VUSSC/Content/Tourism/Customer Care/People Skills

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When you work for an organisation, your customers will develop an impression of the organisation based upon the standard of service that you provide for them. They may never meet or deal with your boss but they will deal with people, such as you, who are employed to represent the organisation/agency and meet its customers’ needs. Remember you are the organisation/agency in the eyes of your customers.

Much effort is being put in developing customer service policies, procedures and training staff to put the policies into practice. This effort is wasted if you do not put the training into practice and do not provide the standard of service that the customers expect.

If you look after your customers well, they will not only think well of you but also of the organisation and your country as a whole.

If you do not provide your customers with the standard of service that they expect they will get a poor impression of the organisation because of your behaviour.

What do you think of the following examples?

  • Customers perceive an organisation with friendly and helpful staff as a friendly and helpful company.
  • Customers believe that an organisation, whose representatives are efficient, is an efficient organisation.
  • Customers suppose that an organisation, whose employees don’t seem to care about their customers’ needs, is unlikely to be able to provide them with a good quality of service.
  • Customers believe that employees, who don’t take the trouble to come to work looking clean and smart, work for an organisation that has inferior standards.

Now you can complete activity 32.

Activity 32

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Make a list of four of your actions/behaviours that help you to give the right impression of your organisation to your customers and a second list of four actions/behaviours that you must avoid doing because they would give a bad impression.

Actions that give the right impression of your organisation Actions that would give a bad impression of your organisation
* *
* *
* *
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As pointed out earlier, your customers will form impressions of your organisation as a whole based upon their impression of you. This is because they have direct dealings with you. Thus you have a responsibility to create a good impression through the way that you look.

Uniform/dress code - Some organisations provide their employees with a uniform. Others may have a dress code or just make recommendations about what should be worn at work.

Personal hygiene - Whatever we wear for work, if we come into face-to-face contact with our customers, it is important that we are clean, neat and tidy and that we pay attention to personal hygiene.

Different aspects of personal presentation together with things such as food hygiene and safety determine customer impression.

What about your attitude and behaviour? Your behaviour, in front of your customers, can be as important as your appearance when it comes to making an impression with your customers.

If you behave in a professional manner, your customers will see you as someone who will take care of their needs and provide them with the service that they require.

If your behaviour is not suitable, customers will quickly lose respect for you and be doubtful that you can meet their needs.

Let’s look at some examples of behaviour that create a poor impression:

  • Fooling around with workmates in front of customers;
  • Using inappropriate language in front of customers;
  • Looking tired and bored;
  • Eating and drinking in front of customers;
  • Ignoring customers, carrying on with other things, oblivious to their presence.

All these types of behaviour should be avoided when your customers are likely to be around.

Attitudes to your customers and the way that you behave towards them are also important for customer service excellence. We’ll look at these again when discuss courtesy later.

First impressions

You present the first impression to your customers by your appearance. This can give them confidence in you and the organisation.

We have examined how the way that we look and behave can be used to create a good impression. The first time we make personal contact with customers is important. First impression is very important because you never get a second chance to create it!

Greeting customers

If you work in an environment in which your customers visit your place of work the way that you make contact with your customers will usually come in the form of a greeting. For example,

  • Good morning. How can I help you?
  • Hello, do you need any assistance?

If you recognise the customer and know his or her name it is good to use it and maybe enter into a brief conversation about his/her health or the weather before offering assistance.

For example, Good afternoon Mrs Pam, it is nice to see you again, how are you today? You look better!

Most customers will appreciate the fact that you remember their name and will feel that they are important to you.

If you make contact with your customers by telephone, there are two kinds of situations that you need to consider:

  • Receiving calls from customers.
  • Making calls to customers.

Do not undermine courtesy and respect for customers

Customers expect to be treated politely and with respect. Courtesy is about good manners, being polite and treating people with respect. Customers expect to be treated in these ways by those who are looking after their needs.

How do we demonstrate good manners towards customers? The following are meant to give you some indications.

  • Acknowledging their presence with a
    (i) greeting if you are making contact,
    (ii) nod or a smile.
  • Saying “please” and “thank you” at appropriate times.
  • Making eye contact with them when you speak.
  • Offering an apology when needed.
  • Not interrupting what they have to say.
  • Not pushing past them.

How do you demonstrate respect towards customers? The following are meant to give you some indications.

  • Listening to them.
  • Using their names when you know them.
  • Keeping them informed by explaining what is going on.
  • Not talking down to them.
  • Treating them with the importance that they deserve.


Unfortunately, not all customers will treat you politely and with respect. That is not a reason for you to let your standards of courtesy fall. In fact, a customer with a rude attitude towards you may be surprised by your polite response and have a change of approach as a result.

When you are working with your customers, think carefully about the things that you say and do and how the customer will react to them. Your understanding of how you like to be treated when you are a customer will help you to do this.

You may now complete activity 33. Activity 33

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Here are some examples of communication with customers. On each occasion the words that were used will make the customer believe that they have been treated with a lack of courtesy.

Think about what was said in each instance and write a polite alternative, which shows respect to the customer, an example is provided to help you to get started


What was said to the customer A polite alternative
Sit here until I find someone to deal with you. If you would like to take a seat, I will find someone who will be able to help you.
Say all that again, I don’t understand what you want me to do.
You will have to wait because everyone is busy.

Demonstrate Confidence and Efficiency

It is important to act confidently and efficiently in your dealings with customers, so that they will have confidence in you and your ability to meet their needs. Customers are impressed with efficient behaviour. Have you heard people say “the person who dealt with my enquiry was very efficient”

Efficiency can be demonstrated by

  • being well organised;
  • showing your customers that you are good at your job;
  • behaving in a professional and capable manner.

If you appear to be hesitant and uncertain, customers are unlikely to believe that the information and advice you provide is correct.

Make an extra effort when necessary

Sometimes you may have to make an extra effort to meet the needs of a customer. This may be because

  • the customer needs something sooner than you would normally be able to provide it;
  • you have to make a change to your usual ways of working in order to satisfy the customer’s requirements.

It is useful to seek authority from someone with responsibility if necessary before you do such things that are not normal practice. Customers will appreciate the extra effort that you have put in, especially if you let them know that you have gone out of your way to make sure that they got what they wanted when they needed it. This extra effort can delight them.

Now complete activity 34.

Activity 34

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Think about four occasions when you have communicated effectively with your customers by making good use of your interpersonal and communication skills. Describe the situations and the way that you used your skills.

Describe the situations The way that you used your interpersonal skills The way that you used your communication skills

Quality of service

The way you care for your customers and the service that you provide to them will only be reliable if you never let standards slip.

Threr are has days when you may not feel at your best. This may be because you:

  • are tired;
  • do not feel very well;
  • are worried about a personal problem.

It is important that you

  • do not allow the care of your customers to suffer on these days;
  • try to leave your problems behind when you come to work;
  • keep up to date with any change to the services that you provide your customers.