A recent study found that Chick-fil-A was beating out other fast food chains by teaching their employees to say two simple words – “please” and “thank you.” Chick-fil-A workers were the politest to their customers, compared to 15 other popular chains including KFC and McDonalds. These top-notch manners have directly translated into increased sales for the restaurant.

The ability to show appreciation to customers, clients and colleagues is a workplace skill that most of us think we have, but very few put it into practice. If there is anything we should learn from Chick-fil-A, it’s that simple manners can go a long way.

Teaching people to show appreciation might seem easy, but it needs to be done the right way. Here are five tips for helping current and future employees learn outstanding customer service skills:

 1. Communication matters

Clear and kind communication is important when we’re dealing with customers. Chick-fil-A taught us that just a couple of small words can change a customer’s opinion. Ensure that information is conveyed in a way that is easy to understand, but not condescending.

Polite communication also extends past the words we choose. Sometimes your actions and body language speak louder than what you’re saying.  Workers should always smile and use a polite tone with customers. Frowning, shrugging, slouching and other negative body language will make customers think that they don’t care, even if the workers are trying to help them.

2. Be adaptable

When you’re trying to teach customer service skills, always tell people to expect the unexpected. Every customer is going to be different, so current and future employees need to know how to read a customer’s mood and adapt their customer service strategy accordingly.

Adaptability is also a willingness to learn from each customer that walks in the door. Customer service is a skill that everyone needs to continuously work on. Every interaction with a customer, even if it’s negative, is an opportunity to learn more.

3. How to handle negativity with grace

Workers are going to face some negativity when working in a customer-facing role. The ability to take the blame and apologize for something (even if it’s not the worker’s fault) is critical. Having a thick skin takes time and experience to develop, but we can teach workers that it’s OK to admit they made a mistake or that they don’t know something.

4. Teach active listening

Listening to a customer’s complaints is just as important as being able to communicate clearly back to them. Sometimes a customer will want to vent their concerns, and the best thing a worker can do is listen. Trying to interrupt a customer or cut them off can make a situation worse, even if the worker is offering a solution.

Active listening will help angry customers feel heard and supported by a worker. We should teach them to say things such as, “I can see why you’re upset.” These phrases show customers that the worker is listening and understands their concern.

5. Practice with real people

The best way to teach people skills is with real people. Role-playing customer service scenarios will be the best way to train workers and have them practice what they’ve learned in real time. Pair them up with other workers and role-play commonly faced scenarios. They’ll be able to learn things with less pressure and apply the feedback they get to actual customers in the future.

Appreciation is one of our Seven Foundational Workplace Skills for a reason. A little appreciation towards customers can make or break a business. Click here to learn more about the rest of our essential workplace skills and how our Bring Your ‘A’ Game curriculum can help your community.