COOLIDGE — Quality customer service can make the difference between an unhappy and happy patron in almost every industry.
But truly exceptional customer service goes beyond scheduling appointments for clients or wishing a customer a good day as they leave an establishment. Memorable customer service also entails knowing how to handle customers that are not always easy to deal with.
From indecisive Izzy to know-it-all Kevin, students at the Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology got the full rundown on handling customers that can be hard to please at the first annual CUSTOMERCon.
Like other conferences the career and technical education school puts on throughout the year, CUSTOMERCon was designed to bring a fun and interactive program into CAVIT classrooms to enhance students’ learning experience.
Scheduled on Thursday, just one day ahead of the start of clinics for first-year students, the conference sought to give students that participate in clinics insight on the different types of challenging customers they might encounter.
“It’s very important that we expose the kids to these different scenarios that are kind of out of their control and our control to solidify critical thinking,” massage therapy teacher William Snyder said.
Over the course of the year, CAVIT provides a number of clinics that are open to the public. Services are provided by students studying in a range of subjects from dental assisting to veterinary assisting.
The clinics serve as an arena where students can apply what they are learning in the classroom in a hands-on environment while also giving back to the community.
But clinics can also pose a great opportunity for students to become skilled in customer service.
“Students don’t know what’s going to be walking in through the door with respect to the services that they’re going to have to provide,” Superintendent Mike Glover said. “They have to problem-solve, they have to work as a team (and) they have to apply their technical skills as well as their professional skills.”
CUSTOMERCon brought in professionals from the different industries represented at CAVIT to demonstrate the best methods for managing customers that may be difficult to deal with while still maintaining optimal customer service. Three of the five experts present at the conference were CAVIT alumni.
The program kicked off on that Thursday with a panel discussion led by industry professionals, where students had an opportunity to ask questions. Speakers also shared some of their more trying experiences in customer service and gave insight on how they handle those situations.
CAVIT staff members then split off into groups. Each group was accompanied by a panel expert, who traveled with staff members to classrooms around the campus and performed scenarios that introduced one of 11 types of difficult customers students could potentially encounter.
The customer personas touched upon behaviors that could make a customer more demanding, such as aggression, complaining and impulsiveness.
Students were tasked with guessing which personality aligned with the behaviors presented during the skits.
Crystal Rodriguez, the manager of the JCPenney InStyle salon in Casa Grande, was among the professionals participating in CUSTOMERCon.
“I love going over each of the scenarios because it’s (an) ideal to what really goes on,” she said. “And I love the fact that we are preparing (students) for it and giving them answers on how to deal with the situation.”
But the tips students picked up at CUSTOMERCon, and similar CAVIT events, might just extend beyond the classroom, Snyder said.
“The definite thing that makes our graduates unique is that our students are able to talk about these experiences during (job) interviews,” he said. “When you’re coming into an entry level position, everyone has had the same education (and) they’ve used the same books. In my opinion, this kind of puts (students) ahead so they can have a little bit more to speak about.”