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You might have heard that providing customer service can be likened to being an actor on stage. You’re giving a performance, but in this theatre, the type of performance depends on who is in your audience. And while this is true, perhaps an even more appropriate example would be that you’re acting on stage in a mostly improvised performance. You might know a few of your lines, but the content of the show as well as your role in it are going to be determined by who else you’re interacting with along with the feedback you get from the audience.

If you’re not a theater buff, don’t worry – you don’t need to be skilled at improv acting to succeed in customer-facing jobs. You do, however, need to be able to adapt your delivery to the various types of customer styles you’re bound to interact with. While you should deliver excellent service regardless of who the customer is or what style they might bring along with them, the way that you’ll achieve this looks different for each interaction.

Handling Varied Customer Styles

Why customer service isn’t ‘one size fits all’

Good service is good service, right? Well, not quite. You might hear the statistics about great customer service – such as, according to Salesforce Research, 89% of customers are likely to make a repeat purchase after a positive customer service experience – and think that great service looks one specific way. Or, you might know that Zendesk reported that three out of five customers believe that good customer service is key for them developing a feeling of loyalty to that brand. Since this doesn’t specify what, exactly, ‘good customer service’ is, it seems like achieving this would be simple. What these statistics don’t illustrate, however, is how customer service representatives go about delivering the type of customer service that is excellent enough to gain and retain customer loyalty.

The real secret is that ‘good customer service’ looks like many different things and requires you to employ a range of skills. This might include:

  • Humor
  • Empathy
  • Tone
  • Energy

There are a number of ways that customer service representatives can deliver great service, but the key is that it must match the style of the customer. If it doesn’t, there’s a risk of offending, frustrating or distancing the customer.

Customers are individuals

You might have ten calls in one day about one particular product. The solution might even be the same for all ten of these callers. Each one of these interactions will still be unique. Why? Because, just like any group of people, all of your customers are individuals who will have different ways of doing things and will come to you with different interaction styles. While one of your ten customers calling about that particular product might be good-natured about the ordeal and respond well to be the use of humor, another might be deeply frustrated and cracking a light-hearted joke will only make the situation worse.

Customers are Individuals

This is where your skills of improvisation and thinking on your feet will come into play. An excellent customer service representative will be able to pivot quickly from the good-natured customer to the very frustrated one without missing a beat. As such, it’s important to look out for cues that will provide information to you about your customer’s style. At the start of each call, evaluate the customer – think of ways to relate to them on their level. Things to look out for include:

  • Their tone of voice – do they seem frustrated and short on patience? Perhaps this isn’t the best customer with whom to use humor!
  • The pace at which they’re speaking – are they speaking very slowly? Avoid bombarding them with fast-talking explanations, if so!
  • The verbal or non-verbal cues they’re giving – did they mention needing to be out the door to get to an appointment in three minutes? Adjust your plan of action or find a more convenient time to call back if that’s the case.

Learning to mirror the customer’s style is an invaluable skill that will allow you to relate to customers to deliver far more than ‘good’ service – you’ll deliver the exact type of great service that your customer wants. To learn more about handling various customer styles, contact a ServiceSkills representative today and request a free demo of the Service Matters Roundtable Series. This is a unique peer-to-peer training series that brought together six Service Superstars into a roundtable discussion to share their best real-world tips and tricks for long-term customer service success.

Be sure to check out these additional videos and posts from our ServiceMatters Roundtable from the team at ServiceSkills: