- NHS eLearning Repository

Learning Outcomes
What is Customer Service?
On completion of the Customer Service
course you will:
Customer Service is.................the way we treat people
Why is Customer Service important?
Understand what customer service is
Understand why excellent customer
service is important
Be able to identify our customers
Understand how to apply the Trust
Service Standards
Have learnt basic everyday skills in
dealing with customers
Understand how to give your best
when dealing with difficult customer
Be equipped with strategies to protect
your own wellbeing when dealing with
customers who challenge us
The benefits of excellent customer service are:
• Satisfied customers
• Enhanced reputation of the organisation
• Reduction in complaints
• Trust Objectives are achieved
• Improved working relationships
• Increased job satisfaction
• Our wellbeing is protected
Customers will tell 3 or 4 others about good service - but
will tell 9 about bad experiences
Surveys have identified that our customers' impressions
are registered within 60 seconds of the first meeting
Therefore, as the 'face' of the Trust, it is essential that we
promote the SEPT brand appropriately in that time span.
Our Customers
Who are our customers?
Service users / clients / patients
Relatives / carers
Other Trust services / staff / colleagues
Internal / external agencies: Other health organisations
Local Authorities
Voluntary sector
General public
The Trust Service Standards
Positive hellos
Be genuinely warm, welcoming and engaging, not cold and clinical; whenever you meet a customer, whether
it’s for five minutes or five months.
Positive goodbyes
Customers leave every interaction 100% clear, and positive, about what will happen next, why and when and is
never left wondering what's happening and what might happen next.
Jargon free
With customers we need to cut out jargon, buzzwords, acronyms, abbreviations and SEPT-speak so people
know what we are talking about.
Your choices
Involve the customer in their own care and where possible give them choices they can make themselves about
their treatment.
Smooth handoffs
Smoothest handoffs when customers move from one service to another (in SEPT and with partners) or stop
receiving services.
In the know
Pro-active communication so the customer always knows where they are and is never left wondering what’s
happening and what might happen next.
Service basics we all need to get right
Take the initiative
We will take the initiative whenever something needs to happen.
Keeping promises
We will make commitments and keep our promises every time.
Common courtesies
Every interaction is focused 100% on the customer. From simple courtesies like opening doors for people to
difficult interventions.
Active listening
Valuing listening over speaking. Use active listening to find out all we need to know about the individual and not
jump to conclusions.
Ears open
All the world’s a stage and we should listen out for appropriateness of conversations we have when customers
are around. Also listen out for ringing phones – it’s likely to be a customer needing help.
Eyes open
Be aware of the spaces we work in. Demand they are safe, calm and physically and emotionally comfortable.
Do something about it if they aren’t.
Revealing great service
Say why
When you do something to help a customer, let them know you’ve done it and why it’s helpful to them. “If they
don’t know it, you haven’t done it”.
Basic Customer Service Skills
• Always stop what you are doing and talk directly to the customer
• Give the customer your full attention
• Don't write whilst they are talking to you - if possible stop the conversation to write down the information
and then start again
You can learn a lot about your customer just by looking. There are two important aspects to focus on:
1.Eye contact
2.Mood assessment
Be aware of your eye contact with the customer:
Appropriate eye contact - demonstrates interest
Too little eye contact - might suggest you are anxious or uninterested
Too much eye contact - might suggest you are hostile, threatening or confrontational
Assess the customer's mood - anxious, impatient, embarrassed, angry. Having this understanding will help
you respond appropriately to the customer and to provide the right level of service.
Put yourself in the customer's shoes - how might you feel in this situation?
Concentrate on what is being said
Show you are listening - body language (e.g. nod your head), use appropriate facilitators (e.g."uh-huh", "I
Paraphrase what the customer has said - to demonstrate understanding
Ask questions, if in doubt
Be aware of what is being missed out by the customer
Write down important details
Ask for correct spelling of names etc.
Listen to what is being said, - and what isn't!
Asking Questions
When assisting customers, asking clear and concise questions can help you:
• Understand the exact meaning of what you're being told
• Find out the real needs of the customer
• Check that the customer has understood the information
• Check that the customer agrees with the suggested course of action
There are two types of questions you can use to resolve a problem:
1. Closed questions
2. Open questions.
Closed questions are short and normally just require a yes / no answer. For example, "Do you have any
allergies?". They are helpful when dealing with customers who are:
• Anxious
• Distressed
• Distracted
• Talkative
Open questions usually prompt a more detailed and informative response. For example, "Can you tell me what
allergies you have and the accompanying symptoms?". These questions are helpful when dealing with
customers who are:
• Reserved
• Uncertain
• Reluctant to engage in discussion
Telephone Customers
The big difference when using the phone is that you cannot see the customer and they cannot see you.
Therefore vital information is missing, for example:
• Facial expression
• Eye contact
• Gestures
• Reduced ability to demonstrate listening skills
• Use of diagrams / objects to explain what you mean
Remember - you have to work harder when you are dealing with customers by phone:
You can't look - you must listen
There is no eye contact - you must smile (honestly - it shows in your voice)
Focus on the Positive
It is important to use positive language when helping customers. Even if you are not able to resolve the
problem yourself immediately, focus on what you can do for the customer.
"I am sorry but I do not have the information you want. However I will contact the person who does and get
back to you tomorrow. Will that be alright?"
Difficult Customer Interactions
Remember a customer is usually upset with the organisation or the situation - they are less likely to be upset
with you personally.
When the customer is challenging your customer service skills, accept the challenge and work out a solution.
