15 customer service skills every representative should master
Updated: Dec 31, 2021
We’ve all heard the common phrase: “the customer is always right.” How you treat your clients is critical, as this has a direct impact on if they continue to use your product or service or how much money they are willing to spend. Not to mention, their experience will establish the level of loyalty they feel towards your brand. In other words, the fate of your company lies in the hands of a customer’s experience.
Everything you can possibly do to grow the satisfaction of your clients should be done from having strong policies to the sophistication of your help desk software. Yet, the most important factor that affects a customer’s experience is their interaction with you - or with your customer service representatives. The right personality for this job involves a very specific set of characteristic traits. So, whether you’re hiring someone for this role, or trying to improve your own capabilities, these are the most important customer service skills you need to consider:
This is the top skill usually associated with any customer service employee. Indeed, when it comes to dealing with a client’s needs, staying cool, calm, and collected is a must. For example, a customer might call frantically during a particularly busy hour, explaining that someone messed up their order and that they expect it to be corrected immediately. As their representative, acting stressed as well will not benefit either sides involved. The appropriate thing to do here is to take the time to understand exactly what happened and find the best possible solution for them.
Often times, customers use representatives as a way to direct their own frustration towards the company. While it may come across as a personal attack, stay calm and listen to what they really have to say. Their channel of communication may be incorrect, but their frustrations may be very valuable - so write down what they say and pass it along to the relevant team.
As someone who works in customer service, your role is to find solutions to difficult challenges. Finding these solutions is always better when you’re motivated by a genuine need to help and solve problems for others. As every case is different, many issues that you’ll deal with in this role involve quick decision making. In order to achieve this, you need to be confident in yourself and the process of how you solve a problem.
Let’s take an example of a classic problem solving scenario in retail. If you sell out of a product that a customer was promised, the easy thing to do would be to just say “sorry, we can’t help you.” Providing a desirable solution and taking it one step further would be to inform them that you will add their name and contact information to a waitlist and follow-up with them when a new shipment comes in stock. Furthermore, you can think proactively and try to find them a suitable replacement or collection of alternative options. If you go out of your way to help the customer and find another angle, it won’t be a waste of either of your time.
03. A great memory
The best customer service representatives remember their clients and the conversations that took place. If a customer calls and requests to speak to you specifically about a previously discussed issue, it’s because they don’t want to repeat their story again. Recurring customers should be made to feel special and remembered.
However, depending on the size of your company it may be impossible to recall every single interaction. This is where a help desk solution, like Wix Answers, could greatly benefit your needs. With the advanced system, every conversation and interaction (phone, email, tickets, etc.) between your agents and clients is recorded in one convenient place. This way, all you have to do is check your screen to know the previous issues your client was dealing with before you start delving into the reason they are calling. If you saw from the previous time they called there was an issue with the product they ordered you could ask if the replacement item arrived and if they are satisfied with it.
04. Effective communication skills
This includes a combination of both verbal and written communication skills, as you will most likely be corresponding with customers via email, phone calls, chats, social media and more. When speaking to customers, you should respond clearly and in a concise manner - using the right mix of professionalism and authenticism at the same time. Be conscious of your word choices and tone of voice because this will set up the environment of the correspondence. Where possible, try and use ‘positive language’. This method embodies the saying, ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’. So even if you have to deliver unfortunate news, the words you choose to say it can soften the blow.
Another problem in communication is the use of technical vocabulary between you and your customer. It’s obvious that you know the precise “by-the-book” name for all of your products, but that might not be the case for your client. For example, when a customer calls us, at Wix, and says that they need help changing the name of their website, this could mean a plethora of things for our representatives: the domain name, the page title in the browse tab, or the title displayed on the site’s homepage. Although it is tempting, it is not always worth it to insist on the technical vocabulary - you always want to empower customers and you can do so by meeting them halfway with terminology.
05. Willingness to learn
In order to assist customers, having a deep understanding of your product or service is extremely important. However, this isn’t something that will happen overnight. It’s something that is learned overtime with training and from experience. You have to be ready to take on new challenges in order to grow and better understand your product or service. Most companies start with an intensive training program during the onboarding process. However, your willingness to learn shouldn’t end there.
In order to stay up-to-date with everything going on you should tap into your company’s internal knowledge base. Think of this as an extensive online library about your service or product. The data in your knowledge base usually includes a variety of content such as FAQs, tutorials, support articles and any new feature releases or company updates. An out-of-the-box thinker will use it as a way to stay ahead of the game and therefore continuously learn and grow.
06. Excellent teaching skills
“If you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand it yourself,” said Albert Einstein. As an outstanding customer service employee, you will have read up on all the features of your company and learned how to tackle diverse problems. You should be able to give an in depth analysis on almost everything your company can offer to anyone. When speaking to your customers, strip the products of their professional names and explain them in more user-friendly terms. The ability to guide customers through a process in a way that is clear and understandable is a skill that is not only useful, but also what customers have come to expect from you.
Likewise, when customers call to ask for help, they aren’t looking to be constantly redirected elsewhere to get their questions answered. Don’t play a game of ping pong with them by sending them from billing to shipping, from shipping to receiving, and so on. It’s optimal when one person can help solve their issues as this alleviates the idle wait time and will lead to a satisfactory experience with your company.
07. A positive attitude
When customers think of a company, they base their reputation off of who they spoke to there. This is usually where the customer reviews come from, that is, how they were treated by you in customer service experience. Therefore, you need to represent your company to the highest of standards. Above all other office personnel, agents should be the most optimistic and cheerful - encouraging your customers to continue to do business with said company. No matter how awesome your business is, due to the nature of it, customers will always call to complain or express their negative comments. When answering them, you must feel empowered and capable of flipping the tone of the conversation from a negative one to a positive, constructive one. It’s all about the tone of voice (even in written communication) and making the customer feel like you genuinely care.
