perspectives. Customer service is synonymous to continuous learning. There is and will always be a better way to do something, and you will only figure that out by talking to people, by interacting, by demonstrating great customer service skills. Hint: This is how you will save your future place of employment tons of money, invent new technologies, and improve processes.
Still don’t believe customer service skills are vital to your career search and progression? Tell me about a career in which you believe you won’t be utilizing customer service skills.
That’s what I thought.