The Art of Customer Communication

The Art of Customer Communication

by Pee Hai Ning, PM1


Winning speech for BVTMC Chapter Meeting on Thursday, 04 Oct 2018

Presentation Mastery, Level 2 Project 1: Understanding Your Communication Style




Good evening Club President, Toastmasters of the Day and fellow Toastmasters.

I used to do a holiday job at a dental clinic. As a dental assistant, I would help patients clip on their bibs and assist with patient registration and billing.

This is a dental clinic like any other dental clinic. Stepping in, you’ll hear the high-pitched screeching sounds of the dentist’s equipment. But unlike other clinics, you step in and see 15 other faces, staring back at you. (arms crossed)

“The clinic must be having good business!” I thought.

But 15 people? (Eek) I checked on the current patient’s appointment. Scaling and polishing. Half an hour. (Knock knock) I peered into the dentist’s room.

“Dr Koh! How is it going?” “Oh, I’m doing great! I’ll clean up this gentleman’s 5 cavities and he will be as good as new.” 5 cavities. How do you expect to finish the cleaning, x-ray and 5 fillings in half an hour?

In the face of more than 15 angst patients, many of whom, have been waiting for more than an hour, the 19 y/o me offers you 3 tips.
Run. Lie. Hide.

My first reaction would be to Run. But, they are paying me $2 per hour more than my previous holiday job selling cookies! I can’t just leave.

Next, I’ll try not to appear at the reception area, choosing instead to Hide in the pantry.

When I have no choice but to appear at the reception to help patients with the billing, I Lie through my teeth. When patients bang on the table and ask, “I have been waiting for so long! When is it going to be my turn!?” I reply, “Oh I’m so sorry about the wait, but in about ten minutes it’ll be your turn.”

Run. Lie. Hide.

Those were my 3 unethical pro tips to dealing with customers. Fast forward nearly 10 years later. I’m working at the customer service frontline, yet again. But, I have certainly learnt much more. Today I offer you 3 ethical pro tips to dealing with customers in the form of a phone call.

Tring-Tring. Tring-Tring. (Phone ringing)

“Hello good evening! Oh. Hi Rachel! What can I do for you today?”

Rule 1:
Give Respect How do you give respect?

We are in a busy world where everyone is multitasking, most of the time. It’s easy to promise that you can keep track of all the information while doing something else at the same time. Don’t fall into this fallacy.

Stop what you’re doing and give the caller your attention.

If you are meeting someone, be in the present with them. Stop updating your Instagram or Facebook status. Take a break from chatting with your 20 WhatsApp groups. Put your phone aside.

The person in front of you is the most important. Look at them in the eye. Be interested in them.

“What? Rachel, you mean your washing machine stopped working? What happened?

Rule 2:
Listen Practise active listening. Listen to what they say. Give them time. Don’t cut them off.

People converse for two reasons. Some conversations aim to find a solution.

“I loaded my clothes and pressed start. The washing machine started to fill with water. But mid-cycle, I smelled something burning! I switched off the washing machine immediately but the washing machine is still full of water. What should I do now?”

In this case, listen then paraphrase. This allows both parties to check on their understanding of the message. This also assures the speaker that the listener is listening.
“So, you managed to start the washing machine but smelled something burning mid-cycle? Was it a rubber or electrical burning smell?”

Other conversations aim to vent.
“You know, there is a mountain of clothes waiting for me to wash! My husband says he has no more clean shirts for tomorrow!”

In this case, listen and empathize.

“It must be stressful looking at the amount of laundry. I’ll get my engineer to visit first thing tomorrow morning. In the meantime, if you can find a laundromat, we will reimburse you $20 of your expense. Does that work for you?”

Finally, Rule 3, Rule 3:
Offer your Help / Expertise

I have had customers ask, “So how can I ensure that my washing machine performs well?”

Be generous in sharing your knowledge and time.

“Don’t overload your washing machine. You can also use a Washing Machine Cleaner on a hot and empty cycle every 6 months.”

Being generous does not mean that you have to help others complete their project. Spend some time to offer a bit of advice. This can mean a lot to another person.


Give Respect. Listen. And Offer Help. Perhaps, if I could apply these when I were 19, I would be able to handle the situation much better.

So when patients bang on the table and ask, “I have been waiting for so long! When is it going to be my turn!?”

I should look at them in the eye, listen to their complaints and suggest that they can go to the clinic next door.

Thank you.


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