Your Customer Service Skills Checklist

Whether you are managing an online business or a brick and mortar store, customer service is a vital aspect of your business. When a customer has a concern, you need to address it if you want to get and/or keep their business. Great customer service is the lifeblood of any business.

Whether by phone, live chat, social media, email, text, or other communication channels, more than 60% of Americans have reached out to a customer service department in one form or another. Unfortunately, good customer service is not always easy to provide. US companies lose $6.2 billion a year due to poor customer service.

In order to deliver a top-notch customer experience, you need to hire people with excellent customer service skills. Customers expect a lot from your business. Good customer service translates not only to happy and satisfied customers but also increased profit. Statistics reveal that 68% of customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer support.

If you want more customers for your business, invest in people who can serve as the frontline for your organization and deal with your customers. In this article, we shall delve into the following topics:

1. Why is Customer Service Important?

2. Myths About Customer Service

3. Customer Service Skills You Should Possess

4. Tips For Improving Customer Service Skills

 Why is Customer Service Important?

Great customer service offers a wide range of benefits to many organizations. It is often the heart of the business. With excellent customer service, clients will feel valued and respected. Keeping customers satisfied can help you grow your business successfully. With a lot of businesses just like you competing for customers, providing excellent service can help clients stay loyal to your business. Here are some reasons why customer service is important for your business:

Increase Sales

Customer service skills isn’t just about customer retention but also for increasing sales. It’s not only your existing customers that have questions but also your prospects. 52% of customers will abandon online purchases if they cannot find information they are looking for. Customer service is one effective channel for providing customers the information they need when they need it. 

Retain customers  

It is 6 to 7 times more costly to acquire new customers than to retain current ones. Now more than ever, customer satisfaction is vital to your business. If you are managing a small business, skills for customer service are even more important. 68% of customers leave because they are upset with the treatment they received from a company.  That is why delivering good customer service is vital to customer retention.

Opportunities for cross selling and upselling

Your current customers are a good source of business opportunities. Connecting all your support channels and the apps you use to run your business will put everyone in your company on alert about your customers. Support agents can see order histories, open opportunities, and shipping status. Your sales department will know when a customer needs help. By providing customer information, all your employees can become more productive and improve on relationship building. More importantly, it provides opportunities for cross-selling and upselling.

Improve product and service offerings

Regardless of the number of people on your team, they are a crucial link to the outside world. Your agents talk to actual customers on a daily basis. A good customer service application will collect information from various sources. It will give you an idea on how customers interact with your product and any issues they may be having.

Customer service will help you identify modifications that customers would like to see in your product or their pain points. These insights are crucial in driving important product decisions which brings us to the next importance.

Better business decisions

Customer service tools go beyond providing support for customers. They can help you improve every aspect of your business. Data from your help desk will provide you with an insight on agent performance as well as serves as indicators for optimizing your support team. Data from your customer service system will give you important insights for faster, smarter decisions.

Debunking Customer Service Myths

Customer service has its own share of myths and misconceptions that need to be debunked. Many businesses have been implementing these misconceptions which can slow down their ability to grow, provide better service, and earn more profit. In addition, it will also change the way we look at customer complaints and how to better address them. Here now are some of the customer service myths that need to be debunked.

1. Customer is always right

This motto has been propagating in the business world since the 19th and early 20th century. It puts customer satisfaction at the forefront sometimes at the expense of the employee. This motto is built around the concept of trust building.

Of course, this isn’t true all the time. If you side with the customer, you betray your employees, which is your company’s most valuable asset. By viewing that customers are always right, you give employees the notion that they are wrong by default. Not allowing them to apply reason to customers can be demotivating. Chances are they will provide bad service or move on.

 2. AI will replace humans in providing customer support

There’s no doubt about it, artificial intelligence will cause huge changes in the global labor market. Anyone whose tasks can be automated is at risk. We see chatbots slowly being integrated in the workplace. We see them delivering support to customers but only faster at an infinite scale and for a fraction of the cost.

