Engage in an interaction with a customer

Learning Outcomes:

  • An interaction with a customer is opened with reference to an organisation’s internal standards.
  • Information is requested to clarify the need.
  • The customer’s needs are identified and reflected back to the customer to confirm understanding.
  • Non-verbal communication clues are used to determine an approach to the interaction.
  • An interaction is closed with reference to an organisation’s internal standards.

Interaction with a customer

Greeting of customers

The way you greet a customer is important for creating a favourable first impression of yourself and the company. Here are a number of key points that you should commit to memory:

Whilst what you say and do is important, what really counts is your posture when you say and do it.”

  • “The most powerful form of communication is behaviour.”
  • “The tone of your voice shows what you feel and think.”

An important step in providing exceptional customer care is learning how to greet your customers properly. Here are some suggested practices to follow when greeting customers:

1. Always portray good manners.
2. Greet your customers when you see them. Smile with sincerity and say

Good Morning/Afternoon” Use the customer’s name if you know it.

3. If you are being introduced – acknowledge the introduction with a sincere smile and friendly greeting in return.
4. Familiarise yourself with your company’s policy about titles and use them correctly.
5. Make an effort to greet customers in their own language – even if the greeting is all you know.
6. Be warm, good natured, patient and be as courteous and helpful as possible.
7. Never allow customers to see your private moods or pre-occupations.
8. Allow the customer to speak without interrupting him/her.
9. Offer assistance to a customer if he/she looks lost or seems to be looking for someone.
10. Don’t consider customers to be an interruption of your work. No matter how much work you have or how often the phone rings, you should never be too busy to give a customer your undivided attention.
11. Your handshake says a lot about you. A firm handshake shows confidence, warmth, openness, and sincerity; a weak, limp handshake indicates the opposite. An over strong handshake tells people you’re dominating and insensitive.
12. If a customer does not know the local language, eg English, at all

•    Ideally, find another staff member who is fluent in the customer’s language and may act as an interpreter.

•    Keep your normal procedures in mind, make the customer welcome with a smile, use non-verbal communications to help the customer or find out their needs, e.g. draw pictures, refer to maps or signs etc.

•    Use body language. For example, use gestures, pointing, shaking or nodding head etc.

•    Even people with no English know a word or two. Use the few words they know.

•    Speak in English; otherwise the encounter is unnaturally silent. Also, your voice itself conveys a meaning, e.g. your voice rises when asking a question.

13. Greeting customers on the phone

•    Be welcoming and warm. The caller doesn’t know you have to repeat the same greeting 20 times a day.

•    Identify yourself.

•    Keep a smile in your voice – the caller can “hear” the smile.

•    Sound alert and ready to help.

•    Speak clearly, don’t shout or talk too loud.

•    Never talk on the phone with gum or food in your mouth.

•    “Please” and “Thank you” are guaranteed to improve the relationship between you and the caller, as are “Have a nice day”, and “It’s a pleasure”.

•    Show sincere interest in what the caller has to say.

14. Saying goodbye
  • The final farewell is very important in ending the customer’s experience with your business on a positive note. When the customer leaves the service area, greet them, wish them well and invite them

to return. Remember the final impression is a lasting one and it could be the one thing that influences a customer to return.

  • Try using the customer’s name when saying goodbye. Ask the customer if there’s anything else you may help him/her with.
  • Invite the customer to contact you should they experience any problems with the products or service the business provides.
  • Wish them a safe journey on departure.

Customer Expectations

Each customer is important and has the following expectations when making use of your business:

  • Make me feel important.
  • Don’t lie to me.
  • Keep your promises.
  • Give me understandable information.
  • Be sensitive to my needs.
  • Listen to my advice on improving your service or product.
  • Be fair. If I am expected to pay for my service then I expect value for my money.
  • Treat me in such a way that I will come back to your business.
  • Don’t underestimate my intelligence, which would be insulting.

The customer’s reaction to poor customer service

Poor customer service causes negative reactions and perceptions from customers, as a result you need to be sensitive to the most common causes for negative customer reaction, as shown below:



Customer callers get extremely frustrated being kept on hold without checking if they are willing to wait and may become aggressive and abusive. Go back to them regularly to see if they are still prepared to hold.


A customer will feel ignored when not being asked whether he or she has been attended to. This may result in the customer leaving and going elsewhere. Attend to customers promptly.


Attending to other customers first when the customer was there first will make the customer feel ignored and could also result in aggressive outbursts from the customer.


Customer callers feel insulted if their conversation is ended abruptly and may result in the customer not calling back and or going elsewhere. A sincere “Thank you for calling. Goodbye “will make the caller feel appreciated – and secure his/her loyalty. Let the customer hang up first.
5. A customer could feel insulted if the phone is slammed down after conversation This

might just provoke the customer and influence her to call back and complain, so take care and put the receiver down softly.

