Written by Allison Perry. Media by Kelsey Middleton.
As an employee in the customer service industry, professionalism is a topic that is quite relevant in my life. Being professional in customer service is important because, as an employee, I am not only representing myself, but I am representing the business I work for. Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss professionalism in customer service with a business owner, Angie Rhodes, who has about 30 years of experience in customer service, including serving fast food, managing and serving in sit-down restaurants, selling furniture, and finally, owning a restaurant of her own.
Angie’s restaurant: Gallatin Street Grille. Source: Gallatin Street Grille on Facebook
Rhodes’ experiences in customer service have allowed her to form her own definition of professionalism: “Professionalism means that you display yourself in a positive way. You present yourself as well-mannered, you speak well to customers, you want to provide them the ultimate experience that they can receive from your service.”
One aspect of presenting yourself as a professional customer service employee is to always make the experience about the customers. If customers ask how you are, you politely answer their question in a positive way, but then proceed to ask how they are, and turn the conversation back on them. “Make the customer feel important,” explains Rhodes. Rhodes also says that, when interacting with customers, it’s important to speak in a more professional way. One example Rhodes gives for this is, “‘Thank you for visiting with us today’ sounds a lot better than ‘Thanks for coming in.'”
Dealing with customer complaints is an uncomfortable situation for all customer service employees. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly how to react to complaints. Rhodes explains, “The first thing I do is acknowledge their complaint, even if I don’t agree with it. I apologize one time. The more you apologize, the worst the situation gets. Then I usually ask, ‘What would you like me to do for you? Can I fix it? Can I bring you something else?'”
As for rude customers, Rhodes’ advice is to keep calm. “The less you say to that person, the better. You don’t want to get caught up in the heat of their moment.” She explains to ask how you can make the experience better and, if the customer says there isn’t anything you can do, say thank you and walk away.
Rhodes also touched on the importance of always letting management know of any unhappy customers, so that if management needs to, they can take matters into their own hands. Telling management about unhappy customers also allows management to be sure that you tried your best.
There is more than meets the eye when it comes to professionalism in customer service. How an employee interacts with the boss is just as important as how they interact with customers. Rhodes says, “You need to be professional and courteous with the boss. If the boss comes to you with something you’ve done wrong, they’re trying to better you, to help you grow.” In other words, if your boss corrects you on something you’ve been doing wrong at work, take it as a helpful pointer, not a punishment. When responding to corrections, “Tell them ‘Thank you’ and that you will work on it.”