Topic Name Description
Course Introduction Page Course Syllabus
Page Course Terms of Use
Unit 1: Understanding Communication Page Unit 1 Learning Outcomes
1.1: What is Communication? URL Business Communication for Success: "Chapter 1 Introduction," "1.1: Why Is It Important to Communicate Well?," and "1.2: What Is Communication?"

Read these sections, which emphasize how communication forms a part of your self-concept, helping you to understand yourself and others, solve problems, learn new things, and build your career. When you have finished reading the introduction to Chapter 1, you can click the Next Section arrow at the top right to continue on to sections 1.1 and 1.2. Make sure to attempt the exercises at the end of section 1.1.

Page P. Wynn Norman's "The Special Nature of Customer Service Communication"

Read this article, which relates your previous readings from the textbook Business Communication for Success to the specific challenges of interacting with customers. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the terms used in the textbook so that you can relate to the customer service exchanges described in this article.

1.2: Types of Communication that Impact Customer Service Exchanges URL Business Communication for Success: "1.3: Communication in Context"

This reading describes five types of communication contexts that can be encountered, directly or indirectly, in the customer service environment. To absorb this information most effectively, think about your own experiences interacting with people in these communication contexts. At the end of the reading, complete some of the exercises to help you better understand and absorb the information.

File US Department of Agriculture: "Interpersonal Communication Skills Inventory"

Complete this self-assessment of your interpersonal communication skills. After you have responded to all 40 questions, follow the instructions on the last two pages to calculate and interpret your score. This activity will help you assess your interpersonal communication skills and point to areas where you are strong and areas where you may need to improve.

1.3: The Two Modes of Communication Page P. Wynn Norman's adaptation of Steven R. Van Hook's "Verbal and Nonverbal Communication"

This article emphasizes the importance of verbal and nonverbal communication in customer service. You will revisit this topic and resource in Unit 5 when we connect visual communication to nonverbal communication in the customer service environment.

1.3.1: Verbal Communication Page Working in the Food Service Industry: "Workplace Communication and Teamwork: Strategies for Effective Communication"

This chapter focuses on customer service in the food industry, where communication is an integral part of a restaurant's success. Consider the elements noted in the chapter from the viewpoint of both a restaurant worker and a customer. At the end of the chapter, you will find tips for how to be a better worker. Think about how you can apply these concepts in any professional field.

File Using Positive Verbal Communication Activity

Using the information you learned in the previous resources, download and complete this worksheet with appropriate alternative phrases. This activity will help you connect the verbal examples of positive and negative communication covered in the readings with statements you might use in actual customer service exchanges. When you have finished, you may check your responses against this answer key.

1.3.2: Nonverbal Communication URL Business Communication for Success: "11.2: Types of Nonverbal Communication"
This section describes in depth the many types of nonverbal communication contexts you may encounter. As a result, it will increase your awareness of the prevalence of this form of communication. At the end of the reading, respond to questions 3, 4, and 5 in the exercise section to recognize how nonverbal communication affects your own communication effectiveness. You will revisit this subject in Unit 6 when we examine the impact of visual communication on customer service.
Page University Libraries of Penn State University: "Nonverbal Communication"

Watch this video to learn how people you are communicating with may interpret your body language through common postures and movements, called cues. Consider how small changes can impact the ways in which you are viewed by others.

Unit 2: Knowing Your Customers Page Unit 2 Learning Outcomes
2.1: Using Audience Analysis to Communicate Effectively Page P. Wynn Norman's "Using Audience Analysis to Anticipate Customer Needs"

This article describes how you can apply audience analysis to prepare for and interact effectively with customers.

URL Stand Up, Speak Out: The Practice and Ethics of Public Speaking: "5.2: Three Types of Audience Analysis" and "5.3: Conducting Audience Analysis"

Sections 5.2 and 5.3 cover the types of analyses that focus on audience traits -- in contrast to audience behavior. Be aware that although the reading focuses on speaking to a class of students, the treatment of this topic applies equally to anticipating how you would speak to individuals, such as your customers.

After you read, respond to the first question in the list of exercises. Follow the instructions provided in the textbook with one exception: In the instructions, replace the word student with customer. This activity will help you recognize how your own traits, represented by the sociocultural groups in which you are a member, can influence how and why you purchase products and services. Understanding your own consumer behavior can help you recognize how your customers make decisions too.

