Customer service is important to the success and growth of a business, however, the simple fact is that many organizations don’t fully understand the skills needed to ensure customer satisfaction. Below are six skills that we consider essential.
The customer is always right
First, this age-old adage. Whilst no one can agree precisely who coined the phrase, most people agree it came about at the turn of the twentieth century. This presents one obvious problem with the motto; since many businesses nowadays are run differently, and customers use services in other ways, a slogan from over a hundred years ago may not be entirely relevant.
We now have even more ways for a customer, or client, to make their opinion heard. If we always treat customers as if they’re right, even if, for example, they lodge a spurious complaint, it could risk damaging our company. So what can we do?
It’s becoming more popular in the world of business to focus on what many call ‘customer-centricity’. This is where a company focuses on the customer and their needs. Another modern strategy is ‘customer first’, which is similar but essentially means that a company strives to build (and maintain) healthy relationships with their customers by identifying their needs and tailoring the user experience accordingly.
6 customer service skills you need
Although both strategies involve making the customer the focus, this still means nothing if you don’t understand how best to treat them. Here are six of the most important factors when it comes to ensuring excellent customer care.
1. Consider being more flexible
It’s important to note that this isn’t the same as doing whatever it takes to appease a customer, because this would ultimately be to the detriment of your company.
Being flexible doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing to a customer’s demands (as this then sets a precedent with that customer that would be difficult to walk back on), but rather compromising.
2. Engage in active listening
This isn’t just paying close attention to what someone says, but also how they say it, including their body language. In other words, active listening means picking up on cues that then allow you to tailor your response accordingly.
What if a customer has a complaint but seems disproportionately upset, or acts unnecessarily defensive? A skilled active listener would understand that tactfully acknowledging the customer’s objections would be best, as opposed to, for example, trotting out standard spiel about your company’s complaints procedure.
3. Showing a little empathy
Sometimes when we talk about skills, we may actually refer to traits or abilities. It’s arguable whether or not it’s possible to be taught how to empathize with someone, but we can at least learn to show sympathy and put ourselves in the customer’s shoes.
Empathy means keeping the customer from feeling or becoming defensive; avoid arguing and instead concentrate on how the customer feels, and think about what you can do to help them.
4. Use creative problem-solving
Also known as lateral thinking, this type of problem-solving looks at an issue from a different, often less obvious, angle.
For example, you may wish to target your advertising to a particular customer base but have found all your standard promotion falls on deaf ears. So you organize a family fun day and make sure your company’s logo is prominent on all marketing materials and stalls. In this example, you’re telling the customer that your service understands the importance of family.
5. Great knowledge of your product or service(s)
There’s nothing worse than dealing with a customer service representative who responds to every query with “I don’t know.” If your employees can’t answer questions about the company/product/service, then the customer will turn to a company that can.
However, it’s unreasonable for every member of a business to know every single thing about the company they work for. Yet, instead of admitting “I don’t know”, try alternatives such as “I’ll find out for you” and “Let me put you in touch with someone who can help.” Both soften the negative and tell a customer that you’re willing to spend the time helping them.
6. Use some initiative
Initiative is a valuable tool in any person’s skill set, as this means you don’t need to be told what to do. In customer service terms, it could take the form of solving a problem by yourself, following up a customer’s complaint or simply checking up on them.
An employee with good initiative will also notice issues others miss, won’t require micromanaging, and have the drive to succeed. All qualities that can be focused to deliver amazing customer service.
Soft skills are important too
Many essential skills overlap or directly relate to one another. Some are also closer to natural talents than hard skills (those you acquire through learning and training), but all can be gained through experience. Related soft skills include interpersonal traits such as:
- The ability to work under pressure
- The knack for clear communication
- The ability to work as part of a team
Ultimately, customer experiences will be defined by the quality and skill of the support they receive. A customer service team should be prepared to learn from any mistakes they make and continuously grow and develop.