6. Eating, drinking or gossiping on front of customers will make them feel that your

business is unprofessional and will most certainly not encourage them to return.

Guidelines for superior customer care

Superior customer care is an important ingredient to set your business apart from the competitors and is a good method to gain and maintain the competitive edge on the competitors. Below are some guidelines and suggestions to practice for superior customer care.

Teamwork Take into consideration the expectations and needs of your colleagues. Never do or say anything that may break down team spirit. Remember you need each other.

Project the right image. Adhere to your business’s corporate image and be aware of your written and spoken language. Project a confident and assertive attitude at all times.

Cultural Differences.

Learn the cultural differences of your various customers. This way you will avoid unintentional insensitive mistakes.

Understand that you are dealing with the person – not the culture. Each person is unique and ignorance leads to prejudice and intolerance.


Keep your promises. Don’t make any promises you cannot keep. It reflects badly on you and the business.

Listen to your customers. They will give you free and valuable information about you, your company, your products and services.

Be reliable.

Unreliability can impact negatively on the business’s profitability – If a customer requests a certain product or service and you don’t make the effort to fulfill the request they will take their business elsewhere.

Customer care in other fields and industry

Customer care in other industries

Customer care is important in all areas of business and the principles of customer care should be adhered to when dealing with people e.g. the hospital.

  • A person making an appointment with his/her doctor expects the doctor to keep the appointment.
  • A patient expects the doctor to be honest at all times.
  • A patient wants to feel that his/her problem or complaint is understood and will promptly be dealt with.
  • A patient wants to feel that the medical personnel care about him/her and have his/her best interests at heart.
  • A patient expects sensitive or personal information about him or her is kept

Describe the importance of customer care in agriculture, manufacturing or information technology. Ask yourself, as a customer what would your expectations be from these 3 different fields of industry?

Improving customer care

Always strive to improve on the customer care you give your customers by considering the factors below:

  • Understand what the customers like about what you do and plan to do more of it.
  • Understand what the customers are less happy about in how you are providing your service and agree on plans to improve this.
  • Be open to the cultural differences of your customers and try to familiarize yourself with information regarding the various cultures of your customers.
  • Be tolerant of the different values, attitudes and beliefs, as well as the different ways of behaving, of your customers.
  • Being responsive to your customers’ needs

Remember Your Customer Service ABCs

Ask questions

Basic Listening


Active Listening Skills


A: Eye contact

B: Posture

C: Gesture


Five steps to attentive listening

Squarely face the person.

Open your posture.

Lean towards the sender.

Eye contact is maintained.

Relax while attending.


What is it?

Restating a message, but usually with fewer words. Where possible try and get more to the point.


To test your understanding of what you heard.

To communicate that you are trying to understand what is being said. If you’re successful, paraphrasing indicates that you are following the speaker’s verbal explanations and that you’re beginning to understand the message.

When listening consider asking yourself:

  • What is the speaker’s basic thinking message?
  • What is the person’s basic feeling message?


S:         I just don’t understand, one minute she tells me to do this, and the next minute to do that.

X:         She really confuses you.

S:         I really think he is a very nice guy. He’s so thoughtful, sensitive, and kind. He calls me a lot. He’s fun to go out with.

X:         You like him very much, then.

Clarifying customer needs

In order to understand our customers’ needs, we need to walk in their shoes. If you were the customer and had to deal with YOU in your present position, what would the experience be like?

The Cycle of Service

  • What are the customer’s needs when dealing with you? Just how aware are you of their needs? How do you know when you’re not meeting their needs?
  • How does the cycle begin? What is your first encounter with the customer? Is it by telephone? Face-to- face? By referral?
  • When does the cycle end? When the customer walks away from you? When the customer hangs up the phone?

How to Identify Consumer Needs

Finding the reasons consumers make purchases is one step in identifying consumer needs.

To learn consumer needs, their behaviors must be studied and analyzed. When consumer behavior is understood, companies can identify their needs and use this information as a road map for the company’s future. Consumers are the future of all companies.


1 Understand what consumer behavior means. Consumer behavior is the sum total of the how and why of the purchase decisions they make. Investigating and understanding these trends is how companies plan strategically to stay in the market and remain competitive.

2 Examine purchase decision processes. Consumers are studied in all industries. For example, grocery store customers are studied to find out average shopping trip times as well as unplanned purchases. By studying these two aspects in this industry, marketers can analyze what aisles are frequented most and where to place items that they hope to sell as unplanned purchases. Marketers also find prime locations in the store to display new items that are not yet available nationally. This allows them to know if the item will likely be a good item to sell or not.

