Could Etiquette Classes Help Boost Your Team's Customer Service Skills?

It turns out your team may be able to learn a thing or two about customer service skills by practicing proper etiquette, according to these experts.
January 02, 2018

Etiquette, manners and civility can play important roles in effective customer service training. While one can persuasively argue that etiquette can reinforce strong customer service skills, defining what “etiquette" means in the modern-day workplace is an important first step.

Collins Dictionary defines etiquette as “the forms, manners and ceremonies established by convention as acceptable or required in social relations, in a profession or in official life."

Established by convention" can be interpreted in the customer service arena as “training." It is the employer's responsibility to define its business's norms and culture, and how they expect team members to treat customers.

Further, those values and social norms should also be ones that the customers themselves come to appreciate, both implicitly and explicitly. For instance, in certain coffee houses, correctly writing a customer's name on a to-go cup is an example of an established norm. Customers enjoy that personalized attention; they may even go so far as to show their pride on social media by taking a photo of the event.

Jacqueline Baker, owner of Scarlet Communications, a communications firm that conducts etiquette courses, firmly believes that etiquette training reinforce customer service skills.

In customer service there is a very explicit assumption that when you take care of your appearance, you will care about the quality of your work or product as well.

Etiquette training can "provide a competitive advantage to the company [and] foster human engagement, customer loyalty and employee confidence," Baker says.

Crystal Bailey of The Etiquette Institute of Washington emphasizes making sure employees have a good understanding of “netiquette," which is where technology and etiquette collide. With lots of businesses having an element of technology involved, team members must observe new rules of communications and professionalism. 

"Two examples [of netiquette]," Bailey says, "1. Never have a personal cell phone visible and 2. Never text or place a call in front of a customer. These specific actions are directly related to interpersonal connections, which both enhance customer relations."

What are some additional etiquette class lessons that your business can standardize within your customer service training?

1. Graciousness

When I opened Soul Day Spa and Salon in 2003, I developed the following motto: “Nothing is more important than the time, appearance and feelings of our guests."

Graciousness was an explicit virtue of my business, so I created a guest/customer service manual on kindness. It took the guesswork out of manners in the workplace. The manual had greeting scripts. These were word-for-word introductions that team members learned and executed, especially important for the many college students who worked at the front desk.

The manual also included a customer service skills checklist that included saying "please" and "thank you" when answering the phone, making eye contact and giving handshakes when guests arrived in person.

After the team members had been through training, they could inject their own personality into the script, but the manual set the ground rule expectations for the business.

2. Conflict Resolution Skills

Additionally, etiquette and adept customer service skills can factor heavily when a team member engages in conflict resolution.

As one can imagine, customers often have high expectations of quality customer service in the spa industry. And when those expectations fall short, team members need tools and patience to effectively resolve problems.

Listening—that means no interruptions or being defensive—and asking questions are all etiquette tools in your conflict resolution arsenal.

One tool that I've found to be especially effective is a sincere apology. Mistakes happen, and clients appreciate your maturity when offering a thoughtful "I apologize for the error" and a follow-up remedy.

3. Good Hygiene and Grooming

Simply put: Appearances matter. 

Cleanliness is one of those unspoken but expected customer service skills. People expect clean uniforms, well-soled shoes, pleasant body smells and fresh breath, both inside and outside the workplace.

In customer service there is a very explicit assumption that when you take care of your appearance, you will care about the quality of your work or product as well. However, it is the employer's responsibility to make these seemingly implicit etiquette rules clear rather than believe that “everyone knows."

The biggest takeaway about etiquette and customer service training is the old adage: “Don't assume." It is the employer's responsibility to define the norms and expectations within the business. The best companies leave nothing to chance so that even Emily Post herself would return as a loyal customer.

Read more articles on hiring & HR.

Photo: Getty Images