10 Essential Customer Service Skills

by Ian Miller

Customer service is one of the most important fields in today's world. Companies and organizations of all kinds have to make sure that the people they serve are well taken care of today because consumers have high expectations due to global commercial culture's insistence on customer care.

This means that those who are planning to train for positions in this field will need sharp customer service skills to get their jobs done.

For those who put in the time and effort to train for these positions, the rewards can be good pay and job security, as well as low physical on the job stress and next to no chance of injury in the work place.

Let's take a look at the most valuable customer service skills so that you can decide which you will need to work on. Remember, even for veterans in this industry, brushing up on skills is always going to be 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 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 Acting 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 you.

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.

These skills can make the difference between getting hired and being told no to a position you really want. Just getting hired isn't enough, though. The real benefits in these careers go to those who are very good at handling people and making sure their needs are met while not costing the company at the same time. Those who have these skills and continue to improve them are bound to enjoy a long and successful career in customer service.

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