5 Essential Skills for Providing Great Customer ServiceParker Davis
Have you ever experienced truly exemplary customer service? I bet you’ve never forgotten it if you have. But of all the hundreds of customer service transactions you experience every year, have you ever considered why a particular instance should be quite so distinctive?
Chances are, it’s because the customer service representative you were dealing with showed at least a few, if not all, personal qualities that really set them apart.
The good news? Most of these skills are not just innate and can be developed – given enough experience and attention – with sufficient practice. Here are five suggestions for essential customer service skills to pay particular attention to if you wish to surprise and delight your customers every time.
5 Essential Skills for Providing Great Customer Service
We’ve all heard that patience is a virtue, and never a truer word was said than when it comes to customer service. By the time a customer has resolved to bring an issue to a customer service representative for resolution, they are likely experiencing a myriad of emotions relating to the problems they have experienced using your product or service to date.
Certainly frustration, and possibly also anger and hostility, may be leveled at your customer service staff. Your rep will not only have to maintain professionalism in the face of these emotions but also remain level-headed enough to calmly focus on resolving the issue at hand – no mean feat.
What you’re looking for is someone who can remain smilingly unflappable, courteous and respectful even when the situation is difficult. A person who can keep their cool even when the situation is heated will be worth much more your investment in them in the long run.
For those wanting to delve deeper, read:
- 5 Ways to Increase Your Patience – CNN
- Four Steps to Developing Patience – Psychology Today
- 5 Powerful Ways Leaders Practice Patience – Forbes
Right up there with patience is empathy – and although the two often coincide, they are essentially very different qualities. Patience we have just explored, and refers to the ability to listen to a customer complaint calmly without showing negative emotion in response, even when the situation is difficult. Empathy goes one step further and refers to the ability to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes; to see the situation through their eyes.
The truth is, we’ve all had customer experiences that were less than ideal, and with little effort, most of us can transport ourselves back to that situation and remember the frustration and disappointment it entailed. Heck, many of us are still seething over whatever it was that XYZ Company did in the first place, and telling all and sundry to avoid using their product or service if at all possible.
The best customer service reps can draw on those experiences to truly understand where the customer is coming from and do everything in their power to ensure the interaction is both positive and reassuring for the customer. The customer needs to know they have been heard and that their issues will be addressed promptly.
A customer service rep who can respond with empathy will likely also boost customer satisfaction with customer service interactions, as they will see it as a personal goal to resolve the customer issue to a level that would meet their own high standards.
Keen to know more? Check out:
- 3 Habits That Will Increase Your Empathy – Inc
- Why Empathy Is Your Most Important Skill (and How to Practice It) – LifeHacker
- How to Develop Empathy – Selling Power Magazine
Let’s face it, there’s a certain amount of back story that every customer service rep is going to have to listen to in order to set the context for a customer service issue.
Even if you feel the customer is being overly descriptive, or perhaps providing too much detail about the steps that they have been through to resolve the issue, it’s vital that they feel heard and not hurried, lest they conclude that their issue is not truly important to you.
The key to successful customer service interactions? Active listening.
As every career or life coach will tell you, the hallmark of a great listener is one who follows a few basic rules, as outlined on the MindTools blog.
For a start, it almost goes without saying that you need to pay attention to what the other person is saying – although admittedly, this can be a challenge in itself at times. It helps if you can minimize distractions as far as possible.
Other basics outlined in the article include showing that you’re listening through appropriate non-verbal signals, providing feedback, deferring judgment and responding appropriately.
- 10 Steps to Effective Listening – Forbes
- 5 Ways To Improve Your Listening Skills – Fast Company
- Listen Up! Part II: 15 Techniques to Improve Our Listening– The Art of Manliness
What makes a customer madder than having to waste time calling to resolve an issue related to your product or service? Having to call back twice.
If you are going to go to the necessary trouble of carefully selecting your future hires based on their potential to go the extra mile with customers, make sure they have a liberal dose of attention to detail and sense of responsibility sprinkled into the mix.
Recruiting for these two qualities will help ensure that your hire overseas customer complaints from beginning to end, and doesn’t just spend their time playing cubicle tennis trying to lob the complaint onto someone else’s desk.
For more ideas on developing skills in following through, refer to:
- 5 Steps To Follow Through On Everything – Fast Company
- Your Problem Isn’t Motivation – Harvard Business Review
- Improve Follow-Through Skills to Increase Project Successes – Tech Republic
Most of the truly great customer service case studies out there are based on the example of a customer service rep who went above and beyond what was typically expected in fulfilling their line of duty.
Typically, not only did they inject their personality into the equation, but they commonly dug a little deeper to come up with a truly unique solution.
Word of mouth spreads fast, and most people will already have heard one if not all of the most famous stories. Have a look at this Helpscout post for some particularly heart-warming examples.
What’s particularly important here as the owner or manager of a business is that you empower your customer service reps to deliver truly amazing service by enabling them to go off the script every now and then, and set some clearly understood parameters about when it’s ok versus not ok to do so.
Inspired? Dive a little deeper with these articles:
- Why Your Company Needs Proactive Customer Service – Maximizer
- How to Deliver Proactive Customer Service – by the Provide Support blog
- 3 Tips for Offering Proactive (Instead of Reactive) Customer Service – Shep Hyken
Liked the coverage of the essential customer service skills your customer representatives need to skyrocket their way to glowing customer reviews and viral, word-of-mouth promotion? If so, let us know in the comments below!