Career Tools: How to Develop a Customer Service Mindset

Deliver service in line with your department’s mission and goals

Karem Jackson helps visitors at a conference at the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute.
Karem Jackson helps visitors at a conference at the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute.

For Tempie Fuller, a compliance specialist for Duke’s Patient Revenue Management Organization, the term “customer” is somewhat nebulous. She fields inquiries about medical codes from doctors, patients, vendors and staff in other departments. 

Central to her role is ensuring that each medical coding encounter is smooth and productive.

Already a regular consumer of professional development classes through Duke’s Learning and Organization Development (L&OD), Fuller added a “Customer Service Excellence” course to her repertoire. 

“I knew that the more I learned how to interact with people, the easier the job became,” she said.

The L&OD customer service course is built around six steps that every professional should know. The lessons on listening, empathy and responsiveness have proven so useful, Fuller calls upon them outside of work and during encounters with her son or members of the church youth group she’s taught.

The approach has proven so versatile, the customer service course name has been changed to “Winning Clients and Influencing People” to help Duke employees deliver service in line with a department’s mission and goals. The next sessions are in September and November, and here are some tips.

Set the tone: Starting any interaction by expressing your desire to help, puts the other person at ease. “You have to understand that they’re frustrated, but probably not at you,” Fuller said.

Listen: It’s easy to have an answer in mind before someone finishes asking a question. Listen for what a person needs, not what you think they need. “You’re trying to listen, but you’re also trying to figure out what the actual issue is,”
Fuller said.

Check for understanding: It’s helpful to paraphrase a request back to the person asking. It’s a chance to show empathy and a way to ensure both sides know what needs to be done, said Don Shortslef, the L&OD practitioner who teaches the course.

Meet needs:
Karem Jackson, staff assistant with the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute, took the course and found advice around resolving an issue and offering options helpful. “If you can’t fix it, find somebody who can,” Jackson said. 

Review details: According to Shortslef, explaining how you will go about solving a problem, and when a solution will be in place, offers reassurance.

Create goodwill: End each situation on a positive note. This will likely be the lasting impression of you. “You never know when you’re going to have another encounter with that person,” Jackson said. “And also, if you’re doing that … somebody may mirror that behavior. You never know.”

She added, “aside from being an employee of this organization, I’m a citizen or the world, I’m a parent, I’m a spouse. To have this skill, impacts my entire life. It makes a big difference.”