The 5 Most Important Customer Service Skills

The 5 Most Important Customer Service Skills Publié le 19 May 2022 Par

Connect with clients and grow your consumer base by mastering the 5 most important customer service skills.

The 5 most important customer service skills to master are all interpersonal. They’re also all soft skills centered around how we communicate, feel and react to situations. Customer service is quite often a stressful, highly interactive and fast-paced environment to work in, so learning how to ride the waves is critical to succeed and thrive in this area. 

So, here are our 5 most important customer service skills to master in order to build a strong relationship with your customers and grow your organization:

  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Resilience and positivity

  1. Empathy 

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Empathy is the act of putting yourself, metaphorically speaking, in other people’s shoes when they’re struggling with parts of their job, be it deadlines, online meetings or interpersonal issues is taking the time to imagine how they feel. You might think empathy is a state of being rather than a skill, but this is something you can practice, and develop over time. 

Teachers, parents, and guardians have long extolled the virtue of reading, and how it helps us learn empathy. Recent research in neuroscience backs this up, by concluding that empathy, theoretical thinking and critical thinking are all increased by reading literary fiction.

Reading literary fiction can help customer service agents to evaluate a customer’s needs better, and lead to more empathy with their issues. By imagining oneself living the experiences of the characters on the pages, readers tend to transform their imagination to connection, and ultimately, to empathy. This can also help create an ideal solution resolving a situation, giving a broader focus on how industry procedures can be applied more creatively, and reduce negative experiences for the customer. 

Ways you can increase and improve your empathy in the workplace: 

  • Make an effort to speak to everyone in the office, not just your close work friends
  • Try to learn something new, to better understand anyone learning a skill for the first time
  • Ask your family and friends how you can improve 
  • Read literature that deals with emotional and interpersonal subjects
  • Write fiction with the help of writing tips to immerse yourself in another person’s shoes
  • Listen to people’s stories about what life is like for them 
  • Observe your own biases and address any that you may have 
  • Ask more thoughtful and provocative questions to learn more about others 

What is the difference between empathy and compassion? 

Empathy is identifying with another person’s feelings. A good example in the industry might be when a colleague is trying to expand their knowledge base and learn important technical aspects of their job. If you were to undertake a similar learning experience, then you experience those feelings in synchronicity with them. Compassion is the result of empathy – and it may even inspire you to take action to help them figure out the best way to retain technically specific information.

What are the benefits of being more empathetic in customer service?

In addition to improving interpersonal relationships, having empathy can also help you anticipate people’s needs and be more creative in your thinking. This is a very useful trait to have in a fast-paced customer service environment. You will be able to spot trouble spots and identify effective solutions because you will be able to understand how a customer will react.

  1. Listening 

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Being a good listener is one of the 5 most important customer service skills to master. For one thing, if you’re a good listener it reduces the need for customers to repeat themselves when outlining any technical issues they may be facing, such as screenshare problems, because you understood what they were asking for the first time. 

Being a good listener also means that you can better retain the information you’re given. The key is to understand the gist of what the customer wants rather than having excellent short-term memory, and remembering every detail. Taking notes for reference will allow you to remember these details in the long-term, while listening skills will help you react to the customer in real time.

A big benefit of being a good listener is that people feel understood. If you’ve ever been to a retail store where the person serving you seemed disinterested, you probably didn’t feel very heard. It’s more than just literally hearing everything the customer said, but making them feel valued and like their needs matter. This is really key in customer service, because it proves to the customers that they are not simply interacting with robots in a faceless world.

  1. Problem solving 

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The ability to think on your feet and find solutions to issues is very important in customer service. Your customers don’t want to hear about your workplace policies, or get inundated with any bureaucracy or technicalities. What they want is a solution to whatever problem they’re facing in regards to your company’s product or service.

While you won’t be able to solve every problem you’re presented with, the ability to think quickly and adapt is really useful in this field. This could be both in general situations where you’re faced with questions about when to automate your processes, as well as customer focused situations. 

For example, if someone comes into your outdoor supplies store with a tent they bought from you and tells you that it has a tear, they don’t want to be told that it can’t be returned because of company policy. If that is the case, then they want to know how they can fix it, whether there’s a specific part they can replace, or whether it can be repaired in-store. They want solutions, not roadblocks.

If the only available solution is beyond the customer service officer’s realm of duties, then it should be quickly transferred to a senior person in the company. And if it’s more a matter of maintaining a good relationship with the customer than a problem with a product, perhaps a discretionary discount or freebie can be offered, depending on the situation. 

Being able to think outside the box and use different types of  problem-solving framework is a great customer service skill to master. You can practice by doing group problem-solving activities like escape rooms which also help build team culture or in your own time by doing solo activities like answering riddles or sudoku. Anything that gets your brain flexing in new ways will help you to develop both the habit of thinking outside the box, and grow confidence in your ability to do so. 

We’re all hard-wired to solve problems, but many of us repeat tired stories to ourselves over the years about how we’re not good at this or that, and box ourselves in. By challenging ourselves, we realize what we’re capable of achieving. 

  1. Communication 

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Good communication might seem very obvious and a little bit vague, but it’s quite a powerful customer service skill you can master. We covered listening above, and that’s a big part of communication – perhaps the biggest part. Without listening properly, you might end up just talking into the abyss to your employees about your new inventory tracking system, for instance, rather than actively engaging with workers about potential problems and solutions. 

The ability to read the room is another big part of communication, and that’s greatly helped by developing empathy. Are we hitting the right tone with this particular customer? Are we communicating with them on their wavelength? Or, even better, are we able to shift the frequency that they’re on towards a happier and more productive wavelength if they’re unhappy? 

We also need to make sure that we’re being clear and concise. While we don’t need to drop any superfluous words completely, not rambling on will both save a lot of time (depending on how bad your propensity for rambling is), and help you to be clear. Some people take classes in giving speeches which is great for learning these skills. Just remember that communication is about give and take, and you can ask for feedback on ways to improve your communication.

  1. Resilience and positivity 

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When we use the word “positivity” here, we mean the ability to look constructively at an issue, and be committed to looking for solutions rather than problems. It’s a matter of where you place your focus. 

When you interact with customers, do you focus on the negative aspects, or do you find yourself finding the good parts of the interaction? What does your inner monologue look like? If your inner monologue is negative, you could be the best actor in the world but the impression you’re projecting will still come across to that customer. 

There are a few techniques available for dealing with trickier customers who make it harder to focus on the positives. One technique is to focus on how the customer is feeling rather than how they may be behaving. If a customer is being rude, they may be feeling tired, and flustered or stressed. Focusing on empathizing with your customers, however counterintuitive that might seem if they’re taking their frustration out on you, will help you to remain calmer and happier both during and after the interaction. 

In turn, feeling heard and empathized with will make most customers soften, and become easier to interact with. Being positive and resilient comes down to not being defensive, but focusing instead on empathy and compassion to best address the situation. 

Mindfulness is a very useful tool for becoming more emotionally resilient, and practicing meditation is one way to become more mindful and centered so that stressful situations don’t throw you off-kilter as easily. Looking after your team’s mental health can also improve team engagement

In any high-pressure work environment, teaching emotional resilience is very important for happy and healthy staff. It is work providing access to both paid and free resources online, as well as in-person training with knowledge practitioners in the field of mental well-being. It is also important to provide employees with a health benefits package that will help them address their well-being needs.

There you have it

The 5 most important customer service skills you can master in the customer service industry are all emotional and interpersonal. Because you are working directly with people and helping them solve any problems they face, empathy, problem-solving, resilience, positivity, communication, and listening skills are paramount. 

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