The Most Sought After Customer Service Skills

“Service Skills are the foundation of your success.” – Ron Kaufman

We know that customer service is now the differentiator between companies and the manner in which a company treats its customers is the reason that a customer would stay or leave. In order to provide service excellence, companies must understand which customer service skills, customers expect everyone in an organization to possess and know how to use. Poor customer service leads to customer frustration, which in turn could not only lead to the customers leaving the company but also spreading negativity about it on various public portals and platforms. On the other hand, top class service would turn customers into loyal fans, and encourage them to speak well of the company and its service, which in turn would get the company repeat business and new customers.

The worst part about shoddy or poor customer service skills is that not only does a company lose customers, they also forgo opportunities to make it better with the customer, and fail to attract more business. The unhappy customers become vehicles of negativity, and not only would they keep themselves and other prospects away, they would join hands with a company’s biggest competitors. This defeats the purpose of having a customer service ‘cell’ in the company, since it would not be fulfilling its main task – that of serving customers well. Every effort a company makes, every interaction it has with its customers is an opportunity to create a rapport and build an emotional connection, and without polished and proper customer service skills, it would be tough to convert an interaction to a long-standing beneficial relationship with customers.

There is no doubt that companies have to work a lot harder and face bigger challenges while trying to gain and retain customers. It takes years and a huge amount of resources to build a positive and trusting relationship with its target audience, before some convert to actual buying customers. Companies spend a lot of time and effort in their branding activities, and put in loads of money to ensure that their brand stands out and stays noticeable despite the overcrowded market. The harsh reality however, is that one serious lapse and poor customer service can be the undoing of years of effort and hard work, and is usually almost impossible to redo. Even communicating the company’s brand, its culture and values, and the benefits customers can gain from the association of the company, are all a factor of a variety of and top class customer service skills.

Service representatives need a number of technical skills such as product knowledge, usage of latest technology, troubleshooting skills and other such abilities. However, the most important customer service skills are the soft skills, which must be part of the inherent characteristics of the employees. It is a lot easier for companies to teach technical skills, but must ensure that soft customer service skills seem apparent when they begin hiring for service staff. These soft skills are not easy to teach, and if someone does not have an inherent desire to help, it would be very apparent in their demeanour, expressions, experience, and the skills they would have. The customer service industry needs people who understand the nuances and subtleties of human emotions, and are able to manage them while ensuring that everyone benefits.

Customers and industry experts have stated communication skills as one of the topmost, customer service skills. Without clear and concise communication, it would be extremely tough for service agents to articulate what the company is about, the benefits it can bring, how effective the company’s products and services are, and a whole bunch of other messages, which would get customers thinking positively about the company. As a customer, you would know that incorrect communication would have had the opposite effect on you, than what a company representative may have been wanting to achieve. It is important for customer service staff, and anyone trying to communicate, to pay attention not just to their words, but also to enunciation, tone, pitch, volume, and body language. All these aspects must be in sync, in order to convey the message in the most appropriate manner. Written communication is just as important – focus on spellings, grammar, right words, and phrases – all put together can either, serve to delight the reader or put them off the company forever.

A very critical part of communication is the ability of customer service staff to listen actively and attentively to what the customers say. Through active listening, it is a lot easier to identify the needs and expectations of the customers, since a customer may use more than just words to express their opinion / concerns. With listening, the service staff would not be able to seek clarity, and provide the most appropriate responses and or solution that may be required at the time, which in turn could irritate the customers. Listening and asking relevant questions, are important customer service skills, as they ensure that the customer feels valued and knows that they are being heard.

Everyone who works in customer service or has service as part of their business, knows that it can be high pressured job, requiring a great amount of patience and tenacity. Many customers do become irate, and would vent on the service staff, and it then becomes imperative for the staff to maintain their composure and deal with the situation and manage the customer’s emotions appropriately. Under no circumstance is it acceptable for service staff to shout back or speak rudely with customers, and they must understand that the frustration of the customer is not directed at them, and hence must not take it personally. Keeping a positive attitude and a calm demeanour are then among the top customer service skills, which each customer facing employee must possess. It would help if the company were to provide regular training and coaching on staying calm, and increasing the confidence of the service staff by ensuring they have the best equipment, updated technology, up to date knowledge about the company and its offerings, information about the industry the company functions within, and the industry of their customer base. They must remain focused on helping the customer, and be proactive in ensuring that customers remain happy.

Given that situations in the service realm do get to a point of conflicts, it is important that conflict management and resolution are part of the customer service skills imparted to the front-end employees. As mentioned, customers expect service staff to solve their problems either, instantly, or find a way to do so. In the event that they are unable to do so, customers tend to become impatient, and a minor issue could become a full-fledged conflict if not managed well. Of course, we do not mean that the service staff should put up with aggressive and abusive behaviour, but what is required is an assertive manner, without rudeness, to let the customer know that their demeanour will not be tolerated. In addition, assertive behaviour is a sign of confidence and inspires faith in the person one is dealing with. A strong steady manner would inspire trust in customers, and they would be more likely to listen to the advice / solutions provided by the service staff.

We know that there are possibly a dozen other customer service skills that would be the path to service excellence, and it is the onus of a company to ensure that their staff possess and use those skills effectively in their daily work. All customers are different, which means that their personalities, emotions, needs, preferences, and reasons for buying from a company would all vary. Top class customer service skills are mandatory for a company’s service staff, and it is the responsibility of the company to ensure that it provides sufficient opportunities for training and development of these skills.

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