After you have finished, click the Next Section arrow at the top right to continue on to section 5.3.

Page Steven R. Van Hook's "Publics and Demographics"

Start watching this lecture at the 1:10-mark to avoid confusing terminology. This presentation describes how you can use information obtained from segmenting audiences to anticipate the kinds of messages your customers will send your way.

2.2: Customer Service and Multicultural Audiences URL Business Communication for Success: "18.2 How to Understand Intercultural Communication"

After you have read section 18.2, respond to questions 1a, 1b, and 1c in the exercises section. Then, read the responses presented beneath. This activity will illustrate how important it is that you absorb the additional information on cultural issues covered in this unit.

2.2.1: Understanding Cultural Communication in Customer Service Page P. Wynn Norman's adaptation of Steven R. Van Hook's "Working with Customer Diversity"

This article provides an overview of cultural diversity in the customer service industry.

Page Intercultural Service Research: "Customer Service Encounters and Culture"

Read this article, paying particular attention to the two sets of performance gaps mentioned near the end that explain common failures involving intercultural communication in customer service.

2.2.2: Assessing the Impact of Cultural Traits on Communication URL International Business: "3.3: Understanding How Culture Impacts Local Business Practices"

As you read, pay particular attention to the box "Spotlight on Impact of Culture on Business in Latin America."

Page Carol Kinsey Goman's "Venus, Mars, and Workplace Communication"

Read this article to gain a greater understanding of the different ways in which men and women communicate. As you review these traits, consider how you can begin to apply your new knowledge in the workplace and more effectively interact with your co-workers.

Page Project IDEA: "Effective Cross Cultural Communication"

This video addresses the challenges and misunderstandings that cultural differences can create between people. It explicitly describes the kind of problems that can occur and identifies appropriate ways to respond. Throughout this video, the speaker asks her audience to respond to the slides she presents. Take a moment to respond, too. It may be best to pause the video while you think about your response so that you don’t miss what the speaker says next.

2.2.3: Developing Cultural Competency File Lowell C. Matthews and Bharat Thakkar's "The Impact of Globalization on Cross-Cultural Communication"

As you read this article, consider the implications for ensuring successful business practices across cultures. Pay particular attention to the cross-cultural communications study and the ways in which cultural measures are related to country of residence.

Page Boundless Communications: "Understanding Bias in Language"

As you read this article, consider the ways in which you own patterns of speech reflect your cultural biases, even if you do not express these intentionally. Pay special attention to the section about removing any biases from your communications.

Unit 3: Listening to Your Customers Page Unit 3 Learning Outcomes
3.1: Listening to Your Customers Page John Lee's "Good Listener? Test Yourself, and Learn How to Improve!"

Read this article and take the quick self test to see if you are a good listener. If your results are not as good as you would like, continue on to review the skills needed to become a better listener. Consider how you can apply these skills in your own business relationships.

3.2: Basic Listening Skills Page Dan Lok: "5 Simple Ways to Become a Better Listener"

Watch this video to learn effective strategies for improving your listening skills. Consider the ways in which you can implement these tools in your professional and personal life right away.

Page Listening Skills Scenarios

Read and think about your responses to these scenarios.

3.3: Types of Listening URL An Introduction to Group Communication: "7.2: Types of Listening"

Read this section and do the exercises at the end of the reading. Consider how the answers to the questions provide you with a deeper understanding of your own listening style.

Page NOBL: "Why Listening Is So Important to Leaders -- and How You Can Improve"

Read this article about the listening skills that are important in leadership positions. Consider how you can improve your own skills.

Page Wisc-Online: "Listening Practice"

View this listening presentation, paying careful attention to the skills discussed. Take the quiz at the end of the presentation.

3.4: Techniques of the Ineffective Listener Page Boundless Communications: "Causes of Poor Listening"

Read this section to learn about the causes of poor listening. Can you think of a time when your ability to communication has been hindered by each of these causes of poor listening?

Page Harvard Kennedy School, Shorenstein Center and Carnegie-Knight Initiative: Journalist's Resource: "Multitasking, social media and distraction: Research review"

Read this article about the many distractions we face in a digital world. Explore the ways in which you multi-task and how this might be impacting your ability to effectively listen. Choose two or three of the articles listed at the bottom and do some further reading on this subject.