However, the skills used in human interactions such as detecting emotions, understanding context and subtext, knowing when to deviate from the handbook, is hard to replace. AI will never be a match for humans in customer service.

3. Customers always want to talk to real humans

The enduring and frequent attempts to build chatbots that emulate human conversation skills suggest that people prefer human agents over chatbots. Research reveals that consumers’ opinions on chatbots in support is much more nuanced than the question of human vs robot.

In most of today’s industries, people seem to be open to interacting with chatbots as long as the scope of the conversation and the benefit is clear and there is human customer support on hand. However, the need for human interaction will depend on the kind of question as well as the products or services being offered. In industries like financial products or insurance, trust and personal connection are more important.

4. Customers seek personal connections not quick solutions 

While businesses tend to instill onto their customers their own interest in creating a solid bond, customers don’t really seek personal connections. What they want is quick solutions and they don’t want to be treated as statistics.

Speed is a universal virtue in customer service. Most businesses will agree that response time, problem resolution time, and first contact resolution ratio are crucial metrics for assessing the quality of customer service.

5. You need to exceed customer expectations

This myth sits on one end of the spectrum of opinions about what customers expect from their companies. In order to achieve customer satisfaction, you need to exceed their expectations and win them over by going above and beyond all the time.

However, there are those who argue that agents should instead focus on reducing the effort it takes for customers to have their issue resolved. Research on this argument revealed that going above and beyond will only lead to marginally higher customer loyalty compared to meeting needs but costs much more.

6. Jargon makes you legitimate and trustworthy

This is not the case all the time. Jargon can be useful in some situations such as for a specific audience for efficient communication. However, if you misjudge your audience, such special lingo will only increase the threshold for understanding. To be safe, just be professional in your actions and let the customers set the tone.

7. Strict protocols assure high quality of service  

Some businesses define service rules based on their customers’ and their own goals. However, such a strict framework may not apply to individual cases. Such protocols are bound to jam at some point. When this happens, you have no choice but to escalate the issue to your manager. Such a situation can become strenuous for both you and your customer.

Customer Service Skills Agents Should Possess

What does it take to deliver exceptional customer service? Not everyone is cut out to succeed in the customer service field. It is vital for your customers to have a positive experience when talking with your agents. Here are the most important customer service skills your representatives should possess to successfully win customers.

Communication Skills

Communication is one of the most important skills to be effective in customer service. It involves both listening and providing information to customers clearly and effectively. To be successful, you need to be able to adjust to your communication style depending on the medium of communication the customer is using. Communication via email is not the same as communication done over the phone or on social media accounts. Communication skills include the following:

  •       Listening Skills. Some customers are often frustrated and unaware of the precise issue for describing a problem. Customer service agents should be ready to hear them out so they can accurately interpret customer queries.
  •       Patience. Customer service agents should be patient when working with the customer. Your patience will come in handy with customers with low level of knowledge about a product or low computer literacy. You need to be patient and clearly guide them.
  •       Empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand where a customer is coming from and share in their feelings. If you communicate in a way that feels dismissive or uncaring, the customer will notice and get even more frustrated. You need to make the customer feel that you are helping them solve their problem and not as their adversary.
  •       Ability to manage difficult conversations. When you are in customer service, there will be times when you will be involved in tough conversations. There are times when you will be dealing with angry or irate customers, knowing the right words to say will help reassure the customer. You need to be able to stay calm and avoid being swept into an emotional conversation and focus on providing exceptional service.

Organizational Skills

Being organized is another vital customer service skill. Keeping track of the necessary information and tools to be able to help every customer in need. You must devise a way of keeping track of every aspect of customer issues and each interaction and be detail oriented in your approach to finding resolutions. You need to find a way to distribute resources and identify possible improvements to the process to manage tasks as quickly as possible while ensuring quality.

