Customer service refers to the services and products a business renders to customers before, during, and after a purchase. A member of any company’s management team has an intrinsic responsibility to ensure that the establishment is doing everything possible to offer its clients a good customer service experience. I believe exceptional customer service is the defining factor between success and failure.

Sometimes, the term ‘customer service’ is diluted to mean only that tiny part of the process, which involves direct one-on-one interaction with a buyer. However, customer service is more than how a person gets treated during face-to-face or voice-to-voice interaction. It is a multitiered concept that requires a clear understanding of the inner workings of customer-business relationships and attention to many essential aspects of the business model to ensure a positive experience for everyone who shops the offered products or services.

The customer service experience is the consumer’s collective experience with the business from start to finish, including easily traversable websites, availability of products, timeliness of services rendered, knowledgeability of management and employees, clear communication, signage, storefront attractiveness, cleanliness of brick-and-mortar establishments, verbal interactions with the customer through all aspects of the process, adequate follow-up, quick resolution of any unexpected conflict, and more. These elements all add up to represent the customer service experience in its entirety. Inadequacies in these areas can drive customers to seek services and products elsewhere.

Whether it is their first interaction with a business or their hundredth, providing exceptional service to every client is integral to an establishment’s success. Managers drive good customer service through their actions and knowledge. Good customer service can help a business thrive by putting your customers F.I.R.S.T.


F- Focus on Availability: Customers who cannot get what they need will go elsewhere. It is that simple. As a manager, ensuring that out-of-stock situations are to a minimum for all product-driven businesses or that enough employees are available to respond to customer needs promptly for all service-driven companies is imperative. Some intuitive ways to avoid deficiencies in stock are having dedicated, trained employees with an in-depth understanding of product demand and ordering skills to manage inventory. A good manager will also closely monitor the inventory reports and communicate regularly with employees for overall good stock awareness. They are, likewise, implementing an excellent scheduling system with trained employees to avoid customer service failures. It also means being aware of service trends affecting availability, such as holidays or weather, and hiring/scheduling accordingly. Good customer service means having what the customer is looking for when looking for it, plain and simple.

I- Interaction Skills: A manager’s job primarily consists of interacting with customers and employees daily. A deep understanding of communication skills is essential for making customers feel seen, understood, and respected. Interaction is far more than just words from someone’s mouth. What we ‘say’ nonverbally is just as important as word choice when interacting. Some of the often overlooked aspects of interaction include awareness of body language, voice inflections, body posture, hand gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and fidgeting or looking around instead of focusing on the speaker. Misapplication of these cues may inadvertently tell a customer that they are not essential or that you do not care about them.

R- Resolution of Conflict: Occasional conflict between a consumer and a business is inevitable. No matter how good your customer service, how well maintained your stock is, or how skilled your workers are, occasionally unforeseeable circumstances will arise that require the application of conflict resolution. Good conflict resolution requires the managerial participant to remain calm and alert with close restraint of emotions and behavior. Remember that business is not personal. Listen closely and attentively to the customer’s concerns and empathize with the situation. Utilize calming body language and interaction skills to keep the problem from
becoming more volatile. Offer a solution that satisfies the customer and resolves the situation.

S- Superb Communication: Often, avoidable customer service issues arise due to inadequate communication with a consumer about services or products. There are better options than customer avoidance. Out-of-stock, delayed service times, special order issues, and delivery time changes should all be communicated regularly to the customer to keep expectations and understanding up to date. Open, honest, and transparent communication is essential. It leads to a better understanding and empathy for uncontrollable situations, while a customer who feels left out or neglected quickly becomes confused and frustrated. Another great tool is a follow-up call after primary services or purchases to assess the overall communication practices of the business and to grow and hone them further.

T- Training Employees:  Employees, whether sales staff, phone center employees, or in-home service providers, are the customers’ frontline interaction and, thus, are the face of the business. The impression they make on the consumer is that of the company in the larger community. Therefore, one rude, unknowledgeable, or disengaged employee can damage the reputation of the entire establishment. Remember that disgruntled customers tend to shout a lot louder than satisfied ones, and it is, therefore, essential that each customer has the best customer service experience possible. Training employees to offer the best possible customer service experience to the clients will go a long way in avoiding unnecessary conflict or negative customer experiences. It’s much easier to prevent customer service issues than to fix them.

Customers are the heart and soul of a business. Understanding the multitiered aspects of good customer service and implementing them in daily business protocol is critical. By putting customers F.I.R.S.T., a good manager can and will ensure the ongoing success of their business.