3.5: Techniques of the Active Listener Page Tyner Blain's "Ten Supercharged Active Listening Skills to Make You More Successful"

Read this article for the useful tips for becoming a more active listener. Practice each skill and consider how you might implement them in a business setting.

Page Evil Genius Leadership Consultants: "Active Listening & Non-Verbal Communication"

Watch this video, which points out how non-verbal communication illustrates active listening.

Page Monique Cloutier's "Words, Tone, and Body Language: Matching and Mirroring to Build Rapport"

Watch this video for practical tips on how to build rapport through matching and mirroring body language.

Page Boundless Communications: "Be a Serious Listener: Resist Distractions and Listen Actively"

What is a distraction, and how do distractions impact conversations? Read this chapter about how to avoid distractions and become a more active listener.

Page Customer Service Reader: "LEAP to the Customer's Side"

Dealing with a difficult customer? Read this article for tips on how to manage that customer by using listening skills. LEAP is an acronym meaning listen, empathize, apologize, and problem-solve.

Page Nancy Friedman's "The Art of Building Rapport with Your Clients Who Call"

Read this brief but informative article on how to build rapport with a customer in a phone conversation.

Page Luciano Passuello's "10 Best Ways to Harness the Power of Questions"

Think asking the right question is easy? Read this article to ensure that the questions you are asking are as powerful as possible.

Page Wisc-Online: "How Well Do I Listen?"

How well do you listen? Watch this interactive presentation and reflect on your answers.

3.6: Listening For Specifics Page Boundless Communications: "Rules to Follow When Listening"

You may not always be the speech presenter or speaker. Many times, you'll be in the audience yourself. Active listening is a skill that can make you a more effective speaker in the long run. This reading will help you become a good active listener.

Page Boundless Communications: "Eye Contact and Facial Expression"

Read this brief article, which provides a few basic guidelines for listening face-to-face and making eye contact.

Page Wisc-Online: "Listening for Retention"

When you listen, how much of the information do you retain?  View this interactive video to see how well you can recall information presented to you.

Page Ken Norton's "How to Listen to Customers"

As you read through this material, think about the different kinds of customers you may face and how you can more effectively listen so that you can better meet their needs.

Page Boundless Communications: "The Evaluating Stage"

Evaluating what we have heard is essential to comprehension and to ensuring that we can respond appropriately. Read this article about the evaluating stage of the listening process.

URL A Primer on Communication Studies: "5.2: Barriers to Effective Listening"

Even after we apply our best listening skills, our listening can still compromise our comprehension ability. Read this chapter about the barriers to effective listening. Consider the ways in which you can mitigate these factors.

Unit 4: Providing Information for Customers Page Unit 4 Learning Outcomes
4.1: Understanding Oral versus Written Communication URL Business Communication for Success: "4.1: Oral versus Written Communication"

This section describes the differences between spoken and written communication. Make sure to practice your understanding of the reading by doing the exercises presented at the end of the section.

Page Oral vs. Written Communication

Watch this video, paying particular attention to the differences between the communication formats that are discussed. Be aware that some of the terms used in this lecture may be unfamiliar to you. In particular, in the final section of the lecture, two important terms are asynchronous - which refers to events that do not happen at the same time - and contextual - meaning "depending on the context."

4.2: Using Written Communication Styles in Business Settings URL Business Communication for Success: "4.4: Style in Written Communication"

This section describes the different styles of communication that various business settings and situations require. Make sure to practice your understanding of the reading by doing the exercises presented at the end of the section.

4.3: Business Writing in Customer Service URL Business Communication for Success: "Chapter 9: Business Writing In Action"

Read Chapter 9 and do the exercises at the end of each section.

E-Mail:

  • As you review this material, recognize that instant messaging (IM) and text messages, or texting, are not really traditional media, but they have been included in this subunit because the reading covers them in this order.
  • Realize, too, that while some businesses are using broadcast texting - a marketing technique that involves sending a large number of people the same text message - your role as a customer service representative would be to handle individual customers' responses after they receive the broadcast text messages.
  • This is why it is important for you to know what broadcast texts are - not so that you can originate them, but rather so that you are prepared to respond to customers who may inquire about the text's marketing message.
  • On the other hand, you yourself may originate instant messages to communicate efficiently with coworkers or managers. One way you could do this is through the presence awareness features in some instant messaging applications. Also known as buddy lists, these features can be used by employees to quickly discover the availability of supervisors or coworkers for advice or problem solving.

