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The customer is king

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The most successful companies and the highest paid salespeople place great value on developing lifetime relationships with their customers. They actively look for opportunities to render service above and beyond their customers’ expectations. In today’s competitive marketplace, your customers are aggressively prospected, and their loyalty cannot be taken for granted. Customer-focused companies and individuals recognize that relationship-building and follow-on service are critical components for promoting both customer retention and long-term revenue growth.

When it comes to rendering superior customer service, a “one size fits all” approach simply doesn’t cut it. Research in the field of human psychology indicates people are born into one of four primary temperament styles: aggressive, expressive, passive and analytical. Each of these four temperament styles tends to define “superior customer service” from a slightly different point of view. Once you learn how to identify each of the four primary temperament styles, you’ll be able to truly customize your service to fit your customers’ expectations. For example, if you’re providing customer service to the impatient, aggressive style, offer them a quick fix and a bottom-line solution. While at the other extreme, the analytical style requires a great deal of information and is interested in every detail.

In addition to understanding temperament styles, you must recognize the importance of nonverbal communication and learn to “listen with your eyes.” It might surprise you to know that 70 percent of our face-to-face interactions with other people are perceived nonverbally. In fact, studies show that body language not only has a much greater communication impact but also is far more reliable than the spoken word. If your customer’s words are inconsistent with his or her body language gestures, you would be wise to go with the body language gestures as a more accurate form of feedback.

First impressions count

What type of first impression do you make when meeting your customers for the first time? Research shows that people typically decide in the first few moments whether or not they like and trust a stranger. (Yes, we also judge a book by its cover, too.) There’s absolutely no substitute for making a positive first impression. You can actually create a favorable first impression and build rapport quickly by using open body language gestures, smiling and making direct eye contact.

Superior customer service has much more to do with your ability to actively listen than it does with your gift for gab. To uncover your customer’s hidden expectations and encourage conversation, use open-ended questions to probe the meaning behind his or her statements. Open-ended questions require more than a simple yes or no response. It’s also a good idea to occasionally repeat your customers’ words back to them so they know you are paying attention. By restating your customers’ keywords or phrases you not only clarify communication but also build rapport.

Keep your attention focused on what your customer is saying and avoid the temptation to interrupt, argue or dominate the conversation. Interrupting your customer when he or she is talking will destroy the rapport you have established up to that point. If you do happen to slip up and interrupt your customer, apologize quickly to limit the damage.

Rendering quality customer service is both a responsibility and an opportunity. Often salespeople view customer service as an administrative burden that takes them away from making a sale. The truth is that rendering customer service provides a golden opportunity for cross-selling, up-selling and generating quality referrals.

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John Boe is a motivational trainer, speaker and internationally recognized authority on customer service, leadership, body language and temperament styles. For more information, go to