Excellent customer service and conflict resolution skills don’t always come naturally to a small business owner. Like many other aspects of your business, customer service and conflict resolution skills take time and practice to become proficient. But first, you need to know what skills excellent customer service and conflict resolution involve.

Problem Solving with A Smile

Almost any customer service or conflict resolution situation can be made better just by smiling at your customers. Think about how it’s felt in the past when an employee in a store smiled at you. Did you not immediately soften up and feel better about the store? And if you have had the proprietor of a business smile at you, you probably felt extra special and appreciated.

Smiling at your customers shows them that you welcome and appreciate their business. It also teaches them that you care about them beyond the money they spend with you. It especially makes them feel special when the business owner smiles at them – it gives your small business a personal touch that makes it hard to compete.

Small Talk

Along with smiling at your customers, you should engage them in small talk. You can discuss the weather, local events, traffic, special events at your business, life events; treat them like a well-known acquaintance. It further enhances the personal touch of your business and shows customers you care about them.

Learn their names. Learn their kid’s names. Learn all about them and when you see them, ask questions about the things they’ve told you before, so they know you remember them.  It’s much easier – and more likely – that they will do more business with you if they feel like you know each other on a personal level. That is why this makes a great skill to keep in your customer service and conflict resolution toolkit.

Remember the Manners Your Parents Taught You

Say “thank you,” “please,” and all those other keywords that show respect for your customers. Hold the door open for them. Shake their hand. Put your best foot forward and use all the manners your parents taught you. That means saying “yes, mam” and “no, sir” as well. It helps your customers feel even more special. If you do it right, your customers should leave your business feeling like they just got star treatment – the hallmark of excellent customer service and conflict resolution!

Connecting with Customers Through Empathy

While you’re talking to your customers, show empathy for the situations they discuss. It makes all the difference in the world and cannot be stressed enough. Without insight, everything else will seem staged and cold. Try to imagine how they feel, and say things like “I understand how you feel” and “I would feel the same way.” Even if they are complaining about your business, continue to show empathy for them. Compassion is the difference that can turn a bad situation into a good one, and turn an angry customer into a loyalist; it is singularly the best skill to have when handling conflict resolution.

It Takes Teamwork

Another skill that can help with angry customers is turning their issue into a team issue – a problem both of you have, and a problem that both of you can solve. Use the word “we” instead of “I” and ask their input on how to resolve the situation. You’ll learn how to make them happy, and they will feel like they have some measure of control over their position – which makes for a successful conflict resolution experience.

Calm Down and Slow Down

Don’t rush through your interactions with customers, even if you are very busy. Rushing will negate everything else you are doing to make them feel comfortable and welcome at your business. Think of a calm, smooth sea and try to imply this through your behavior and attitude when interacting with your customers. This attitude can be infectious, and cause your customers to calm down and slow down, as well. A calm customer is a happy customer, and this makes for an exceptional customer service experience.

The Customer IS Always Right

Learn the fine art of agreeing with your customer even if they are technically wrong, and use teamwork to nudge them in the right direction if they’re veering off course. It will help to prevent a lot of customer conflicts. Learn which battles are worth letting go and which ones are worth working on, as well. If the customer says or does something that’s incorrect, ask yourself if it would hurt you that badly just to let it go and play along with them. If it’s something you can’t let go, remember to use empathy and teamwork to ease them into it. Excellent customer service and conflict resolution are all about doing whatever it takes to make the customer happy.

Practice Makes Perfect

You won’t gain all these customer service and conflict resolution skills overnight. It will take much time and practice. But if you stick with it, it will eventually become like second nature to you – so you won’t even have to think about it before you do it. So, smile and open up your arms to your customers – if you love them, they are sure to love you back, too!

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