Memos:

  • Notice that memos are not used in direct customer service exchanges; however, depending on the business you work for, you may encounter them as a form of communication between management and workers.
  • Although uncommon, customers may occasionally choose this method to communicate with a department. In such cases, your own use of this method will usually involve using a template - a preset format - which you would follow to present your message.

Resumes:

  • Pay particular attention to the types of résumés listed in table 9.5. Realizing that there are a variety of résumé formats is an important step in ensuring that your own résumé is as relevant and functional as possible.

Page Wisc-Online: "Writing Effective Business Emails"

View this presentation with detailed instructions on how to write an effective email. Even if you are familiar with email writing techniques, this demo will provide you with a useful refresher. As you go through the presentation, consider the ways in which you can improve your own email construction.

Page Memorandums and Business Letters

This video provides additional information about these two forms of written business communication.

File Critiquing Résumés

Download this activity and follow the instructions at the top of the page. In this file, there are several several flawed résumés. Using the list of possible flaws provided, indicate which one(s) apply to each of the résumés.

When you have finished, compare your work to this answer key.

URL Heidi Cohen's "5 Social Media Content Formats Your Business Needs"

Read this article for tips about creating meaningful content on social media platforms.

File Critiquing Emails

Download this activity and follow the instructions at the top of the page. In this file, there are several several flawed emails. Make revisions as needed.

When you have finished, compare your work to this answer key.

4.4: Organization: The Key to Clear and Effective Writing URL Business Communication for Success: "6.1: Organization"

Start reading section 6.1 under the heading "Organizing Principles" and continue reading through the end of the table which ends before the "Outlines" subsection.

This reading is comprised entirely of a table which provides the name, definition, and an example of 17 organizing principles. All of these principles are necessary for you to understand and use as an effective communicator. They are practical, everyday ways to arrange information in letters, reports, e-mails, or even your résumé. As a result, memorizing as many of these principles as possible is a good way to expand your versatility as a communicator.

To help you make distinctions between the principles, this subunit has divided them into two groups: "strategic principles" and "other principles."

The strategic principles are particularly useful in planning the details a customer service agent may need to communicate. For this reason, this subunit - and questions on the final exam - will focus on the strategic principles in the table.

Unit 5: Speaking to Customers Page Unit 5 Learning Outcomes
5.1: Speaking to Your Customers Page Dialogics: The Art and Science of Dialogue: "What's Your Communication Style?"

Read this article, which will enable you to break down your role in a conversation into three distinct processes. To get the most out of this material, try to answer the many questions asked about your conversation style as accurately as possible. The goal of this material is to make you more familiar with yourself as a communicator, especially as someone involved in talking to others.

Page P. Wynn Norman's adaptation of Alex Schroeder's "Customer Service, Sales, and Plain Talk"

This article provides a rationale for why you can be a more effective communicator by using every language that matches your customers' speaking styles.

Page Mark Tewart's "Auto Sales Training"

Watch this video for a new perspective on unique meet-and-greet strategies from a car dealer.

Page Jatai Academy: "Greet Immediately"

Watch this brief video for greeting strategies that may be applied in a variety of customer service contexts, not just at the hair salon.

Page Evolved Sound: "Top Customer Service Phone Tips"

Watch this brief presentation for tips about providing quality customer service on the phone.

Page Dan Lok's "Benefits vs. Features: The Crucial Key to Selling Your Product and Services"

Pay particular attention in this video to the differences between features and benefits and how you should use those aspects of a product to solve the customer's problem.

Page Kathleen Hanover's "Features vs Benefits: How Lush Cosmetics Almost Lost a Sale"

As you watch, consider how a customer sales representative may lose a sale by providing too much information to a customer.

URL WikiHow: "How to Speak Professionally on the Phone"

This article will guide you through 15 steps for handling any business-related telephone conversation. Make sure you scroll past the embedded advertisements at the end of the article to find additional tips and warnings.

