Our business at Talkwell revolves around the way individuals enhance their professionalism in the work area, from a communication perspective. Being in an industry where customer service, interpersonal skills and personal refinement is of utmost importance, it becomes second nature when having to notice and pinpoint when another person in passing is lacking in these areas. I therefore would like to draw your attention to an aspect that I find rather troubling and I am well aware that it is something we are all very acquainted with- super market staff or rather the tellers and the floor staff.
The following scenario is one, which unfortunately takes place on a constant basis and I feel is a majour reason as to why certain large companies have trouble retaining their clients. In addition to this, companies have trouble retaining a great reputation for their customer service as well as the quality of products offered within their stores. Often, is the case where a customer is standing at the cashier ready to pay for the weekly groceries and the cashier dismally fails to keep eye contact with the customer and even to utter a few more sentences over and above a mere "do you need bags ?". The following question that is usually asked by the cashier is "do you want your coldrinks in the packets?". A customer then provides an answer and that becomes the end of the conversation between the customer and the cashier. The cashier, while ringing up the groceries, continues talking to the packer and entirely ignores the customer. I find it rather rude and it angers me, when I find myself at a supermarket and a cashier refuses to smile, adequately greet or take notice of the customer, who is about to purchase goods.
From this scenario, it is plain to see that further attention to conversation skills and interpersonal skills is of utmost importance and would certainly aid in customer satisfaction. As a customer, I do not feel that it is always essential that the cashier has a lengthy conversation with the paying customer. However, it is common decency and respect to not ignore the customer and act as if the customer is "disrupting a very joyous tea party" during work. Constantly, I witness customers making faces or commenting on the negativity and lack of decency experienced in these stores. This should not be the case! and it is not difficult to almost and entirely repair. This will however, require that certain people and certain aspects of the business are changed drastically and it is unfortunate that if these aspects are not dealt with then it is not likely that these sorts of companies will find it increasingly difficult to "fix" their problems.
It is easy for some to dress accordingly and to fake a greeting. However, the professionalism and the customer service of a company does not only stem from the requirement that an employee dress appropriately or follow the companies protocols. I believe that professionalism and customer service comes as an entire package and therefore it must begin and stem strongly from management and work its way down the ranks of the company. The professionalism of a company must even flow into the ethos and mannerisnms of its cleaning staff, whether employed or outsourced. Customer service is not just about extending a greeting or a mere "thank you for shopping with us". Customer service encompasses one human being caring for another, one taking an interest in the customers, but most of all professionalism and customer service, I believe, is about the way a company remains loyal to its customers, rather than the other way around. In the true sense of the word, customer service is the life blood of the business and it does not matter how good a product is, but it is about getting the customer to return to your store on a constant basis because he or she has left happy. So, it is imperative that the owner and employees within a store are always mindful of what one does, and some may not agree with this next statement, but I also believe that it also has to do with what one says and how one speaks to customers.
Assuming that the customer service, interpersonal skills and professionalism is perfect in a particular company, it becomes easy to say that the relationships within that company are very positive. However, when the ethos of the company and the relationships within the business are stressed and not adequately formed and developed, then the productivity will be lacking in some way. I believe that this is the reason as to why companies have become more open to training their staff and to organising team building events. However, these companies also need to realise that a quick fix will never solve an issue entirely with long lasting effects. Most companies today are willing and open to looking at different services for their employees. However, the companies refuse to have a service continue for a lengthy period of time, such as three or six months. Trainers and providers are then required to alter and organise their businesses and material in order to cater to this sort of request. I do not think that this is the answer to the problems that companies are looking for. The reality is that trainers, providers and salespeople, also need to make a living. If companies are not prepared to come to the party and assist the small guy then what is the point of doing business at all? Y,es a fact of life is that people want to know that they will be getting a cheaper price for what they are buying, however it is very difficult to put a correct number on certain services.
Coming from a dramatic and theatrical background, I recall always being told that acting is reacting. So, when referring to a company and its employees, how do the employees and management relate to each another? As seen in the scenario above, if a company and its employees do not provide customers with common decency and courteous behaviour, then there is an obvious glitch within the employment and interactive system within that company. This can be addressed through training. It is somewhat of a concern though, when attempting to assist the company in need of the training and then finding out that the company either does not have budget or you are shoved from pillar to post and eventually must give up as the company is obviously disinterrested and not willing to take charge of the situation. By this I mean, put the necessary systems in place, in order for the training to take place so that the customers do not leave the shop dissatisfied and most of all angry.
Michelle is a speech and communication specialist working with companies and individuals in South Africa and internationally.