We all agree customer service is essential part for any business to succeed and it is something we expect by default from any business regardless of its size. However, how many of us can really think of an experience which we can share with others?

Customer service is hard work, especially if you want to make it truly good, but many of us probably forget that like any other job, great service is created simply by developing a certain set of core skills. These skills can make the difference between an average support rep and one who is exceptional!

Here are six important customer service skills that will encourage loyalty and happiness from your customers. The order of them is not important and each and every skill is just as important as the other.

For some of the skills, tips and examples have been included for how to develop them in your business:

1) Product/Service Knowledge

This might sound obvious but if people are calling/contacting a customer service representative about a product or asking for help than that rep needs to know that product inside out. They are relying on the rep to have excellent knowledge of the product or service. How else could they help the customer if they don’t know the product themselves?

Customers can see through reps that are “blagging” their way through an answer. With this in mind, there could be times where the rep does come stuck with the answer or solution. The wrong thing to do in this case is say;

“I don’t know but ring XXX department who might help you” and upset the customer more (they have already been on hold for so long!)

Instead the best way to respond is to say;

“Let me speak to my colleague about this matter and get back to you as soon as possible and I will personally aim to get this resolved for you.”

Customers appreciate honesty and can see that the representative is making an effort to find a solution/answer.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”

Albert Einstein

2) Able to Empathise

Each customer service representative needs to think like a customer. They can ask themselves when they have chatted to a customer support agent, has it felt like they’re chatting to a robot rather than getting support from an actual human being? How did that leave them feeling?

Now they need to think back to a different time when they have spoken to someone who has shown a genuine interest in getting to know what the concern is. They then get that feeling that customer support agent have “gone out of their way” to help the customer (although they have just been doing their job!)

That warm and genuine feeling is what we mean by empathy. Great support feels human because it feels like the support agent genuinely understands you rather than giving you robotic, generic statements.

Empathy isn’t just something a person has in their nature. It can be learned and improved, just like any other skill.

It can be difficult to help customers who are lost in emotions and feel angry and upset about a situation, which is why they are ringing/contacting customer service in the first place.

So for customer support agents it is sometimes about diffusing the situation and making it go from being a list of complaints to a state of negotiation. In this instance, here are some tips to try:

  1. Learn to listen actively to customers when they are speaking. Pay attention to the details as to why customers are angry. Often a customer may be angry at the lack of attention from a previous agent rather than actually having an issue with the product or service.
  2. Apologise to the customer and relate that you understand why they are upset. Simple phrases such as, “I’m sorry that happened to you,” and “I’d be upset too if that happened to me,” is often all that you need to convey to customers that you are on their side and calm the situation down.
  3. Express a sincere desire to help. “Let me see what I can do,” or “we’ll get things straightened out for you,” are simple ways to let the customer know you will do what you can to resolve the issue.

Practicing the skill of empathy does become easier-it is all about stepping in their shoes. You’ll then be able to gain customer loyalty with every interaction that takes place.

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.”

Meryl Streep

3) Being Professional and Using Positive Language

Ok, so they are two skills but they both go hand in hand with each other. All customer service interactions should be positive and it’s not just about your sunny disposition! It is about using the right language when dealing with customers and remaining professional with them even if the customer is being angry on the other side or asking a barrage of questions!

Going back to what has been written before; step into the customer’s shoes – what would you not like to hear from a customer service agent, this will make it easier for you to understand what reaction it may cause in customers.

Phrases such as;

  • “We don’t have it.” 
  • “I can’t help you with that.”
  • “Ring this other department.”

Doesn’t bode well with customers so avoid using them. Using the right language is so important in customer service.

Here are some examples of positive phrases you could use instead of ones that provide a negative tone:

Negative: “We don’t have that product/service.”

Positive: “Although that product isn’t available right now, we have something that is similar.”

Negative: “Don’t be rude. Calm down please.”

Positive: “I can understand how frustrated you are. I would be too.”

Negative: “I can’t help you with the solution.”

Positive: “Let me contact a team member of mine who can help me resolve this solution for you. “

A friendly manner is important in all situations and can reassure the customers of the professionalism of the business as a whole.

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Mark Twain

4) Having Patience

We all know customer service can be stressful and challenging at times.

Going back to the previous skill, in order to remain positive and professional, you may need patience at times. There may be times the customers will become irate. Other times customers will demand more of your time than others. It might just be that things will just be difficult for you to handle. Whatever the problem, the worst thing to do is to “lose your rag!”

So when dealing with those confused, frustrated and angry customers, in such situations patience really is a real virtue in order to calm them down.

Patience is one of the toughest skills to develop, yet one of the most valuable assets you’ll have as a customer service representative. It’s important to remember that if that customer is frustrated or angry, it’s not necessarily at you so learning to separate your feelings from the situation will help you to realise not to take things personally.

“Patience is a key element of success.”

Bill Gates

5) Communicating Clearly

Being clear with your customers with instructions or resolutions is not just about feeling of accomplishment; it can also provide a huge influence on your bottom line.

The ability to communicate clearly and effectively verbally (i.e. not mumbling!) and written (having good spelling and grammar skills) is really essential.

Having clarity in the first place avoids misunderstandings and unwanted consequences such as loss of a sale in the product/service.  When it comes to raising important points to the customers, you need to communicate things clearly, simply and leave nothing for them to doubt.

Here are some tips on good communication skills:

-Say just enough – don’t talk too much or too little. Try to deliver your message in as few words as possible.

-Say what you want clearly and directly, whether you’re speaking to someone in person, on the phone, or via email. If you ramble on or become too technical for them, your customer will either lose interest or will be unsure of the point you are making.

-Think about what you want to say before you say it; this will help you to avoid confusing your customers.

“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them…”

Buddha

6)  Consider Customer Feedback

As a customer service representative your customers are a vital part of the business to success so their feedback is crucial in order for you to see what you are doing right and where you need to develop.

To make sure that you learn about the good, the bad and the ugly experiences that your customers have, provide them with an easy way for them to give feedback. This could be a phone survey at the end of a call, an email/instant messaging survey sent directly to the customer after the call/chat or a feedback form on the “Contact Us” page of your website. By doing this you can avoid dissatisfied customers voicing their concerns on social media pages that are visible to the public.

Not only will you discover areas that need improvement, but your customers will see that are making an effort to provide an excellent and professional customer service.

“If you build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”

Jeff Bezoz, Amazon

Final Point

How you treat your customers will make a difference between a loyal returning customer and an unhappy customer who could possibly leave a negative impact on your organisation and take their custom elsewhere. Satisfied customers may, through word of mouth become “ambassadors” for your organisation and are highly likely to use your services again as well as recommending it to others.

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