Locals learn finer points of customer service

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 26, 2010

By David Vitrano


LUTCHER – As part of its continuing series of seminars aimed at improving local businesses’ plans and stategies, the River Region Chamber of Commerce offered a session on customer service at the Public Relations building of the St. James Parish school system here Thursday.

About 40 people attended the session led by Craig Marinello, an account executive with Sage Payment Solutions.

Marinello covered many of the finer points of customer service including projecting a positive company image, creating repeat customers, employee management and telephone techniques.

Many of his topics boiled down to creating and maintaining appropriate communication strategies with both customers and employees.

Unlike some similar seminars, Marinello’s presentation dealt with specifics, from dress to body language and facial expressions to tone of voice and rate of speech.

Attendees represented a wide range of local interests including government, business and human services.

Serina Julien, a purchasing clerk with St. John the Baptist Parish, said she attended the session to fine tune her dealings with customers.

“He talked about how to speak to people, how to tone your voice down,” she said.

Quality Inn Guest Service Agent Zorona Jenkins said the seminar was informative because “we always have to be cheerful because we are the first and last people (customers) see.”

Her colleague, Alaina Miguez, said one the points that made a big impact on her was that “your actions speak louder than your words.”

She said she thought it was particularly important that someone in her position put one of Marinello’s techniques into action, namely listening and repeating everything back.

Coming from a very different sort of business model was Ratasha Mack, a crisis line advocate with the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children.

Mack said one of her main duties is answering the phone and dealing with clients.

Regarding the most helpful point she learned Thursday, she said, “Probably just listening more. Our agency’s a little different than the other ones here today.”

Representing an entity that might not be considered to have customers in the traditional sense, Aimee Legg, a registered nurse in the Surgery Department at River Parishes Hospital, said, “As nurses, we are there to comfort (patients) and make them feel important.”

She added, “That first impression helps them feel comfortable.”

Legg said she was eager to share what she had learned with her colleagues.

The Chamber’s next major event will be a mixer at Oak Alley Plantation on June 24. The afternoon will feature free tours, a seminar on sales techniques and a “Distinguished Social Event.”

The Chamber is also planning a mobile classroom featuring basic business classes at the end of June.