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Don’t be in too much of a hurry to help customers

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9 April 2008


Don’t be in too much of a hurry to help customers

The question ‘can I help you?’ was once a golden rule of good customer service, but now days most people find it irritating.

Managing Director of KiwiHost New Zealand, Simon Nikoloff, said it used to be that all a person had to do was smile brightly and offer to help, to make a good first impression, but not anymore.

“The internet and a greater reliance on word-of-mouth recommendations have made modern customers more sophisticated and informed, to the extent that they only want help when they’re ready for it.

“KiwiHost has been in the customer Service business for more than 17 years and we can say with confidence that the last five years have seen a radical change in the way customers want to be treated – customers are no longer naïve, uninformed or ‘shopping around’ when they come into a business. They usually know what they want.

“While customers might still want help eventually, they will ask for it when they are ready. First moves by customer service staff can be seen as aggressive and pushy if the timing is not right.

“Our advice to customer service providers is to greet the customer and then ‘disappear’ until they look up and signal that they are ready for assistance – it means staff require more sophisticated and professional skills to match the consumer, if they are to avoid earning a frown from the customer. When a customer is ready to buy, they want it and they want it then and won’t tolerate anything less,” said Mr Nikoloff.

While people are taught not to judge a book by its cover, another challenge facing business is that it only takes an instant for people today to form enduring impressions of a person and a business.

It’s literally a case of forget the ‘seven seconds to make a good impression’ rule.

Findings by Princeton University researchers (“First Impressions: Making Up Your Mind After a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face” by Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov. Psychological Science Vol. 17 No. 7) prove that individuals judge a person’s attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, competence and aggressiveness in just one one-tenth of a second.

“With this in mind, it is important to understand that ninety per cent of the first impressions that people form of each other are based on posture, facial expressions, tone of voice and appearance.

“Despite these new trends, a smile still cannot be beaten when opening contact with somebody and it too, takes only an instant to form. The essentials of good customer service remain unchanged.

“Our advice is to use positive body language that shows a willingness to serve. Smile, acknowledge the person and be open and friendly, but don’t be in too much of a hurry to offer your help.  You cannot do much more – or better – than that,” he said.




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