Customer service skills are part of nearly every position that you will ever be assigned, even if it is not overt or obvious. Believe it or not, almost all of these are skills that can benefit you in your daily life as well. We’ve gathered together the top 20 crucial skills customer service skills that you will need to be successful in both your career and your life. Though numbered, these are in no particular order because each skill is just as important as the others on this list.
Table of Contents
Dealing with irate or angry customers is almost unavoidable. The key to surviving these encounters is patience. Let the customer vent their anger or irritation while making sure to listen to their complaints. Once they’ve finished their tirade, use the information you’ve gathered to address their complaints and find a solution.
Listening is something that sounds simple, but it requires more than just using your ears to collect sounds. Active listening is one part using your ears and one part using your mind to gather information from the things that are being said. Additionally, you need to learn to gather tidbits of information from the things that your customer is not saying. Those bits may mean the difference between a happy customer and a complaint to corporate.
This ties right in with the previously mentioned active listening skill. You need to be able to communicate clearly with your customers. This means no mumbling! Speak up, and speak clearly. In the same vein, you also need to be able to get your point across concisely. Don’t ramble on about the weather or expect the customer to be interested in your life story, even if it pertains directly to the matter at hand.
A Positive Attitude
Customers react differently depending on your attitude. Try a little experiment next time you have the opportunity. Greet one customer with a smile and a positive attitude. Greet the next with a frown and a negative or apathetic attitude. Do you see the difference in how they react? Even if your customer remains irate, their overall outlook on the situation will be greatly improved by a smile from you.
Have you ever needed to return an item because it was defective or a piece of clothing because you purchased the wrong size? How did you feel when you approached the return counter? Most people will feel a variety of negative emotions ranging from embarrassment to anger. Try to understand how your customer is feeling and strive to show empathy for their situation. Everyone has been there once or twice, and if your customers know that you understand how they’re feeling, they’re more likely to approach the entire transaction with a more positive outlook.
Even if the issue that brings the customer to you is not your fault, it will look a lot better if you take responsibility for the situation. Sometimes, a simple I’m sorry is enough, where in other cases the customer will only be satisfied by coupons or free products. It doesn’t matter what the problem was or if it was even the fault of your company in the first place. If your warehouse is sending out faulty or defective products, calling the warehouse or the appropriate corporate office member is a gesture of good faith on your part and can help to ensure that your customer will return, even after the trouble of dealing with a defective product.
Never lose your sense of humor. Not only will it help to keep you sane, but it can help to break the tension in a situation. A silly joke can help to add a more positive spin to any negative situation but use discretion. One customer might appreciate a bit of silliness while another might find it offensive that you are laughing during what they perceive as a serious situation. And no matter what they do, make sure you never laugh AT your customer. You will get the occasional customer that says or does something ridiculous, it is inevitable. Make sure you wait until they have left before you start chuckling.
Nothing wins over a customer more than confidence. You are sure of yourself and your ability to fix any situation that a customer might bring to your attention. Begin your sentences strongly, and never use words like “um” or “I don’t know”. If you really don’t know the answer to a question, choose phrases like “Let me consult with one of my colleagues.” This simple sentence helps to convey that you know what you’re talking about, even if you don’t actually know the answer to the questions that the customer is asking you.
No matter what the situation is, there is no reason to let the customer walk all over you. You need to be able to take control of any situation without being rude to the customer. Assert your control at the beginning of any encounter with a customer and you will not need to try and take control later on. Taking back control of a situation is infinitely harder than just being in control in the first place.
Specifically attention to detail. This could be as simple as remembering a customer’s name and regular order, or as complex as retaining all of the information concerning a more complicated ordeal. A little bit of attention to detail can show your customers that you are, in fact, paying attention to their concerns and problems. This can go a long way toward building a stable customer/business relationship. People will be more likely to frequent your business if you show them that you pay attention to the things that concern them.
This doesn’t necessarily apply directly to your associations with your customers, but a good display of leadership can help to increase customer confidence. This doesn’t include bossing your subordinates around or anything of the sort. Instead, show good examples of direction, delegation, and other leadership qualities. If your employees or team members respect you and show confidence in you, then your customers will as well.
