What are customer service skills?

Customer service might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is an essential part of running a successful company. That’s true whether you’re the head of an international conglomerate or a small business owner. It can be tempting to put off investing in your customer service offering if other areas of your business seem to need it more. However, sweeping poor customer service under the rug can be detrimental for your business.

What is excellent customer service?

If you’re looking to improve customer retention and repeat business, a good place to start is with your customer service team. Chances are, there’s some aspect of your customer service functionality that can be refined or enhanced – and small changes can have big impacts. So what does great customer service look like?

Most importantly, good customer service leaves your customer feeling listened to. No one likes speaking to a robot on the other end of the line, but being human isn’t the only requirement to be a good customer service representative. Excellent customer service reassures your customers that you’ll be there for them when they need you. And this has the potential knock-on effect of making investment into your product or service seem like less of a risk. After all, your customers know that if something does go wrong along the way, they can rely on you and your team to make it right. 

What are the 7 qualities of good customer service?

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the world of customer service is that it is so easy, anyone could do it. After all, it’s just answering phones and emails, right? 

Wrong. While it may look easy from the outside, chances are the representatives you’re talking about have had comprehensive training to hone their skills for the job. But customer service is a fairly broad term – with telephones, emails, social media, face-to-face conversations, live chat and more, it can be hard to remember that training should encompass soft skills as well as the technical know-how required to respond to customer queries. On top of that, you’ll need to make sure your communication channels are set up for success.

So what qualities make excellent customer service?

1. Active listening

Hearing a customer’s concerns is one thing, but actually listening to them is another thing entirely. Active listening involves taking note of what isn’t said as well as what is, and making sure you fully understand the situation before you begin working on a solution. Taking the time to really listen to your customers and understand their queries and problems will help to prove to them that you care about their experiences.

2. Ease of access

An excellent customer service team is a great thing, but if none of your customers can figure out how to get in touch with them, your customer experience will suffer. Make sure your customer service access points – such as live chat access, telephone numbers and email addresses – are clearly visible on your website’s navigation as well as in any physical locations your company has.

3. Empathy and patience

For your representative, an individual customer’s problem or query might be one of many in the queue, but to that customer, it might be having a big impact on their day. A customer who’s experiencing unexpected service outages on their mobile network, for example, is likely to be frustrated and worried about how it will be resolved – and it’s your representative’s job to be reassuring without being patronising. It’s easy to wish every customer would be civil and polite in their time of need, but your team needs to be able to meet a disgruntled customer where they are and deescalate the situation instead of adding fuel to the fire.

4. Communication skills

It’s easy to confuse communication skills with basic English language skills like grammar, spelling and punctuation. While these certainly come into it, there are others which also have an impact on your representative’s efficacy in resolving disputes and helping customers. For example, a good customer service representative will be able to adapt their tone of voice to suit the individual customer – being professional and authoritative where necessary and informal and friendly where appropriate.

5. Time management and organisational ability

It’s a simple fact of customer service that your representatives will often need to deal with more than one query at once, particularly when using remote channels such as email and live chat. Time management and organisational skills are a must to ensure each of your customers are being served well without long wait times. That said, one representative can only handle so many tickets at once, so if wait times are becoming a problem, it might be time to outsource customer service to help manage the demand.

6. Problem solving skills

The role of a customer service representative is, put simply, to solve problems. Sometimes those problems are relatively simple, such as a customer asking whether or not a certain product is in stock. Other times, the problem may be more complex. For example, if a product arrives to a customer faulty, your representative may need to broker an agreement for compensation. Whatever the issue, problem-solving skills will come in handy.

7. Product and/or service expertise

Being good at telephone handling is important, but it’s not much good on its own. People get in touch with customer service representatives because they have a problem or a query – so it’s vital that your team can help. This isn’t to say that your representatives have to be encyclopaedic experts on all your products and services, but they should at least be well versed in the answers to frequently asked questions. On top of that, if they receive a question they can’t answer themselves, knowing how to get hold of the correct information is a must in order to keep your customers satisfied and reassured.