Page Troy Hunt's "5 essential tips for customer care people dealing with technical queries"

Review these tips for effective responses to customers with technical questions.

Page Haapsalu Vocational Education Centre: "Answering the Phone and Responding to Inquiries"

Read this article for telephone "do's" and "don'ts." Consider how you answer customer phone calls and ways you can improve your strategy.

Page Dianna Booher's "Customer Service Communication: Power of Communicating Concern"

This video provides four tips on how you can express concern to a customer. As you watch, recognize that although the video does not directly address what you should say when you do not have an answer to a customer's question, each of the tips can be applied to that situation and help you provide reasonable responses to satisfy the customer.

Page Ron Segura's "Dealing with Customer Complaints"

As you watch this video, pay attention to the step-by-step nature of the advice, which the speaker refers to as the L.E.A.R.N. process. Understanding what each letter stands for will help you absorb this material more easily.

URL WikiHow: "How to Handle an Irate Customer on the Phone"

Read this article, which describes 11 techniques you can use to speak calmly and satisfy an angry customer. Make sure you scroll through the advertisements to find the tips and warnings at the end of the article.

Page dafink3: "How to Deal with an Angry Customer"

Watch this short video, which identifies eight steps you can follow to satisfy an angry customer. Do not be concerned by the informality of this source's name. The video is a professional production that offers a great deal of useful information.

5.2: Remembering What to Say Page Boundless Psychology: "Memory Retrieval: Recognition and Recall"

Memory retrieval, including recall and recognition, is the process of remembering information stored in long-term memory. Consider the patterns of memory retrieval with which you are most comfortable.

Page Mentat Wiki: "Mnemonic Cues"

This reading provides an overview of the techniques you can use to remember things like names, dates, numbers, locations, and more. Mnemonic cues are just one such technique that you will learn about in this subunit.

Page Mentat Wiki: "Link System"

The link system one of the simplest mnemonics. It is based on a general approach referred to as pegging, wherein you treat what you need to remember like a coat that you hang on a peg. Remembering where or what the peg is enables you to remember the coat itself. Because mnemonics can seem a bit intimidating at first, the link system is being introduced first because of its relative simplicity even though, technically, it is a subcategory of the peg system, which is discussed next.

Page Mentat Wiki: "Peg System"

This article describes the basis of a number of mnemonic cues: pegging. Keep in mind that not all mnemonics suit every person. Consider this as you review not only this reading but also other mnemonic systems that are closely related to the peg system, such as the link system. The techniques covered here have been chosen primarily because they use easy-to-understand language and are relatively simple to apply.

Page Mentat Wiki: "Memory Palace"

As you read, evaluate how well this and other systems might work for you.

Page Ruben Berenguel's "Learn to Remember Everything: The Memory Palace Technique"

Do you have a "memory palace"?  Read this article about how to use this technique to remember everything.

Page Mentat Wiki: "Number Systems"

This brief article will introduce you to three systems for remembering numbers.

Page Mentat Wiki: "Number Shape System"

Read this brief article, which shows you how you can remember numbers by associating them with shapes that look like numbers. Take a moment to follow the link to Wikimedia Commons at the end of the page. There, you will find many more examples of shapes that can be used to remember numbers.

Page Mentat Wiki: "Number Rhyme System"

Read this brief article, which shows you how you can remember numbers by associating them with words they sound like. For example, here are a set of words you could use to remember a phone number: Tree Hive Shoe, Tree Hero Heaven, Tree Hive Heaven Tree (352-307-3573).

Page Mentat Wiki: "Alphabet Systems"

With this technique, you remember a series of letters by connecting the letter shape with the shape of an object. Within this reading, you will find tables that include links to objects that look like the letters that need to be remembered. Take a moment to click on some of those links so you can visualize what is being described.

Also make sure you continue scrolling down below the "Letter Shape System" to learn about the "Letter Sound System," which helps you remember letters by connecting them to words whose pronunciation emphasizes the sounds of the letters you need to remember.

URL Braingle: "Memory Tests Using Letters"

This simple test will enable you to discover the limits of your ability to remember letters. This website is designed to help you expand your abilities by testing you and then linking you to resources that can help you improve in specific ways.