3 Look into the minds of consumers. Another way of finding consumer needs is for researchers to try to understand what happens in consumers’ minds. What influences cause consumers to purchase goods? This step tries to differentiate between random purchases and purchases that include some form of thought. Researchers have narrowed down that most purchases depend on personal emotions, social situations, goals and values.

4 Categorize needs. Abraham Maslow, a founder of humanistic psychology, came up with five basic groups of consumer needs. They’re referred to as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. He displayed them in a pyramid format beginning at the bottom with physiological needs. Physiological needs are primary needs such as food, water and heat. These are the greatest needs of people and are the first needs to be satisfied. Safety needs are the next group, which includes things to keep consumers safe including a home. The third group of needs is social needs, which includes things that bind people together including marriage and friends. The last two groups are esteem and self-actualization. These two groups are the last needs most consumers are willing to spend money on. Focusing on these needs can help companies make good future business decisions.

Try different approaches. Another way to learn consumer needs is by various marketing strategies. Trying different strategies can help determine what works and what doesn’t. This includes approaches such as changing target markets.


Strategies for Identifying Customer Needs

Manage customer relations to understand customer needs.

Customers are the lifeblood of a business, without them there is no business. In order to stay competitive, businesses must compete to stay front of mind and deliver what the customer needs. However, it is sometimes difficult to identify what exactly a customer needs. As a result, there has been a proliferation of customer surveys, analysis of buying habits, increase in the number of mystery shoppers and other strategies to answer the question of customer needs.


  • Ask the customer. Companies conduct surveys via telephone, paper, email and chat. In the beginning of the survey, establish the customer’s demographic information such as location, products/services used and other information. Ask the customer about categories pertaining to the product/service packaging, how the product is used, the quality of the service provided and changes that would improve the product or service. Encourage the customer to be open and frank. Learn what motivates the customer’s purchase.

Market Analysis

  • You can analyze customer buying habits by contacting the marketing, finance and operations groups to find out which products have been receiving the most response from customers. Check to ensure the revenues from the product do not outweigh the costs to produce it. Research the larger market trends using customer demographics about the way they live instead of where they live. Ask questions such as: Is the customer using the product in nontraditional ways and how could the product be more convenient for the customer? Readindustry and trade magazines to stay abreast of changing market trends and dynamics. Work within the company to adjust the product and service offerings accordingly.

Mystery Shopping

  • Use a mystery shopper. Mystery shoppers are a strategic way to understand the customer’s needs from a service standpoint. Create a problem scenario for the mystery shopper and have him document what occurs at each step of the process through to resolution. The experiences of the mystery shopper are those of the customers. Use the findings to improve each area of service that impacts the customer.

Focus Groups

  • Hire an external agency to gather customers for focus groups. The focus groups are led by the external agency through the discovery process. The agency creates the questions, scenarios and settings to solicit the customers’ opinions and suggestions for product/service improvement. This type of setting allows customers to talk with one another and share ideas.

Understanding Non Verbal Communication Cues

People can say a lot without every opening their mouths through the form of non-verbal communication. Non verbal communication is simply the way of communicating with others without speaking. This communication can be done through gestures, touch, facial expressions, body language, posture, or eye contact. Often, non-verbal communication can give away a person’s real feelings, no matter what he or she is saying. While some people may be able to train themselves to control some gestures, some non-verbal communication, such as pupil dilation, cannot be controlled

Nonverbal communication is important in many ways. In the case of relationships, understanding nonverbal communication can help someone know what his or her partner is really thinking. For example, if a woman tells her boyfriend she is happy going to a football game instead of shopping, but she is standing with her arms folded facing away from him, her body language clearly says she is not happy with the decision.

Nonverbal communication can also be helpful in certain professions such as law enforcement. When the police bring in a suspect for questioning, they can often tell by non-verbal communication if the suspect is telling the truthor lying. While this body language cannot be used in court, it can let the officers know they need to further investigate the suspect until they find out the truth.

Non verbal communication may also tell potential employers a lot about interviewees. If a Human Resources manager is interviewing a potential employee and wonders if he or she is telling the truth, shifty eye movement or nervous gestures will say a lot. Psychologists may be best at reading non verbal communication as they, perhaps more than any other professional, know non verbal communication down to the very slightest movement or gesture. Poker players also use non verbal communication to tell what types of cards other players are holding.

Non verbal communication is so important that there are several specialized fields within it. The study of body movement, gestures, and facial expressions is known as kinetics. The study of using touch as a part of non-verbal communication, such as giving someone a high five, is known as haptics. Even the pitch and tone of one’s voice can give away their non-verbal feelings. This is known as paralanguage.

Non verbal communication is a very interesting and highly studied field in which many psychiatrists and researchers have devoted their entire careers.