3 Must-Have Customer Service Skills


Have you ever had such a great customer service experience that you thought, “Wow, that support rep has mad skills.” Nobody? OK, maybe just me then.

The reality is customers rarely (if ever) notice individual skills in customer service. What they remember is how they felt about the interaction.

Over the years working in sales, I’ve been on the receiving end of feedback from thousands of customers regarding service, especially new customers whose service level expectations fall short of reality. In my opinion, there are only a handful of customer service skills that really make the difference between an average customer support professional, and one who makes customers feel amazing about the help they received.

 3 Tips for Awesome Customer Service Skills

So, here are a few tactics ‘stolen’ from sales that are essential for customer happiness, along with examples for how to develop those customer service skills across your team.

1.  Stay positive
I’m not necessarily referring to a Customer Service Representative’s (CSR) attitude here (although that’s always important), rather the language used. Whether it’s good news, bad news, or simply passing on information, your choice of words will have a significant effect on the way the customer interprets what you’re saying, and the way they feel and react to it. Here are a few examples of negative language to steer clear of when communicating with customers:

  • “Unfortunately…”
    Translates to: “Mr. Customer, I’m about to tell you something you probably won’t like very much.”
  • “As you know…”
    Translates to: “Mr. Customer, I’m putting you in your place, and confirming your worst suspicions.”
  • “I’m afraid that…”
    Just like “As you know,” this one always comes before bad news.

For example, the next time a customer asks for something you can’t provide, instead of responding, “Thanks for your message, but unfortunately that feature is not available,” try responding with, “We really appreciate you writing in! Regrettably, we don’ have that feature available at this time.” Or let’s say a customer contacts you about a particular product that happens to be backordered until next month, instead of “I can’t get you that product until next month; it’s back-ordered and unavailable,” try with positive language like “That product will actually be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and ensure it’s sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse.”

It’s subtle for sure, however, tiny changes in phrasing can lead to dramatic results in the way your communication feels to customers.

2.  Listen actively
In a nutshell, a CSR’s job is to listen to a customer’s problem, accurately assess the issue and find the best possible solution. However, the ability to actively listen does not come naturally to everyone — active listening skills develop over time. Here are a few tips to help CSRs improve their customer service skills with active listening:

  • Avoid distractions
    Tune out any and all forms of distraction that would cause you to shift your focus from the customer you are assisting.
  • Paraphrase what the customer said
    By paraphrasing you’re able to communicate to the customer that you are genuinely concerned and willing to assist by making sure that you understand exactly what they’re saying. You’re are able to pinpoint the main problem and provide the necessary support within a short period of time.
  • Ask questions
    Apart from being able to paraphrase what the customer is saying, it’s also important to ask the right questions to make sure that the entire concern of the customer is understood and addressed. Asking the right questions helps you fully understand the customer’s needs and, in turn, helps you in find the best solution for them.

3.  Accept responsibility
Customers want problem resolution — not blame and excuses. Keep your words focused on solutions rather than blaming your company, colleagues or technology. Reassure your customer by saying, “Let me see what I can do for you.”

One of the best ways to indicate to a customer that you’re accepting responsibility is a tactic learned from sales – to make sure that you always “close” a conversation. This has nothing to do with closing a sale, and everything to do with making sure the conversation with a customer is complete. Proactively ensuring that a customer is leaving perfectly happy in every communication shows the customer that you care about getting it right, willing to keep going until you get it right, and allows the customer to determine what “right” is.

Try ending your conversation with a phrase such as, “Excellent! I’m glad we were able to get that sorted out for you. Before you go, was there anything else I could assist you with today? I’m happy to help.”

Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who will walk away with another problem on their mind if they aren’t asked about it. Adding, “I’m happy to help” is a very small gesture you can make that has a big impact: it shows the customer that asking for another favor isn’t being a burden; in fact, you’d be happy to do it.

 Make the Difference: Offer Excellent Customer Service Skills

Over the years, customers have been beaten down into assuming they’ll always get mediocre service, and are often defensive before anyone even answers the phone. When they call, e-mail or chat online with a company representative, they expect boilerplate, robotic responses to their inquiries.

Break the bad rap with 3 must-have customer service skills:  positive language, active listening, and accepting responsibility. You’ll change the entire tone of every customer interaction.

Diana Eagen

Diana Eagen joined Esker in February 2012. As Sales Director, she has responsibility for sales and customer development for Esker US. Diana has 20 years of experience working for various software companies, and specializes in solving business problems utilizing cloud based, software-as-a-service solutions.

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