While many of the resources cover the same information provided in this subunit, you may find additional information that will help you expand your memory. To discover whether or not the resources are helpful, test yourself again using this activity while applying the techniques you've learned.

Unit 6: Creating a Visual Impression Page Unit 6 Learning Outcomes
6.1: Using Visual Communication in Customer Service File Michael Searles' "The Power of Visual Communication with Billion Dollar Graphics"

Listen to this podcast, which focuses on connecting business success with visual communication. You will find that the guest interviewed in this podcast focuses on the level of business management rather than customer service. However, you need to realize that many management decisions impact your role as a customer service agent, too. As a result, understanding why those decisions are made should also be important to you. Pay particular attention to the rationale for visual communication in business settings, which the guest provides at the 6:55-minute mark.

URL Wikipedia: "Visual Merchandising"

In this article, you will read about the role visual merchandising plays in creating an atmosphere that influences and motivates consumers to make a purchase. Pay particular attention to the techniques that are available to retailers for appealing to all of our senses.

6.2: Understanding Retail Design and Merchandising URL Wikipedia: "Retail Design"

Read this article, but focus primarily on the discussion of elements that contribute to customers' impressions and understanding of the products or services offered. Since this is a highly specialized area of retail business support, it is unlikely that you will have a direct impact on how your customer service environment is controlled by retail design. Nevertheless, understanding how the layout of where you work affects, for example, the flow of customers from one area to another, why and where products are positioned, or how lighting or stand-alone displays can influence how customers see or handle products enables you to anticipate your customers' needs, avoid problems, or make recommendations to your management.

URL Wikipedia: "Shopper Marketing"

This article provides insight into the behaviors of various target markets, and how a retailer can better meet customer needs. Pay particular attention to the section about the evolution of the retail shopping environment.

6.3: Understanding Yourself as a Visual: Being on Stage Page Doug Emerson's "All of the World of Business Is a Stage"

Read this brief article, which reinforces the theme that began this course: Working in customer service is similar to the work of an actor on a stage.

Think about where you fit into the customer service environment. This course has covered many aspects of that setting, but only you can relate the topics covered to the circumstances in which you work, now or in the future. Considering yourself as a visual is one straightforward way to make that leap from the theoretical to the practical, so as you read through this material, think about how it relates to your own working conditions.

Page Boundless Communications: "Appearance: Dress and Posture"

Read this section and consider the first impression you make on others. Does your posture need improving? When you make a presentation, think about how you can improve your appearance to positively impact your message delivery.

URL Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC: "Chapter 9: Customer Service"

Read this chapter about customer service. Pay particular attention to the section on "Customer Orientation" and how your connection to the customer impacts the sales process and customer satisfaction.

Page Voices Compassion Education: "Habits of Charismatic People"

What is charisma? While we recognize it when we see it, can we specifically define this trait? Read this article about the habits of charismatic people and how they engage with others. Consider your own traits and how you can incorporate some of these habits into your own behavior to reach higher levels of success.

Page Tufts University: Gerard Denoyer's "Dressing for Success"

Do you know how to "dress for success?" Are you familiar with all of the factors that can impact your appearance in the workplace and your potential for career growth?  Read this article about dress, grooming, and personal hygiene.  While the article is about careers in engineering, the topics covered can be applied to all fields of industry.

Page Customer Service Reader: "Customer Service and the Pursuit of Happiness"

This article makes a connection between your outlook and your look. When you pursue a career in customer service, it is very important that you recognize how what you feel inside can show itself on your outside. To succeed, you must discipline yourself, like an actor on a stage, to play the role you have chosen. Taking this course on customer service is a good way to become more familiar with that role, but remaining conscious of the unique communication elements you encounter on your own is another very good step toward becoming a confident, effective, and happy customer service representative.

Optional Course Evaluation Survey URL Optional Course Evaluation Survey

Please take a few moments to provide some feedback about this course. Consider completing the survey whether you have completed the course, you are nearly at that point, or you have just come to study one unit or a few units of this course. Link: Optional Course Evaluation Survey (HTML) Your feedback will focus our efforts to continually improve our course design, content, technology, and general ease-of-use. Additionally, your input will be considered alongside our consulting professors' evaluation of the course during its next round of peer review. As always, please report urgent course experience concerns to contact@saylor.org and/or our discussion forums.