Categorized | Customer Care, Support EDGE

Essential Skills for Desk-Side Customer Support

Not all customer-support providers are confined to phone support. Some provide desk-side support solely; but it’s not uncommon for a support professional to wear both hats. When supporting a customer in person, keep in mind that you still have only a few seconds to create a good first impression. Taking advantage of some key suggestions will help your first impression not only be a good one but also a lasting one.

First, command confidence. If you look confident, your customer will perceive you as confident. This will go a long way toward positioning yourself as a business partner to the customer (instead of an order taker). There are many ways to command confidence:

  • Watch your posture. A good posture suggests both confidence and competence.
  • Establish and maintain eye contact when addressing the customer, especially at the start and close of your client engagement.
  • Speak in a calm, relaxed, reassuring tone.

Second, be sure to maintain a professional appearance. Not all jobs require a tie, but all customers require someone who appears organized and well groomed. Third, smile and introduce yourself. Show friendliness and an eagerness to help. Fourth, maintain a professional proximity (don’t be a “close talker”).

Once you have established contact with your customer there are some additional non-verbal listening skills that will help. First, don’t interrupt (verbally or non-verbally) when the customer is speaking. It’s often easier to “interrupt” with body language (shifting eyes, clock-watching, etc.) than it is with speech. Second, use silence appropriately. While it is a good idea to remain silent when the customer is speaking (although an occasional nod of the head acknowledges that you understand what is being said), it is not such a good idea to remain silent after the customer is finished. This gives the customer the impression that (a) you don’t understand the problem as stated, (b) you disagree with what they said, or worse, (c) you don’t believe them! Make sure that you close the gap on any awkward silence.

Third, beware of your facial expressions. We can get away with a lot more over the phone than we can in person. Make sure you don’t suddenly take on a puzzled, challenging, or defensive posture or facial expression. Finally, watch your body language. A tapping hand or foot, a quick glance at the clock or watch, or shifting eyes will speak loudly and clearly to your customer that you are not interested in what they have to say. To show them you are listening, practice active listening skills: keep focused; use short, acknowledging messages, open and inviting hand and arm gestures, and a nodding head and smile.

Desk-side support has many more potential advantages than a phone conversation to gain customer satisfaction. By using good face-to-face communication skills, you’ll have all the ingredients to turn an otherwise impersonal support request into a warm, friendly meeting that is conducive to high customer satisfaction


Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is principal and lead consultant of SCInc., a learning and development consulting company. Eric has over 20 years experience in creating and executing results-oriented, outcomes-based learning and development initiatives aligned to corporate goals. He specializes in leadership development and coaching, and leading organizational culture-change initiatives around customer support and safety leadership.  Eric was personally involved in the development of certification standards, performance standards, exam validation, competency models and training for the customer-support and technical-support industry, and was instrumental in the creation of the only performance-based certification in that industry. .


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