Regardless of the industry, customer service skills are a must in order to effectively close out a sale. Nowadays, we see a new breed of customers who demand a lot from customer service teams. A Zendesk study revealed that 84% of customers say that customer service can influence their purchase decision. In addition, 59% of customers will give up on a company after several bad experiences.
A successful sale starts with effective customer service skills. Without these skills, it would be difficult to close a deal or deliver excellent service. Great customer service can help boost conversion rate. It can transform an angry customer into a loyal brand customer. In this article, we look at the customer service skills every rep or agent should possess to become successful in their career.
10 Key Customer Service Skills
- Problem-Solving Skills
- Communication Skills
- Active Listening
- Positive Attitude
- Time Management
- Product and Service Knowledge
- Willingness To Go The Extra Mile
- Persuasion Skills
Let’s break each one down.
10 Key Customer Service Skills
Delivering great customer service is the key to the success of any business. Most customers now believe that customer service will be what will set a company apart from the competition. According to Oberlo, 81% of customers say that a positive customer service experience increases their chances of making a purchase. With that in mind, let us take a look at the most important customer service skills every agent needs to succeed in their career.
1. Problem-Solving Skills
Excellent customer service is all about problem-solving. When customers reach out to your customer service, they want their issues to be resolved. As an agent, your main task is to find a solution to the problem presented to you. 64% of customers are not able to get help or solve their problems through customer service. Being able to fix a problem is one of the most important customer service skills. It can make a difference between converting a customer or losing one. To boost your problem-solving skills, do the following:
- Acknowledge the problem at hand
- Take a step back
- Look for feasible, acceptable, and simple solutions
- Choose the most appropriate option
When resolving customer issues, get to the heart of the problem. It is not enough to provide them with solutions. You need to make sure that the solution actually worked. If it did not work, then find another solution to the problem. The circle does not stop until the problem of the customer has been effectively resolved.
Problem-solving may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it could make a huge difference between a less satisfactory result and one that they could be happy about. You need to figure out why they are experiencing the problem and how you can fix it. Just make sure that you document the results and share them with your team so they could learn from your success.
Empathy means putting yourself in the shoes of customers. It was once considered the default customer service skill. In order to deliver effective customer service, you need to understand them so that you will be able to come up with the best solution to their problem. Empathy puts a human side to customer service. After all, we should treat customers as human beings and not just another stat in your spreadsheet.
Unfortunately, many businesses have forgotten how to be empathetic because they have been focused on numbers and figures. This is confirmed by a study conducted by PwC which revealed that 59% of consumers feel that companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience. Seeing things from the customer’s perspective helps you understand their specific concerns. Whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone, or other forms of customer interaction, you need to be able to demonstrate a genuine, caring, and concerned attitude.
Empathy means being able to read cues and anticipate what customers need. Empathy can be very much applicable to irate and frustrated customers. You need to show them that you care so that they will calm down and relax. Considering that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, it is high time that you give importance to empathy as a customer service skill.
3. Communication Skills
Customer service reps must be able to present solutions to a problem in a clear and concise manner. How can you help resolve the issue at hand if you are not able to communicate clearly? Effective communication skills mean speaking the language of the customer. As much as possible, avoid using jargon. Not all customers understand technical terms. Try to resolve their issues using layman’s terms.
As a customer service rep, you serve as a front liner for problem-solving. You will be the voice of your company. It is important for you to have a grasp of how to reduce complex terms into easily understood terms. Clear communication is important to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication. Effective communication involves more than just the words you say but also the non-verbal such as body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and others.
Just how important are good communication skills? Well, 30% of people suffered from poor customer experience due to communication issues. In addition, 12% of people have lost customers to competitors due to communication issues. Good communication skills mean being able to offer an alternative solution if your point is not getting across to the customer.
4. Active Listening
Being a good listener is an important customer service skill. You might hear the same problem from the customer over and over again but you still need to hear them out. Active listening goes beyond hearing what the customer has to say. It involves understanding both what is being said and what is left unsaid. Most of the time, the latter is more important. Effective listening means being cognizant of what the customer is not saying and the manner they are saying it.
It is not enough that you turn up the volume of your headset to effectively hear what your customer is saying. With active listening, you will be able to respond in a way that will make them feel heard. There are two possible outcomes for every conversation:
- You can correctly interpret what the customer is trying to say so you can completely understand their concern.
- You can misinterpret what the customer is trying to say so that they will be understood.
Using verbal cues, paraphrasing, clarifying questions, and taking down notes are effective ways of being an active listener. Oftentimes just simply rephrasing the issue in your own words and asking the customer if that sounds right is enough to make them feel that you care and understand them.
5. Positive Attitude
Having a positive attitude is very important for customer service. You will be dealing with different types of clients so it can become easy for you to become frustrated. Having a positive outlook can rub off on an irate customer and your colleagues alike. Your positive attitude will come across in all forms of communication be it verbal, textual, visual, and non-verbal. When under pressure, a positive attitude can have a calming effect on the entire situation.
