“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job to make the customer experience a little bit better.” – Jeff Bezos
Customer demands are changing – fast. What may have been great service in the past, could now be less than average – something customers will not tolerate. To ensure that your company’s service levels keep pace with customer demands, become proactive in upgrading the skills of the customer service team. Of course, each person in the organization would directly or indirectly, serve the customers and hence everyone must have upgraded service skills. It is essential for the reputation and success of the company that it provides top class service and therefore the focus must be to upgrade the skills of the customer service team to make and keep customers happy. A company could have the best technology and systems but these would not make up for the lack of skills of the customer service team. The success of customer service has a lot to do with the amount of human interactions and the feeling of being treated with respect.
The top soft skills of the customer service team would be empathy, patience, active listening, consistency, and the ability to remain calm. There would always be times when customers become frustrated and angry and there would be the demanding and unreasonable ones too. These skills of the customer service team would enable them to handle all types of customers and provide the same high level of service with equal respect, each time. However, neither are these the only skills required and nor can they remain static – the skills of the customer service team must be in a state of constant improvement to gain more favour and trust from the customers. What do you think are some quintessential skills for this extremely important department? Apart from the ones mentioned above, clear and good communication skills are extremely vital in order to convey properly messages to customers. Poor communication or badly worded messages can anger customers and lead to misunderstandings.
As mentioned, every customer has their preferences and likes and hence service to each one means different things. It would be extremely difficult to keep up with each customer unless the customer service team were adept at being flexible and adaptive to the varying needs. This trait helps the service team to cultivate a willingness to learn continuously and work towards upgrading their skills. Another of the important skills of the customer service team is maintaining work ethics. This means ensuring that every customer is treated with respect, every problem is provided with a solution swiftly, and that every customer gets the same amount of attention and time – irrespective of the stature of the customer. The service team should be able to strike a happy balance between keeping customers happy and ensuring that their company makes profits and remains successful.
Product knowledge and awareness of each customer’s particular history in terms of product usage are the other top skills of the customer service team. Customers connect with the company representatives in the hope that they would receive complete and accurate information about the products and services that they could want to buy. It is therefore important that the customer service representatives remain abreast with the latest information about the company’s offerings such that they can help customers make informed decisions. Despite the best attempts to answer all queries, there could be times when customers pose questions, which may not have immediate answers. Rather than provide incorrect or incomplete information, it would be better for the service representatives to be honest about the lack of information but assure the customer that they would revert with the complete information – and then do.
We have repeatedly stressed on the point that there will always be unhappy and disgruntled customers. They would make life tough by providing negative feedback and blaming the company and its representatives for their difficulties. In order to manage these barrages, among the top skills of the customer service team, remaining calm and patient would be crucial. The service team must never take these barrages personally – when customers are upset with the company, it is natural for them to vent and it would be best to give them a patient hearing before trying to put forth suggestions or solutions.
The fact about skills of the customer service team is that, there are some traits and skills that can be taught, while others must be inherent. Skills like communication and product knowledge can be imparted. However, passion and empathy are traits that are strongest and most effective when they are part of a person’s nature. When hiring, companies must ensure that they search for a mix of these inherent traits, if they expect the service teams to possess all the essential skills. The service team must have an attitude of service, have a willingness to resolve the customer’s issues at all costs, and endeavour to represent the company in a positive light in every interaction, consistently.
Whatever the mix, hiring managers must ensure that they focus on all the essential skills of the customer service team, when selecting persons for the job. The persons responsible for hiring must get in people who not only have the enthusiasm and experience in the service realm, but are also willing learners and would remain calm and friendly even under pressure and crisis. Upon hiring, ensure that each new hire understand the requirement of skills of the customer service team, in alignment with the service standards of the company. The standards of the company should be the guide for the teams to know how to speak with customers, how to behave when interacting with them, the attitude and time within which to respond, and the consequences of flouting the standards.
Of course, as mentioned, the skills of the customer service team would need to be upgraded regularly and it would be the onus of the company to ensure that happens. It is necessary to provide consistent and pertinent training to this team – dealing with people, especially demanding ones, is not a skill that most people are equipped with, and hence the service team would need on-going support to ensure that they are ready to deal with all types of customers. Training for this team can either, be provided in-house or a company could engage the services of a professional agency to impart the requisite training. In both cases, there is ample material available to impart effective training. To ensure that the training received is used in their daily tasks, it would be essential to ensure regular monitoring and at the slightest hint of a drop in skill levels, the service team or some of those in the team must be provided further training opportunities.
There is no doubt that a company needs a skilled and dedicated service team and that the skills of the customer service team need constant upgrading. The leaders of the company must encourage them, through example, on providing ‘wow’ customer service by displaying creativity, empathy, care, and respect within the organization to start with. By appreciating the efforts of each person in the service team and rewarding appropriate behaviour, the leaders would encourage the top skills of the customer service team and encourage them to better their skills. The happier the service team is, the better would they serve the company’s customers and contribute to the success and profitability of the company.