Demonstrate communication skills in order to respond to a customer need

Learning Outcomes:

  • Active listening skills are demonstrated in three different customer service interactions.
  • Keywords are identified in a customer dialogue and used to formulate an appropriate response.
  • The main details of the customer’s needs, request, query or complaint are recorded and the entry is checked for accuracy with the customer.

Communication Skills in responding to a customer

Effective Communication

Effective communication is about getting results and aims at achieving a win/win situation. Genuine communication exists when there is two-way communication – listening and speaking.  Endeavour to apply the following communication practices:

  1. Being an effective listener requires the following:
  • Look at the person speaking to you, listen and don’t interrupt.
  • Pronounce your words clearly. Misheard words can cause confusion.
  • Ask pertinent questions.
  • Don’t change the subject. Empathize. Put yourself in their position.
  1. Verbal and non-verbal communication refers to:
  • Being aware of what you say and how you say it.
  • Keeping it simple, whether it is written or verbal communication.
  • Being sincere – it is easy to spot a person being false

Your facial expression tells a lot about your feelings. Remember to keep these in check so that customers do not pick up anything negative by your facial expressions. E.g. sulky face, sad face, angry faces etc.

The advantages of effective communication results in:

  • Problems getting solved by sound decisions being made.
  • Good working relations being established.

Non verbal communication

It is said that, during the course of communication with your customers, you gain 7% of your information from the actual words being used, 13% from the tone being used and a massive 80% from body language used.


  • Body language reinforces verbal communication with customers by: Supporting what you are saying – when, for example, you maintain a demonstrably assertive stance while saying: “I will do everything in my power to get you a table with the same construction.”
  • Letting others become aware of our state of mind – so that they can tell by your expression and/or your posture that you are happy/anxious/exhausted, etc.
  • Replacing verbal communication altogether, as in a shrug of the shoulders when you don‟t know an answer or a shake of the head when you wish to say no.


  • Body language can also cause problems with your customers in the following ways:
  • It can contradict what you are saying to your customer, for example when someone replies to your query with “I‟m fine” while his body language is such that he is obviously not happy.
  • It can be misleading – as when you send mixed signals by saying how pleased you are about something while maintaining a “closed” body language (arm folded across your chest, posture rigid, and avoiding eye contact).
  • It can be so misleading that those observing do not get any message at all.


Using body language effectively is important because:

  • You cannot control the behaviour of other people but you can always choose your own behaviour when dealing with customers.
  • If you remain in control and respond in a calm and confident way, you will usually reduce the customer‟s level of anger and this, in return, will lead to a solution to the situation.
  • You could say “I understand your feelings about this issue, let me see what I can do to correct the situation for you”.


Positive & Negative Body Language

Characteristics of both the positive and the negative of body language are identified below which will assist you to avoid projecting negative body language and promote effective non-verbal communication through positive body language practice.

How to Handle Customer Inquiries or Complaints

Employees should be thorough in the company’s policies in order to answer customers’ queries.

By providing good customer service, a company gains not only in good reputation and profits, but also in the satisfaction of knowing that you helped the customers in an efficient, respectful and friendly manner. It is of primary importance that you train your new employees in basic customer service skills as well as in handling difficult situations with customers. For example, if a rude customer calls and accuses your company of violating policies unfairly, the employees will need to know your company’s policies in order to deal with him.


1 Familiarize yourself with the company’s services. If you are a secretary for a party planning company, ask your supervisor for a brochure that details what types of parties the company plans and the pricing of these events. Also ask your supervisor what the most frequently asked questions from customers are and how you should answer them.

2 Suggest services or products that could help the customer. For example, if you are a bank customer service representative and a customer expresses interest in starting a savings account for her teenage son’s college expenses, mention the various savings plans that are available and how to set up these plans. If you are working at a pharmacy and a customer needs assistance in finding the best brand of chewable vitamin C tablets, tell him which brands are the best ones to get and why.

3 Stay calm when a customer has complaints. If a customer gets loud after you explained the ways you would solve her problem, tell her you are sorry for any inconvenience that the company’s actions may have caused and that you will do everything necessary to solve the problem. Don’t shout back at the customer in anger because this increases the conflict.

Benefits of a Complaints System

A complaints system can:

  • serve as a quick, efficient and low-cost means of resolving difficulties which service users may encounter;
  • provide accurate information for the local authority on the quality of the services they provide;
  • enable changes to be made in procedures and systems to ensure that similar complaints do not continue to arise;
  • avoid the extra time and cost involved in appeals;
  • indicate where problems or system failures exist in the provision of services;
  • highlight shortcomings in the administrative system and areas which might need improvement; and
  • help the local authority to avoid unfavourable publicity