90% of businesses, regardless of industry vertical or business segment, agree that overall customer experience is their primary focus to drive product and service sales. According to research, 80% of customers have switched brands because of poor customer service experience. In contrast, good customer service enables businesses to get recommendations from 38% of the customers, while 93% of customers have stated intentions to make repeat purchases. The monetary loss due to poor customer service for American companies is estimated to be $75 billion.
As the world of business becomes increasingly competitive, customer-centricity is becoming more important than ever. Customer service skills, therefore, should not be restricted to customer-facing personnel. The skills should permeate within the organisation across all functions so that each employee can become your brand ambassador.
What are the top ten customer service skills?
Some top customer service skills are:
- Effective communication skills
Communication is fundamental to human existence, and its value in the professional world increases with time as new communication channels emerge. Effective communication has greater relevance in customer-facing roles and functions. Poor communication has caused 46% of businesses to lose a customer, even as 35% have lost an employee because of poor internal communication.
Customer service communication is about exchanging information between a customer and company in the context of query resolution. The communication channel extends from in-person communication to phone calls, emails, social media, and other methods. Good communication skills are important in customer service because one bad experience can drive away the customer and negatively impact the brand. The inability of customer service personnel to respond politely or in a conciliatory tone may offend customers, leading to a poor service experience.
Poor customer service communication can be due to a number of reasons including unclear diction, cultural differences or language barrier or inattentive listening. You must ensure that you hire customer service personnel with good communication skills and continuously train them on best practices, including verbal and written communication, body language, email, and social media etiquette. It will enable you to offer exceptional omnichannel customer experience.
- Active listening skills
Good listening skills are important for building strong professional and personal relationships. Even though listening is the most important method among all methods of communication, experts estimate that only 25 to 50% of communication time is actually spent listening.
Active listening is incredibly important in customer service as agents have the crucial responsibility to interpret stated as well as unstated intent inherent in customer queries. They need to attentively attend to queries across channels, including digital communications such as email and social media. Even as analytics helps derive valuable customer insights that enable agents to personalise communication with the customers, the significance of human intelligence and attentiveness cannot be discounted.
Active listening in customer service refers to focussing on customer words and their intended and unintended meanings, and validating what customers said before responding. It is important to engage in active listening to make the customers feel they are being heard and served with great care. In phone conversation, verbal nods, such as the occasional “I see” or “right”, helps emphasise active listening.
Empathy is the ability to emotionally connect with other people and view things from their perspective. It allows human beings to build social connections with others, which is important for both physical and psychological well-being. A person has to be a good listener to be empathetic.
Customer service agents can respond more appropriately when they show empathy to customers. The agents can follow the principles of empathetic conversation, such as paying attention to the speaker’s instead of their own thoughts, being non-judgemental, paraphrasing, and asking questions will help to decode hidden needs and pain points of customers. The social connection or the bond established with the customer helps agents engage in more meaningful conversations that help identify the root cause and uncover unstated reasons.
A high level of empathy towards customers increases customer loyalty and satisfaction. Sooner or later, it translates into monetary gains for the company. According to Harvard Business Research, the top 10 most empathetic companies more than doubled their market value generating 50% more earnings than the least empathetic ones.
- Problem-solving skills
Problem-solving is a word that sums up customer service effectively. The difficulty levels for issue resolution will vary depending on the issue type, requiring different levels of knowledge and skill set.
As the routine queries resolution are now getting automated with the power of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the agents are expected to handle complex queries that necessitates problem solving skills.
- Product and service knowledge
Without adequate product and service knowledge, the top three customer service skills will have little value. The customer service personnel need to have updated product and service knowledge.
Your personnel may charm customers with good communication and empathy, but the customer issues cannot be resolved unless they understand products and services from all aspects. It is essential for you to periodically schedule knowledge sessions on products and services to enable them to learn about new updates and also leverage the organisational knowledge base built using past customer interactions.
According to a survey, 70% of customers were highly annoyed when transferred to agents who couldn’t help and were wrong. You should incorporate mock customer conversations in the training program for customer service personnel. The mock conversations should include all possible scenarios in which customers are likely to contact the customer service team. This will enable your personnel to be better prepared.
- Positive attitude
People with a positive attitude can turn an adverse situation into an advantage. Customer service reps with a positive demeanour and attitude can help calm down irate customers.
Positive attitude should be reflected in all forms of communication, and it all comes down to the choice of words and tonality, the core of effective communication. A personal trait that contributes immensely to maintaining a positive attitude is patience.
Patience is an important life skill that is highly relevant in personal and professional spheres. It is about not giving into temptations or instincts and remaining calm even in challenging circumstances or provocations.
Patience is an important virtue in customer service as the company personnel deal with issues that may have caused inconvenience to customers leading them to become agitated and angry. The situation calls for giving a patient hearing and display of empathy to soothe the frayed nerves. With the display of patience, your customer service personnel ensure that they are focussed on customers’ issues instead of getting distracted by their emotional state. You need to train your personnel to be patient in such situations, but at the same time, empower them to draw a line when angry customer outbursts turn into abusive behaviour.
Adaptability is an important but underrated skill in customer service. Even as your customer service professionals follow a predefined process and scripted responses to customer queries, each customer situation is unique, and your personnel should be ready to adapt to the situation effortlessly.
Suppose you want your customer service professionals to improve their ability to adapt to change. In that case, they should practice three components of adaptability in the workplace, namely, cognitive, emotional, and dispositional flexibility.
- Resilience to recover quickly from adverse situations
Resilience is the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity and spring back into a normal self. It takes time, strength and others’ help to build resilience, and there may be setbacks along the way.
Customer service professionals deal with customers who can be impatient, rude, or even dishonest. It requires professionals to develop a resilient approach to deal with difficult customers and challenging circumstances and come out unscathed. You should empower your professionals to take a tough approach to deal with unruly and uncivilised customers. This will instil confidence and help them develop resilience.
Tenacity is a complementary skill to resilience and is about being determined and persistent to achieve the desired outcome. The diligent pursuit of difficult customer problems can help you win praises from customers and result in word-of-mouth publicity about your organisation’s customer obsession.
- Time management skills
Artificial Intelligence(AI) enabled automation has freed customer service professionals from routine and repetitive queries, allowing them to handle difficult issues and value-added tasks.
Professionals need to manage time effectively to optimise average call handling time to ensure high first-call resolution and prevent customer churn. It will also enhance agent availability and improve customer satisfaction.
Even as these ten skills are important for effective customer service the top most skill remains communication. The communication skills involve speaking, listening, empathising, observing, clarity and conciseness. It is an integral and indispensable skill for customer service. It is important for all customer facing teams to have impeccable communication skills to create positive customer experience.