For example:
Work with the customer and offer a problem solving approach
Return anger with anger
Take control and assert yourself
Promise what you can't deliver
Let them express their frustration or anger
Pass the buck
Show concern and empathy
Blame colleagues
Apologise personally, where responsible, or say "I'm sorry you feel this way"
Apologise automatically / unnecessarily
Giving Your Best - Dealing with Thinking Traps
Dealing with challenging customers and difficult situations can be very frustrating and in the longer term have a
negative effect on our emotional wellbeing. Unfortunately sometimes the person who makes life most difficult
for us is ourselves – although we think we are focused and actively listening to someone, we are also busy
listening to the voice in our own heads: we hear something and react to it with our own running commentary.
Sometimes this is referred to as our ‘journalist’. This internal commentary is often negative and unhelpful to us
in dealing with difficult situations and challenges. Whilst we are being a ‘journalist’, we are not being an
effective ‘player’.
To help us to give our best, and to protect our wellbeing, we need to be aware of and manage this internal
When we are emotionally upset, anxious or angry we tend to think about our experiences in a distorted way
that reinforces our present mood. All of us can at times fall into ‘thinking traps’. Below are 10 of the most
common thinking traps and examples of how to deal with them.
1.All-or-nothing thinking………seeing events in extreme terms without recognising that there is a middle
ground. Sometimes this will involve imposing rigid rules on yourself and others. When these rules are not
obeyed, you are likely to condemn yourself or others. A feature of this type of thinking is the use of 'Shoulds'
and Musts'.
Example: “I must have the holiday I want and if I don’t get it, I can’t stand it.”
Adaptive response: making a balanced assessment that gives you more options to choose from; accepting that
things are the way they are and there is no reason why they should be different.
Example: “I would rather have that holiday as my first choice but if I can’t have it, I’m sure I can enjoy myself
somewhere else.”
2.Catastrophizing………assuming the worst and, if it happens, that you won’t be able to cope with it.
Example: “If I get a poor mark for my assignment, I am bound to fail the course and I'll never be able to live
with the humiliation.”
Adaptive response: ask what is the probable outcome versus the possible outcome? The odds are that the
outcome you fear will not actually happen.
Example: “I might get a poor mark for my assignment but that doesn't mean that I'll be thrown off the course
and even if it did happen, I would still be able to cope with it.”
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------3.Discounting the positive………positive qualities or experiences are disregarded, leaving your life feeling
one-sided – negative. This maintains your negative feelings.
Example : “My colleagues said that my report was interesting but they are just trying to make me feel better
because they know it was boring.”
Adaptive response: include positive qualities and experiences in order to make a more balanced assessment.
Example: “It’s true that the report could have been more thought-provoking but it is very unlikely that my
colleagues are all banding together to tell me a lie.”
5.Fortune-telling………believing you can predict the future accurately and consistently. Sometimes you will be
right but at other times, particularly when you are feeling low or worried, you might well be wildly inaccurate.
Example: “I just know that I am going to fail this test.” You act in ways to make your predictions come true by
telling yourself that it is not worth spending much time revising, as you are bound to fail.
Adaptive response: look at the evidence
Example: write down some of your predictions and look at them again a few months later to see how accurate
they were.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------6.Labelling………attaching a general and negative label to yourself based on specific behaviour; assuming
that a specific behaviour reflects you as a whole.
Example: “I didn’t handle that problem very well, so I must be an idiot.”
Adaptive response: attach the label to the behaviour not yourself; focus on changing the behaviour to be more
successful next time.
Example: “I didn’t handle that situation very well so I’ll discuss it with my colleague who has dealt with these
kinds of problems before.”
7.Magnification / minimization………exaggerating negative information and minimising positive information.
Example: “I couldn’t answer all of the questions raised, so my presentation was a complete disaster. A couple
of people said they enjoyed it but they were just being kind.”
Adaptive response: maintaining a sense of proportion
Example: “I couldn’t answer all of the questions raised but I was able to deal with most of them easily. Some
people said they enjoyed my presentation, so it must have gone quite well.”
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------8.Mind-reading………believing that we know what other people are thinking without communicating with
them. Often negative thoughts are in our own minds, so we assume that these thoughts must be shared by
Example : “He hasn’t said anything but I know my manager thinks I did not handle that situation very well.”
Adaptive response: ask for feedback or wait until you have firm evidence to support your beliefs – until then
these are only YOUR thoughts.
Example : “I think maybe I didn’t handle that situation very well, so I’ll ask my manager for some feedback.”
9.Overgeneralization………drawing sweeping conclusions based on insufficient information or a single event.
Example: “Because the magazine hasn’t replied to me about my article, it’s obvious that I can’t write and that
I’ll never get anything published.”
Adaptive response: examine the evidence and then put forward alternative arguments.
Example: “Well, maybe they take longer to respond than I thought. It will be hard to get something published if
all I do is moan but I’m much more likely to get something published if I analyse articles that do get published
and then keep practising.”
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------10.Personalisation………blaming yourself for things that you are not responsible for.
Example: “I made my partner give up his course.”
Adaptive response: distinguishing between actual and presumed responsibility
Example: You have contributed to the disagreement by complaining about the time he spent studying but your
partner decided to respond to this by giving up his course rather than managing his time differently.
Remember - we are all Customers!
STOP - pay attention to all requests for assistance.
LOOK - at your customer's requests to see how you could make their life easier - you never know when you
will need help.
LISTEN - to your customer's needs, as they are as important as your own. Recognise and acknowledge their
feelings and collect all the details.
LEARN - use questions to get to the heart of the matter and work to find a solution.
NEVER - blame colleagues, take things personally or argue with the customer.
ALWAYS - assume the problem is solvable, even if it cannot be solved by you.
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