At the heart of great customer service is the
way we interact with our customers. It will come as no surprise
to hear that we don't always get those interactions right. In my opinion,
what is needed is a distinct skill set that can be applied
throughout the service industry.
Based on my experience serving clients,
as well as managing customer-facing teams, I have compiled a
list of essential skills that can be used by anyone who wants to
succeed in the world of customer service.
even for veterans in this industry, brushing up on skills is
a smart idea.
1. The Ability to Listen Closely to Customers
This is the number one skill because, in essence, this is what
the job itself is all about. All other customer service skills
pale in comparison to this particular one because if a customer
service rep is not listening to the customer they are never
going to be able to provide good service. Not only do you need
to be able to hear what they are telling you in terms of sheer
data, you need to be able to try to understand what they mean by
what they are saying. This is one of those customer service
skills that is most often polished over an entire career, but it
begins with a willingness to listen and listen closely.
2. Clear Verbal Communication
Aside from being able to listen, you also need to be able to
communicate verbally with the customer. While written
communication is another of the customer service skills you'll
want to master, it is verbal communication that is most often
used in today's call centers. The purpose of this kind of
communication is to not just repeat a spiel or information to
the customer, but to make sure that they understood what you
said. You will need proper speaking skills, good grammar and the
ability to choose the right mode of speaking for the person on
the other end of the line or across the counter from you.
3. Ability to Empathize
This is an ability that will most likely be honed over time and
it is one of the customer service skills that can actually erode
for some who have been in this industry for a while. You need to
be able to listen and actually involve yourself in what the
customer is telling you about their situation. If you are only
following policy and not listening, you may miss important
special considerations that need to be taken into account in
order for customer service to be kept at a high quality level.
Empathy is sensing and understanding the emotions of others and
of all the customer service skills, some will argue that this is
most important. Those who are good at empathy can often win the
trust of even the most dissatisfied customers because those
customers will feel they have someone on their side at last.
4. Data Entry and Basic Computer Skills
Most of your other skills are about dealing with people, but
some customer service skills are about things you need to do for
the company. In nearly all cases, you will be working with some
sort of computer program that needs you to record data about
your call. It is important that you can type quickly so that
customers do not have to wait and that you understand the basics
of using a computer and software so that you can properly
perform your job.
5. Understanding of Human Psychology
While everyone is certainly different, there are commonalities
among us as human beings. For those who take the time to study
at least some basic psychology, the job of helping people over
the phone is much easier to do. This can often help you defuse
tense situations and anticipate what a customer wants before he
or she verbalizes it. This is one skill that can impress
customers and your superiors alike.
6. Basic Performance Skills
The fact is, sometimes in order to maintain professionalism you
are going to have to put on a mask of friendliness and concern.
This does not mean you are attempting to deceive anyone for a
nefarious purpose, but it is important to know how to do. Even
if a customer is irritating you, it is not appropriate to act
irritated. Basic acting can help you present certain information
in a more cheerful and upbeat tone, make sure your body language
and facial expressions convey what you mean to say and generally
help you get into the mindset you must be in so that you can do
your job well.
7. Ability to Memorize Protocol and Guidelines
Most customer service positions are within companies that have
official ways of handling calls. You will need to be able to not
just look over the rules, but actually internalize them. You
need to understand the guidelines and then use them the way they
are intended. Those who follow the rules best usually end up
working at a company the longest.
8. Time Management Skills
No one appreciates those that waste time. This is a skill you
need for nearly any job, but in customer service those who waste
time keep customers waiting. That's not very good service.
9. Management of Personal Emotions
While you can certainly act the opposite of how you feel, it is
important to deal with your own emotions. If you can learn to
manage your emotions in healthy, productive ways, the stress of
customer service positions will be water off a duck's back to
10. Situation Evaluation and Analysis
Many times, in customer service work, you will encounter a
problem that is not covered in the company's guidelines. When
this happens, you are going to need to evaluate the situation
and decide whether or not you need a supervisor present. One of
the most important customer service skills to have is being able
to decide whether or not a person is being honest or trying to
deceive you. To do this, you have to be able to analyze data
and, preferably, do this quickly.
It is important for employees to remain professional at all
times, even if the customer reacts angrily if they are not happy
with an aspect of the service they have received. Employees
should remain level headed in these situations and continue to
address the customer calmly. A friendly manner is important in
every type of situation and can go a long way to reassuring
customers of the professionalism of the business as a whole.
12. Organizational skills
An important aspect of good customer service is good
organization skills. If the customer is operating to a time
schedule then the ability of the person dealing with that
customer to organize themselves and respond quickly is crucial.
This may involve gathering information from a number of sources
so the employee needs to know exactly where to get each piece of
Being respectful to customers is another key skill. It should go
without saying that simple manners should be used at all times
but other factors that can make the customer feel respected
include addressing them by their title and only using their
first name if they have indicated that this is what they prefer.
Customers should not be interrupted when they are speaking and
the employee should wait until they have finished before
14. Ability to Identify and Anticipate needs
If a good relationship is built up with a customer then this
will enable the employee to offer the customer relevant products
or services that will be of benefit to them. These
recommendations should be based on their past purchases and
knowledge of customer needs.
A slight bending of the rules to meet the needs of the customer
is not necessarily something that should be discouraged.
Customers will appreciate the extra effort that the employee has
gone to and any affect on the business should be minimal.
16. Problem solving
If a customer has a problem then this should be resolved as soon
as possible. The customer should be made to feel that any
concerns that they have are valid and that everything is being
done by the employee in order to solve the problem quickly.
17. Product knowledge
Good product knowledge is important because it will give the
customer confidence in the product and in the company as a
whole. If the customer is experiencing a problem with a
particular product then a good working knowledge of the product
can resolve the problem quickly. Employees will be better placed
to make recommendations to customers about which product will
best suit their needs if they are aware of the different
benefits of a range of products.
18. Teamwork Skills
Teamwork skills are an essential part of giving awesome
service. Like a football team working together to set up the
perfect goal, every one on the team has a specific role to play
in accomplishing tasks on the job. Too often, we only recognize
the one player who makes it to the end zone, but we must
remember that it was made possible by the team's planning,
coordination, and cooperation.
Sometimes, a creative solution to a customer's problem is
needed. A degree of creativity (within company guidelines, of
course!) can be of benefit in these circumstances.
One of the most important aspects of the job is being there
when the customer needs you most. This means turning up for the
job on time, being present during difficult times ad following
up on what you've promised to do.
Utilizing these skills can make the difference between giving
mediocre service or providing truly awesome service. It can also
mean the difference between simply getting hired or securing the
position that you really want.
Take time today to put these skills into practice and watch your customer
service levels soar - and watch your career take off too!
Good Customer Service Skills