A positive attitude can help calm down an angry customer and change their perspective. This can make finding a solution much easier. On the other hand, a negative attitude can drive away customers and could hurt the reputation of your business in the long run. When your day is turning out bad because you have not closed a deal yet, you should stay positive because there will be more calls that will come.
No matter how angry or frustrated your customers are, you need to stay positive. You can demonstrate empathy but you also need to be upbeat. Steer the conversation towards a positive outcome using positive language. Focus on the solution and try to always meet the customers where they are. Stay calm and find out the reasons why they might be upset.
Another important customer service skill is patience. It can be easy to get frustrated in the face of adversity. Customers will come to you to talk about their concerns and seek solutions to them. Most of the time they will come to you angry, resentful, or rude. As a customer service rep, getting shouted at is part of your daily job.
Staying cool, calm, and collected when conversing with an irate customer is key to delivering great customer service. Impatience can make doing hard things even harder. In addition, it can impede your enjoyment of life. Being patient means realizing that the customer’s anger has nothing to do with you. Whatever the customer is going through, you have the chance to turn things around for them.
By being patient, you are less likely to get irked when interacting with a frustrating customer. Your patience will help keep you from taking things personally and diffuse tense situations with angry customers. This is important in identifying and resolving issues. An agitated customer will only become even more frustrated by your impatience. Patience, on the other hand, will help you stay in control when the customer starts panicking.
7. Time Management
As a customer service representative, you may be wishing that you have more time at your disposal for resolving customer issues. Unfortunately, it is something that our customers don’t have the luxury of. When they get in touch with you, they want their issues to be resolved as quickly as possible. 83% of online shoppers will abandon a purchase if they are not helped within five minutes. Delaying customer service for a few minutes could prove costly to your organization.
Immediately responding to a customer query can be difficult especially if you are dealing with a difficult call. According to an HBR study, the percentage of difficult calls has more than doubled from a typical 10% to more than 20%. This could lead to longer calls and poor time management. For this reason, they could be easily tempted to delay a response.
Instead of delaying a response, address the concern of the customer as quickly as possible. Streamline your system to ensure quick and easy reporting. Ensure that you have the right time management tools and technology. Optimize conversation timings with customers. Yes, you need to build rapport with your customers but you also need to be productive.
8. Product and Service Knowledge
Product and service knowledge is another important skill for delivering effective customer service. In the first place, how can you resolve customer issues if you do not know how the product or service you are selling works? Research reveals that customer service reps with strong brand expertise sell 87% more compared to their peers without. In addition, 50% of customers are looking for expert advice on what to buy when entering a store.
Another survey revealed that 70% of customers are annoyed when they are transferred to a representative who can’t help or is wrong. Product knowledge does not only help reps troubleshoot customer problems but also helps them get the most from their product. In addition, product knowledge helps boost buyer confidence when purchasing. As a result, it increases customer loyalty.
Product and service knowledge should be included in your employee training. It is important for your reps to give accurate and up-to-date product and service information. Being able to provide answers to product queries plays a huge part in meeting customer expectations. Your reps should be prepared to provide the appropriate answer.
9. Willingness To Go The Extra Mile
Sometimes, in order to deliver excellent customer service, you need to go the extra mile. This means going above and beyond basic customer expectations. It is putting the “wow” to customer service. It means trying a little harder and going above the norm. Going the extra mile saves the time and money of customers so that they will not have to call customer service again. It means ensuring that all their questions are answered.
When you go the extra mile, you take responsibility for things that were not even your fault. A willingness to go the extra mile can be seen in a salesperson ensuring that customers make the right selection or answering all questions so they won’t need to call back. It means knowing what the customer needs before they know it themselves. Going the extra mile means looking for the best interest of the customer.
Let us say that you promised a customer that the item they ordered will reach them in 2 business days. However, a natural disaster caused the delay of delivery. Although it is not your fault, you can go the extra mile by taking steps to mitigate their inconvenience. You can send them a free gift, cancel their shipping fees, or offer them a discount on their next purchase.
10. Persuasion Skills
Some customers will accept your solution immediately while others will still need alot of convincing. This is where your persuasion skills will come in handy. Being persuasive when interacting with customers is not always necessary but it pays to have this skill when you need it.
Persuasiveness in customer service means not letting potential customers slip away because you were not able to convince them that your product is worth purchasing. The key to effective persuasion is being able to hold your ground but without being overbearing. Not everyone has good persuasion skills but it can be mastered through constant practice.
Effective persuasion skills are not about misleading a customer but about drawing their attention toward the value of your product. Keep in mind that there should be a fine line between persuasion and excessive badgering. Good persuasive skills will never allow a discussion to get to the stage of argument. You should never let the customer become resentful or you could lose their business permanently.
As the battle shifts to customer experience, possessing these customer service skills can go a long way in keeping the business of your customer or losing it to the competition. These customer service skills can be learned and developed through constant practice.
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