There are two essential ingredients for business success: a great product line, and great customer service. Providing stellar customer service isn’t always easy, however.
In this article, we discuss the essential customer skills needed to provide excellent customer service, based on years of customer surveys, feedback forms and market research.
What Are Customer Service Skills?
Customer service skills are the set of skills needed in order to communicate effectively with customers, troubleshoot issues, and resolve complaints. The end goal of these skills is to ensure customer satisfaction and therefore provide good customer service.
Customer service skills can be divided into three main groups:
- Effective communication
- Problem solving
- Conflict resolution
Why Are Customer Service Skills Important?
Customer service skills are critical for any business due to the following reasons:
1. It improves customer satisfaction
A customer may not be satisfied with the product, but good customer service can make up for the shortfall.
2. It increases the chances of repeat business
It’s easier and less expensive to retain existing customers than to attract a new one. In addition, you can upsell to loyal customers
3. It enhances brand reputation
A satisfied customer is more likely to recommend your brand. This is very important in the age of social media, online reviews, and word of mouth marketing.
4. It reduces complaints and resolution time
Tickets are reduced or solved more efficiently, and your CS team spends less time resolving individual complaints.
5. It upgrades your CS team
A competent set of skills means you have a well-functioning and highly oiled customer service department. By adhering to a set of standards, all team members are continuously challenged to meet these skills so as not to let down the team.
7 Important Customer Service Skills
Let’s look at the essential customer service skills, based on three categories.
✔ Clear and effective speaking
According to a Salesforce survey, 33% of customers say that effective communication is the most important skill to have for a customer service agent. Good speaking or writing (in the case of live chat) ability is the first step to interacting with the customer, and poor word choices, mumbling, or lack of clear communication can hinder that interaction.
This is why the call center industry spends billions on communications training each year, and why your own agents should possess excellent oral and writing skills.
✔ Persuasive speaking
While persuasion is usually seen as an important sales skill, it also does wonders for customer service. A compelling speaker can turn an irate customer into a brand ambassador, and encourage repeat business or upselling.
Of course, the gift of gab can only go so far. It has to be backed up by substance. The CS agent should be knowledgeable with common issues, troubleshooting solutions, and other factors related to the company’s products and services. Based on a Hubspot survey, 90% of customers consider an “immediate” response within 10 minutes to be essential when they have a customer service question.
This is where a knowledge base comes in handy. It allows agents to look up issues in the database and access solutions and remedies quickly and efficiently, for a seamless interaction. This not only improves customer satisfaction, it increases job satisfaction on the part of the agent too.
This is when the issue faced by the customer isn’t well-defined or covered by the knowledge base. A good CS rep should be able to think on the fly and come up with alternative methods for troubleshooting, instead of blindly escalating the issue up the chain. A Zendesk study found that 70% of customers believe teams should collaborate on their behalf so they won’t have to repeat their issue to different CS representatives.
✔ Time management
Businesses need to balance resolving individual issues and managing them at scale. Time management allows agents to efficiently solve a customer ticket and move on to the next one. Making customers wait or building up a queue is bad for business: Roughly 60% of customers report that long holds and wait times are the most aggravating part of the customer service experience.
Being able to project compassion and place themselves in the shoes of the customer is an important skill in calming angry callers. In a PwC survey, 64% of US consumers feel brands have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience.
✔ Patience and the Ability to take criticism
No one calls the customer helpline to say “job well done”. Nearly 100% of the time, it will be for a negative experience, to seek help with an issue or to voice complaints. The ideal CS agent needs to have a thick hide and be able to take criticism as part of the job. This applies to criticism from customers, as well as mentors.
Likewise, the capacity to stay patient in the face of hostility is invaluable. Keeping cool is a requirement in customer service, and this skill affects both the customer’s satisfaction as well as the agent’s own job satisfaction and longevity with the company.
What If An Individual On Your Team Lacks These Skills?
There are several ways to address skill gaps, based on their respective categories:
- Ensure that your CS hiring process is updated and on-point to filter out poor communicators.
- For existing agents, implement regular communications sessions to improve speaking and chatting abilities and keep them on their toes.
- Use an internal knowledge base to allow agents to quickly and efficiently search for solutions.
- A customer knowledge base can also allow customers to search for solutions on their own, and adds another service channel to your customer service.
- Keep agents updated on the latest issues and concerns, and their respective troubleshooting guides.
- Practice coaching and mentoring to develop empathy and patience.
- Implement a strict QA to ensure that all calls are resolved satisfactorily.
- Foster a culture of constructive criticism so that everyone on the team can handle being criticized and learns to take it professionally instead of personally.