Collaboration Skills

Another skill in customer service you need to become successful at is collaboration. Aside from working with customers, the agent will also collaborate with team members and other departments. For this reason, you need to maintain good relationships with colleagues to ensure a positive working environment and maintain your focus on the work that needs to be done.

When something goes wrong, a successful customer service agent will acknowledge their mistake and take accountability for that mistake. Collaborating with the customer will make a difference in increasing customer satisfaction.

Subject matter expertise  

While many customer service reps are pretty universal regardless of the product or service they are supporting, becoming an expert on a particular item is important. For starters, you should have the technical knowhow and be able to resolve any issues. To be the best, your customer service skills should include intensive knowledge of your product or service.

If you don’t know about your product or service, you won’t be able to serve customers in the best way possible.  Even when a product changes and you wouldn’t be able to provide an answer immediately, your overall knowledge will help them troubleshoot effectively. Although you should not necessarily build the product, you should be able to use it effectively as a customer.

Time Management

Customer service representatives do not have the luxury of time. TIme is the most limited resource that they have so time management skills are vital. Any distractions or interruption will cause you to get flustered or frustrated. It can be tempting to ignore the ringing of the phone or an email. But this can be bad customer service. 83 percent of customers will abandon a purchase or take their business elsewhere if they aren’t served within five minutes. Ensure that you have plenty of time to complete your tasks and provide customer service.

Tips For Improving Customer Service Skills

The good news is that customer service skills can be learned and refined through practice. Here are some tips on how you can improve customer service.

1. Be an active listener  

Customers need to be understood, heard, and served. Approach each conversation as an opportunity to learn something and focus on the speaker. After the customer is done speaking, clarify their concern to make sure that you completely understood what the customer is saying. Then summarize everything to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

2. Practice empathy

While some people may have been born with this trait, empathy can be acquired through practice. When listening to the customer, put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they are feeling. This is one of the most important skills in customer service because they will be receptive if they feel that you understand them. It can also lessen a conflict and make the interaction more enjoyable.

3. Use Positive Language

Customers come to you because they are already frustrated or have an issue with your product or service. By using positive language, you can lessen the stress that the customers are experiencing. Verbs should be used in a positive manner. For example, instead of saying “don’t hit the red button,” say “the green button is the best option.”

Using phrases like “Great question, I’ll find that out for you!” and “I’d love to understand more about…” can keep the customer in the present moment. In addition, when speaking to customers make sure that you are authentic, positive, memorable, calm, and positive if the customer is already irate.

4. Improve your technical skills

Customers deal with various problems and they want fast resolution. If you don’t have proper implementation of a service ticket, you will only be wasting the time of the customer. Before interacting with customers, make sure that you have knowledge of your live chat software and ticketing system and can type fast.

5. Know your products and services

How well do you know your products and services? In order to effectively help your customers, product knowledge is important. Getting to know the product should be included during onboarding so that you will have knowledge of the ins and outs of your product. This way, you can help your customer troubleshoot the product.

6. Look for common ground

Find a channel where you can quickly connect with your customer. Live chat, email, or telephone can be impersonal because you can’t read their facial expressions and body language.

7. Communicate clearly

Communication is one of the most essential customer service skills. If you are speaking to someone with a different native language, it is important to answer their questions in a clear and concise manner in your natural tone. While customers are looking for answers, you don’t have to give the whole detail. Customers want their issues resolved quickly. Always end the conversation with the question, “Is there something else I can do for you today?”

8. Measure and analyze customer feedback  

The best way to assess the quality of your customer service is to ask customers. You can conduct surveys to monitor individual agents as well as team performance. Once you have an idea of the areas you need to improve on, focus on specific skills.

9. Be willing to learn

Just because you may already consider yourself as a seasoned customer service agent doesn’t mean you can’t learn anything new. You must continue improving your skills for customer service and learn from your mistakes. The customer service field is dynamic so you need to keep up with the changes that may come along the way. 

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