Sometimes customers can come off as threatening when they are angry, but it’s your job to stay positive and learn how to deal with even the most difficult customer. The best tip to respond to these negative complaints is to encourage disgruntled users that you’re there to help them. Stay optimistic and try to find alternatives when possible. If nothing works, just be honest and admit your misunderstandings. However, never make false promises you can’t keep.
08. Loyalty to your company
As an employee, if you are not happy with your company, you will have a hard time portraying a positive mindset and pleasing your customers. To be loyal to a company is something that comes with time. However, it’s also something that shines through to your customers. Your attitudes rub off on others more than you might imagine. If you believe in your company and product, your customers will be able to sense it - as they will be welcomed with a pleasant experience. Therefore, be careful how you speak about your previous employer. No matter what your circumstances were for leaving, your current employer is expecting that you will still have positive things to say about them. Also, at your current company, you should evoke a sense of passion that aligns with what you are able to offer them as a company.
The majority of this job involves listening to customer complaints and questions. Therefore, it should go without saying that attentive listening skills are an absolute must. A customer is typically frustrated when they come to you asking for help, and certainly aren’t looking to have to explain things more than once. So, to avoid further anxiety on their end, make sure that you’re paying attention and really listening to what they are saying, asking for, and what their issues are. An expert skill in this arena is to decipher what the customer actually wants, even when they say something else. To best do this, repeat what they say to ensure that both sides understand each other. Reformulating is a great tool in communication, and shows that you fully empathize with the client’s situation. It can be used in every situation, from answering a phone call to writing a customer service email.
Furthermore, on the emotional side, customers want to feel like they are actually being considered and empathized with. As the ultimate customer service employee, you will not only listen, but be able to truly put yourself in your customer’s shoes when dealing with their problems. This is especially true because there are times that you aren’t able to solve everyone's issues. However, you are able to provide friendly, understandable support that’s both sincere and genuine.
10. Proficiency with technology
One of the requirements of any job is to have a basic knowledge of related skills. For a customer service representative position, this includes basic computer skills and commonly used software. It’s not just about knowing your customer service software, but also whatever else you think could be useful, you should be proficient in it. You should know your product in its entirety, have a thorough understanding of your industry, and be able to navigate search engines like a pro. Your customer is certainly calling because they can’t figure something out themselves, therefore you should be able to relieve them of this burden and do it for them.
"Inside of every problem lies an opportunity," said Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad. As a customer service representative, you should be a natural seller of your product or service. This does not mean that you should persuade every client you talk to to provide you with their credit card number, but rather that you should have a strong persuasive trait embedded in you. More specifically, when recommending solutions to customers, this often involves selling them on a service, i.e., swaying the customer in the direction intended when appropriate and correct, even if this service is free. The direct goal of good customer service shouldn’t be about making more money, but rather a way to strengthen the knowledge and loyalty of your customers to your brand.
This goes along with knowing the ins and outs of your company’s product and services. You should know the pros and cons of each of their features and every aspect them. Then, when you notice a product doesn’t fit your customer, you can be honest with them. Afterwards when you offer them an alternative, you’ll have buying leverage and they will believe you because you were honest from the start.
12. Highly organized
This is a simple trait that should be required for all positions. You need to be capable of working in an organized way that allows you to provide timely responses to your customers. A study shows that the expected response time to a customer email is within one hour. That might seem very fast, but most people aren’t patient when they want help, and it takes someone who is systematic to get this job done right - keeping a good flow of all of your customers’ issues in the appropriate order to be solved.
Some great tips for staying organized are to add internal notes inside each customer ticket order, create announcements to keep the rest of your team in the loop, and utilize real time updates to keep track of who is answering tickets at every moment - all of which is possible via Wix Answers.
13. Time management
There are many customers that require your attention on a daily basis which is why you need to to be able to manage your time appropriately. In order to do this, you need to be a multitasker that can communicate with several customers via email within a small time frame. You need to be able to communicate efficiently. That means finding the balance between chit chat and getting right into the problems at hand.
A great tip for managing your time is to prioritize your users and their problems. Follow a guideline to stay focused, while keeping conversations direct and on topic. It is possible that you can’t always predict how long a ticket will take, but the most effective and fair method is “FIFO” - first-in-first-out with customer issues. Also, over time you’ll begin to learn which person or department to seek help with for each case.
It should be second nature for you as a good customer service employee to solve problems with the proper motivation and persistence. You need to be willing to get things done correctly. Therefore, if you need to go out of your way to contact someone else or type up a long, descriptive email to a customer, you should be ready and able to do it. For example, you might have a customer that is experiencing difficulty on their personal website. You might need to call them and walk them through each step on how to build a website from scratch. Proactively think of your customers needs and provide the relevant help. Your customers will notice your extra attention and that is what will make a lasting impression in their minds of you and the company you work for.
15. Adaptivity in all situations
With the customer service field being a constantly changing environment, it’s in your best interest to stay highly adaptive in any given situation. This is especially true if you work for a global company, where you may have to deal with customers who don’t speak English as a first language. A great example of adaptability here is to change the tone of your voice and speed of conversation to make it easier for them to understand you.
Adaptability can also involve being an actor at times. Maybe the customer said something that was rude and made you quite angry. You still need to smile and not let them affect you personally in this sort of field. In summary, you should be able to tolerate and adjust to each customer and situation to find a custom-made discourse and answer.