Never underestimate the importance of customer service skills. Whether interactions occur in person, over the phone, or in text formats, the customer service skills your employees demonstrate will have a huge influence on the way customers experience your company. If these skills are lacking, your customers will take a negative view of your business, even if everything else you do is close to perfect.
But what are the key skills needed for customer service? While some of them may be obvious, others are a little less so – and not all of them can be imparted through training. Great customer service agents need much more than a formula for dealing with customers in order to represent your business effectively.
A pasted-on smile and a glib sales patter or customer support script won’t fool your customers. They need to be served by people who can enter into their feelings, intuit things left unsaid, and respond accordingly.
While it’s true that empathy can be developed with practice, it takes a genuine desire to understand other people’s feelings before it can be achieved. You certainly don’t want unsympathetic customer service staff trying to learn empathy with your customers as subjects.
Positivity and the Use of Positive Language
It’s easy enough to teach customer service workers to avoid using certain words and phrases and to use others instead. But once again, it’s a simple matter for your customers to see the difference between a facade and a genuinely positive attitude. Ideally, positivity should come naturally, and if it’s there, positive language use becomes second nature.
While positivity is one of the most important skills in customer service, it’s not something you can extract from someone who doesn’t love helping people and who doesn’t feel proud to represent your company. This skill can’t be taught because it comes from within. People can learn to act positively, but it lacks conviction. There’s nothing like the real thing.
Communication is so much more than just a way to deliver messages. It begins when the customer has an idea, which they then encode into language and deliver. As a good communicator, your customer service worker knows how to decode that message, including any unspoken nuances. And, since there’s always “noise,” be it actual sounds, or the agent’s own thoughts, they need to filter it out and focus on the message to gain a full understanding of your customers’ needs.
Having decoded the customer’s message, your service agent begins to give feedback on the message received. If necessary, he or she should ask for clarification of any unclear points or restate what they understood from the message before formulating a response.
Having gained a “thought picture” of what the customer was thinking, and after confirmation that the message has been understood correctly, it’s time to encode a response. This should be clear and to the point, since the customer becomes the next one to decode language into ideas – and he or she also has to deal with “noise” that interferes with the decoding process.
Communication skills can be learned, but some people master it more easily than others, and you don’t want customer service staff undertaking a learning curve with your customers as test subjects!
Commercial Awareness and Product Knowledge
As your company’s representatives, your customer service staff must be aware that their social skills are being deployed for commercial reasons. Although they will strive to serve your customers, they are not doing so in their individual capacity but as part of your business.
As such, they interact with your clients in a purposeful way with a goal in mind, and everything that does not contribute to that goal should be omitted. That doesn’t mean that social skills are discarded, but it does mean that their personal feelings are not relevant to their work. Having a bad day? Commercial awareness means putting that aside and aiming for customer satisfaction rather than sympathy!
Of all the skills in customer service, product knowledge is the easiest to learn. As an employer, you should ensure that onboarding and training involve a process in which your hires acquire extensive product knowledge as a basic skill required for customer service. At the very least, they should be able to respond appropriately to routine questions from customers while knowing who to call for help in non-routine matters.
Adaptability and Accountability
Empathy and adaptability are related skills for customer service. Understanding how a customer feels means adapting the messages communicated as well as their delivery. And, in a changing business environment, customer service agents need to be able to adapt to internal changes too. The ability to “think on their feet,” even when they’re under pressure, also plays into this skill.
Accountability means taking responsibility, both for the customers they serve and for the impact their work has on your business. It’s one of the key skills for customer service agents to have, and it implies a plethora of abilities and responsibilities. The most obvious one is the ability to apologise, either for their own mistakes or for shortcomings in the business they represent. But it also means talking to employers about the issues that customers experience, suggesting improvements, and being willing to accept criticism when it’s due.
As a vital link between your business and its customers, your customer service agents act as a mouthpiece for your clients when they’re talking to you, and as the ambassadors of your business when talking to your customers. In both instances, accountability must be present.
Skills Needed for Customer Service? RSVP Has Them
Customer service requires skills that are often not recognised as being part of a profession. All too often, customer service workers are seen as “unskilled” and it’s a viewpoint a business subscribes to at its peril. Even if you recognise the importance of customer service skills, ensuring that you get the right customer-facing representation isn’t always easy. After all, who has a certificate in “accountability, adaptability, and empathy?”
While there are ways that you can improve your chances of getting good customer service staff, it’s hard to remain focused on this area of your business when there are so many other things requiring your leadership. Are your customer service agents motivated and positive? Are they treating your customers to an excellent service experience? It can be hard to tell and even harder to manage. We’d like to offer you a solution!
Have you ever considered getting a business that sees customer service as its core function to help you? RSVP is a company that prides itself on delivering the superb customer service you want for your business. We represent you – and we do it with the help of highly-skilled customer service specialists. We take care of you by taking care of your customers – and you’re in the loop every step of the way.
Our London-based outsourced customer service agents are there for your customers 24/7. We act on your behalf, and we’ll do it with pride. It all starts when you get in touch with us. Why not put us to the test? We can’t wait to show you how we’ll rise to the occasion!