There are certain customer service skills that every employee must master if they are forward-facing with customers.
Without them, you run the risk of finding your business in an embarrassing customer service train-wreck, or you’ll simply lose customers as your service continues to let people down.
Luckily, there are a few universal skills that every support member can master that will dramatically improve their conversations with customers.
Below we’ll cover the 16 most-needed skills to master this incredibly important position.
The customer service skills that matter
When most business publications talk about excellent customer service skills, things like “being a people person” tend to take the spotlight.
It’s not that this trait is outright wrong, but it’s so vague and generic that it’s hardly a help to anyone looking to get involved in support positions within a company, and it certainly doesn’t help out entrepreneurs/founders who are looking for the right set of skills when hiring the all-important folks who will be taking care of their customers.
With that said, let’s get into some specific skills that every support employee can master to “WOW” the customers that they interact with on a daily basis…
Not only is patience important to customers, who often reach out to support when they are confused and frustrated, but it’s also important to the business at large: we’ve shown you before that great service beats fast service every single time.
Yet patience shouldn’t be used as an excuse for slothful service either!
Derek Sivers explained his view on “slower” service as being an interaction where the time spent with the customer was used to better understand their problems and needs from the company.
If you deal with customers on a daily basis, be sure to stay patient when they come to you stumped and frustrated, but also be sure to take the time to truly figure out what they want — they’d rather get competent service than be rushed out the door!
Earlier I went over a few customer feedback systems, and before that I showed you the data on why listening to customer feedback is a must for many businesses who are looking to innovate.
Not only is it important to pay attention to individual customer experience (watching the language/terms that they use to describe their problems), but it’s also important to be mindful and attentive to the feedback that you receive at large.
For instance, customers may not be saying it outright, but perhaps there is a pervasive feeling that your software’s dashboard isn’t laid out correctly. Customers aren’t likely to say, “Please improve your UX!,” but they may say things like, “I can never find the search feature,” or, “Where is the _ function at again?”
What are your customers telling you without saying it?
More importantly, you need to be cautious about how some of your communication habits translate to customers, and it’s best to err on the side of caution whenever you find yourself questioning a situation.
An example: The last time I went to get work done on my car, I was told by an employee that if I wanted to get an oil change, it would be “included” in my final bill.
I thought that meant I’d be getting it for free, yet as it turns out, that wasn’t the case. The employee apologized and I truly believe it was an accident (they just worked there), but I haven’t been back to that shop since because of the miscommunication.
When it comes to important points that you need to relay clearly to customers, keep it simple and leave nothing to doubt.
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It’s not that every single team member should be able to build your product from scratch, but rather they should know the ins and outs of how your product works, just like a customer who uses it every day would. Every new Help Scout employee, for example, is trained on customer support during their first or second week on the job — it’s a critical component of our employee onboarding process.
Knowing the product that you support inside and out is mission critical for anyone in support,” says Help Scout support team member Elyse Roach. “Having that solid product foundation not only ensures you’ve got the best tricks up your sleeve to help customers navigate even the most complex situations, it also helps you build understanding about their experience so that you can become their strongest advocate.”
Language is a very important part of persuasion, and people (especially customers) create perceptions about you and your company based off of the language that you use.
An example: Let’s say a customer contacts you with an interest in a particular product, but that product happens to be backordered until next month.
Responding to questions employ “positive language” can greatly affect how the customer hears your response…
Without positive language: “I can’t get you that product until next month; it is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.”
With positive language: “That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse.”
The first example isn’t negative per se, but the tone it conveys feels abrupt and impersonal, and can be taken the wrong way by customers, especially in email support when the perception of written language can skew negative.
Conversely, the second example is stating the same thing (the item is unavailable), but instead focuses on when/how the customer will get to their resolution rather than focusing on the negative.Acting skills
Sometimes you’re going to come across people that you’ll never be able to make happy.
Situations outside of your control (they had a terrible day, or they are just a natural-born complainer) will sometimes creep into your usual support routine, and you’ll be greeted with those “barnacle” customers that seem to want nothing else but to pull you down.
Every great customer service representative will have those basic acting skills necessary to maintain their usual cheery persona in spite of dealing with people who may be just plain grumpy.