Great customer service is vital to all businesses. It’s therefore essential that people employed in customer service roles have the necessary skills.
Customer service involves everybody in your organisation who has contact with your customers, from those who work on the tills in a retail store to those interacting with customers via social media.
Crucially, your staff need to be able to empathize with your customers, to understand their specific concerns and to make all aspects of their interaction with your organization a great experience for them. Excellent customer service will potentially convert an angry customer into a valuable brand advocate. So what are the essential customer service skills needed by your employees?
Ability to Empathize
Any employee engaged in either face-to-face, telephone or other forms of one-to-one customer communications (such as email and social media) must demonstrate a genuine, caring and concerned attitude.
They need to be able to put themselves in the customer’s position in order to understand their issues and their frustrations. Empathy means interacting with customers in a very human way, treating customers like family members and never being dismissive or uncaring.
Be a Great Listener
Some suggest that listening skills are the most important in customer service. These days listening also encompasses non-verbal forms of communication such as email and social media.
Listening is all about accurately and completely hearing and understanding customer messages. It’s not only about what the customer is saying it also includes the way in which they are conveying the message and, importantly, what they are not saying.
Listening skills are so important that many businesses provide listening skills training which is not only good for customer service but also improves internal communications.
Great Communication Skills
Some would say that communication skills include listening skills, but its worthwhile considering both separately.
The ability to communicate clearly and positively in a manner which is understood without the possibility of misinterpretation is vital. And employees need to be skilled in verbal communications, non-verbal (body language, tone of voice, gestures), textual (email and social media) along with visual (imagery, diagrams and video).
Many interactions with customers will involve a combination of these communication techniques so employees need to be skilled in all of them.
Time Management Skills
It is vitally important, for great customer service, to respond quickly and positively to every customer enquiry. These days customers expect an almost instantaneous response, especial online.
So if, for example, you offer a Twitter-based customer service channel you need to ensure that this is highly responsive. The key is to at least acknowledge the customer’s initial communication and let them know how quickly you will respond.
But another important aspect of time management when providing customer service is efficiency. You don’t want you employees to be wasting both their time and the customer’s time.
The ability to respond quickly and deal with customer service enquiries efficiently and satisfactorily are important customer service skills.
Product and Service Knowledge
Your customer’s confidence in your product or service can be adversely affected if they ask a question to which they get the answer ‘I don’t know’.
Customers can become very frustrated and annoyed when they encounter a service agent who lacks the knowledge necessary to help them. The service “wrap” around your service is an increasingly-important differentiator in a heavily-commoditized world.
It is therefore absolutely vital that all members of staff who are likely to be asked product or service related questions are fully trained and able to respond positively.
Staff who are highly knowledgeable and familiar with your products and services will potentially go beyond simply fixing a customers problem. They are able to help your customers make the most of what you have provided, helping to ensure that your customer remains loyal.
Be Patient and Calm
The ability to be patient and remain calm in what can sometimes be very challenging circumstances is a great customer service skill.
The ability to calm-down an agitated, angry customer, identify their issues and then patiently resolve them is very valuable.
Impatience from a customer service representative is guaranteed to upset customers. As previously noted, empathy is essential. So if a customer service representative is dealing with a customer who has, for example, limited computer skills, they must not display impatience at the customer’s inability to use a mouse.
Problem Solving Skills
Most customer service tasks involve some degree of problem solving. They may be very simple, such as where to find a specific resource on your website. Or they may be highly complex requiring detailed product knowledge in order to be able to configure a system to achieve what a client desires.
Problem solving skills involve many of the essential customer service skills already defined. Problem solving starts with the clear identification and definition of the problem. The customer service representative must then be able to determine and evaluate the best solutions and they will often need to do this without consultation with colleagues.
From the identified solutions they need to be able to select the one that’s the best fit for the customer and then implement that solution and verify that it resolved the issue to the satisfaction of the customer.
A positive attitude, in customer service, is probably one of the most vital of all skills. People with positive, optimistic outlooks and attitudes are generally more fun to be around and are more positive in their communications.
A positive, upbeat attitude will help enormously when dealing with challenging, annoying and demanding customers. And a positive attitude should be reflected in all communications, verbal, textual, visual and non-verbal. Negative language and negative, downbeat attitudes will do nothing to instill confidence in a customer so it’s important that all staff in customer service roles develop positive attitudes.
Confidence goes a long way in providing great customer service. A confident customer service representative conveys a positive image of your organisation, conveying authority and trustworthiness. But confidence does not come naturally to everybody, even those with great product knowledge and communication skills.
Helping your staff to develop their confidence through training and positive feedback will make a valuable contribution to the quality of your organisations customer service.
Be Tough, Resilient and Tenacious
Customer service requires that agents deal with the general public who are not always polite, patient, clear or even honest. In some industries, typical customers might be rude, impatient, raise their voices and make casual use of curse words in their communications. If a customer service agent is easily offended then they might become very upset by these interactions.
Your customer service team needs to be resilient and adequately tough to be able to deal with what might sometimes be very upset, irate and angry customers. The ability to remain calm, exercise patience and get to quickly and clearly identify the client’s issue is vital.
Tenacity is a related skill as it is often the case that particularly difficult problems might not be immediately resolved. It may be necessary to escalate an issue for detailed investigation by a technical team which would mean delaying a fix which could make an already unhappy customer event more irritated. The customer service agent must never give up and must tenaciously stick at it until the issue is resolved to the satisfaction of the customer.
Want to improve your customer survey response rates? Customer Thermometer’s 1-click survey will up your feedback game. Send yourself an example: