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What I Learned About Customer Service While Working at A Bookstore

Everyone needs to be a part of retail jobs at least once in their lifetime. Working in retail allows you to gain some amazing experience and highly transferable customer service skills that are valuable in any sector. You can take these along with you as you move between roles or industries as well. Serving at a bookstore can be one such retail job where you get to learn about customer service. Here are certain important points that you can learn while working at a bookstore.

1.      Put yourself in the customer’s shoes: Whenever you are at a retail store, think of yourself as a customer. Imagine how you would want to be treated. Imagine what you would want as a customer. Would you like to be spoken to? How would you feel if you were ignored? How would you feel if somebody was busy arranging a pile of books lying on the floor rather than helping you find the book?

That is exactly how the customer feels and wants you to respond. They would expect you to interact with them and help them when they need it. Just put yourself in the customer’s shoes to understand what they expect.

2.    Maintain Interpersonal relationships: Working in the customer service industry which uses a free ticketing system gives you chance to spend the entire day communicating with people. Be helpful and genuine to your customers. Be friendly and engaging with your customers. Just smile at your customer and say “have a nice day” when they leave. Try to engage more with the customers asking them how their day went, about the book, what they would like to read and some simple gestures.

It is not very easy to always maintain this attitude, especially if you are busy, sick or tired. Also, if the customer is rude, remaining friendly can be the biggest challenge. A positive attitude can make the customers feel better. If you are friendly to a customer, chances are that they will be friendly with you. Trust me, those mutual smiles and positive conversations make a lot of difference.

3.    Prioritize your work: You will have a lot of roles to play especially when you are in retail. I mean, you will have more than one job to do. Learn to prioritize. Go serve the customers at the counter, especially when there is a long queue at the counter. A stack of books can wait to be arranged, while a line of customers waiting for long might get angry and leave the store. When there is too much for you to do, ask for help. It is ok, your co-workers are also sailing in the same boat as you are.

4.   Time management is important: You can consider two aspects of time management here. When the customers are in a hurry, fidgeting and checking their watches every three seconds, you should know that you need to attend to them first rather than counting changes at your cash counter. You can risk your job and might as well lose a customer. It is better to speed up rather than lose.

You can also sharpen your time management skills at a personal level. Bookstores usually don’t have fixed timings and you will have to get used to the weird working hours. Hence a flexible work schedule forces you to learn how to utilize your time to get everything done. I know it’s not easy when you find yourself trying to fit in your hobbies or fitness training into this routine, but once you get used to this time management, you will be forever on top of the world.

5.      Recommend and keep the customers informed: Understand that certain customers feel that you are a better person to suggest or recommend books for them. Some customers hesitate to ask for help as they feel that you may judge their choices if they ask you for help. But tell them this is not the case.

Even when you are finding or billing a book for them, keep talking to the customers. Talk to them about the books and authors or read the names of the books or authors while you are typing it out. If it is taking longer, then tell them that your computer is a bit slow and hence it is taking longer. Engaging them in conversations and keeping them informed will make them feel valued and will give them an impression of faster progress.

6.    It’s Ok to make mistakes: It is human to make mistakes in the process of learning. All of us make mistakes in the initial stages. Some of us might not know that certain bags have to be scanned before handing over to the customers, while some of us might forget to hand over the invoice to a customer. You can always fix them. Happens!! Don’t worry. Just make sure that you learn from your mistakes and never repeat them again. Also, share it with your team and help them learn from your mistakes.
These skills just don’t apply to work. These essential life skills are important for us to interact with people in our daily life. Customer service industry will prepare you to face the real world and nourish your personal relationships.

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