This is an important skill to learn for every aspect of your life, not just those times when it applies to customer service. There is nothing more damaging to your customer’s confidence then watching you running around like a headless chicken trying to keep up with all of your responsibilities. Proper time management is essential to the smooth operation of your business. If it helps, write a schedule or use a reminder or alarm on your smartphone to keep you on track, even when everything else starts to derail.
Be knowledgeable about the products and/or services that you offer. You should be able to answer all but the most obscure or complicated questions without consulting a coworker or an informational text. The more you know about your company, its inner workings and its policies, the easier it will be for you to maintain a good relationship with your customer. No one wants to wait for you to find an answer or to call them back later once you have done so.
Today’s consumer world is built around the concept of instant gratification. Even online ordering services like Amazon are beginning to implement programs that would allow their customers to pay for drone delivery, rather than waiting the 1-2 days to have their product delivered via traditional means. Be as prompt as possible in all of your dealings with your customers. Answer questions quickly, and if you have to contact a customer after you have found an answer, do so as promptly as possible.
Never. Lie. To your customers. There is no plainer way for us to put this. The internet is both a tool and a torture device for the modern company. If you lie to your customers, even over something small like a back-ordered item, they will find out and they will find a way to punish you for it. Review sites like Yelp can actually lead to the closing of small businesses if enough bad reviews are allowed to accumulate. Be honest at all times with your customers.
When you went into customer service, you probably never considered acting as one of the necessary skills, but you will find yourself in situations where no matter what you do, it is just impossible to make your customer happy. There are plenty of people who come in and complain for the sole purpose of bringing other people down. Even if they have managed to negatively affect your mood, you can never let them see that. Use your superb and highly developed acting skills to put on the appearance of a happy and well-adjusted customer service representative. If they can see how they affect you, they’ll be back just to torture you some more. Break down once they leave if necessary, but never let them see you sweat.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need the necessary skills to close a sale. Instead, you need the ability to close a case with your customer or end a conversation with them in such a way that they are sure that their problem has been solved. Don’t just walk away and leave them hanging, or expect someone else to help you conclude the situation. This customer approached you for a solution to his or her problem, and you should expect to see the situation through to the end. The only exception to this rule is if you are handed an issue that you cannot solve. There are some problems that just have to be passed up the chain of command.
Learn New Things
There is never a day when you should stop learning new things. Strive to learn as many new things as you can from your coworkers, your management staff, and your customers. Yes, we said from your customers as well. Many of the people you deal with during the course of a day have worked in the same position that you are currently holding, and more than a few are willing to pass on some tidbits of knowledge from their years behind the desk. You may learn a new and more efficient way to handle a given situation that no one at your company may have thought of before.
The art of diplomacy can be difficult to learn but it will ultimately pay off. Basic techniques like negotiation, persuasion, and tact can do a lot to defuse an otherwise volatile situation. Don’t adopt a “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” attitude (with your ‘terrorists’ being angry customers.) Instead, analyze every situation and discover where the application of diplomacy would be prudent. It will not work in every situation, obviously, but it is a skill that is worth having.
Ok, I know we said that none of the skills on this list are more or less important than any other, but that’s not exactly true in this case. The ability to relax and deal with stress is one of the most important customer service skills you will ever learn. Dealing with customers and addressing their problems is one of the most stressful jobs in the industry, and if you don’t deal with that stress properly, it can burn you out. Detach yourself from work completely on your days off. Don’t answer the phone, don’t go to the office, and don’t think about work. (If you’re in a management position, it might be prudent to set up a ‘911’ text code in case there is an emergency that no one else can deal with.) Relax. Don’t let the stresses of work affect the rest of your life.
There you have it, the most crucial customer service skills in the industry. Spend a little time each day just going over each skill. Think about how you can apply it to your daily life, and how you can improve your capabilities with each. It doesn’t take a lot of time, because most of your learning can be done through practical applications. However you choose to learn these skills, anyone who works in customer service should definitely know them all.