Just about every business requires good customer service skills. It is an essential part of maintaining the custom of your existing customers as well as winning over new ones. These types of skills need to be developed and refined within your company.
The key goal for your colleagues is being able to work better with customers through effective training, mentoring & use of a good quality communication strategy.
Not everybody has these skills as part of their own personality/DNA so it is important to focusing on improving these areas through whatever means you can.
What are the basic & advanced skills?
The basics of a customer service skills list should include good spoken and written abilities, an ability to actively listen to customers to understand requests, and high levels of professionalism and problem solving ability.
More advanced skills for help desk style support services often require training or mentoring by professionals in how to resolve issues that may be more complex, initiating change within the service processes, teaching coworkers as well as pro-actively improving customer attitudes.
Who uses customer service skills training?
The majority of clients are based in the service industry including sales, technical support, online business systems, hospitality, etc.
One area where excellent customer service skills are crucial is in health and social services where customers/clients can be emotional/aggravated so need to be treated compassionately and professionally.
Most customer service skills training focuses on communications, issue resolution, negotiation and persuasion techniques. Using third-party software tools or bespoke applications (e.g. when using multi-level marketing software) is usually included as part of on-the-job training.
Customer service skills list
1. Product knowledge
You can only provide good customer service if you know what you’re talking about. This means understanding what your products are as well as the services you provide. In-house training or mentoring from colleagues can help to clarify every nuance of your product or service and how solutions to customer requests can target specific issues.
Remember that understanding how to provide excellent customer service, rather than simply satisfactory/good service, is all about going that extra mile for your customer. Providing extra details about your products, enhanced features and support for how to use products correctly all feeds into truly excellent customer service skills.
2. Communication (verbal, written and listening)
You are effectively representing your company in any one-to-one communications you have with customers. You need good customer service skills with regard to your diction, clarity of communications and how you converse with customers in order to get to the root of their problems.
The goal is to improve customer satisfaction and potentially increase online sales through cross-selling and effective sales copy.
This requires the ability to use positive language in all communications and to actively listen in any verbal interactions. Suggested customer service skills training should include sections on active listening, professional business writing and the application of neuro linguistic programming (N.L.P.). Using persuasion methods should not however alter your staff’s sense of ethics in business.
All employees need to understand what communication techniques are important and when they are applicable. E-mail is well-suited for informational messages, whereas phone calls/IM chat are much better for debates and discussions.
3. Problem resolution
Most customer service work is concerned with resolving issues or problems for customers. This means being able to effectively analyze the information you receive from the customer and provide quick and accurate decisions about what can be done.
You need to be able to understand how to use the resources available to you (both IT systems and work colleagues) to seek out new solutions.
Suggested customer service skills training modules should focus on problem resolution, understanding customer requests and service software training.
Your management should also be looking into completing voice of the customer research to analyze transcripts of customer complaints. This analysis tries to delve deeply into the root of many problems with your products or services and can even being used for analyzing complaints about your customer service skills. The goal of such research is not to blame anyone individual for poor performance but to actually try and improve the products and services you provide to customers.
4. Task orientation and time management
For many phone/online support or technical support roles there are daily demands as regards the amount of customers that should be dealt with or time spent with each call. This requires careful time management by the representative to focus on providing a good quality service in a timely manner.
Time/scope management tools and techniques can be used and training provided to all individuals to increase your awareness of how minutes and hours can be lost each day due to ineffective application of your effort.
5. Persuasive abilities
The art of persuasion is something that is most commonly used in online sales but this can also play a major part in your customer service skills list. Being able to persuade customers who may be aggravated or emotional to see things clearly can prove to be most helpful in one-on-one communications (e.g. in the hospitality sector or on phone support).
B2B services are more likely to provide the greatest opportunities for sales lead generation.
This type of customer service skills training usually focuses on providing set dialog or scripted responses for specific customer requests. However, these should only be used as a basic starting point for the representative’s own interactions to ensure these interactions appear genuine.
The simple fact is that each customer may have different requests, queries and issues they wish to raise so each individual has to have the flexibility and presence of mind to be able to deal dynamically with requests.
This requires a certain amount of confidence and a keen understanding of your own product knowledge (see above) in order to provide flexible solutions that are apt to each request.
7. Work ethic
All service representatives need to have a strong work ethic. This type of work requires a lot of interaction with customers so having a positive attitude towards your work and towards the customers is essential. Training cannot really provide this.
Instead, it is up to leadership and management to make sure that teams of individuals are instilled with this work ethic through team-building exercises and effective time management. One option is to use employee satisfaction surveys to identify problematic areas in the work ethic and operations of your business.
One of the outcomes of much of these skills and training is that the individual becomes more professional in their dealings with customers. Better communication skills can instill a better attitude and level of courtesy when dealing with customers. It is essential for managers to track and gauge their team members on a regular basis to ensure that levels of professionalism are be maintained in all dealings with customers.
Confidence is one of the more elusive traits in customer services. Some would say that confidence in individuals cannot be learned in customer service skills training. However, a confident individual is nearly always a result of proper training and education on their products as well as incremental levels of experience.
This brings them to the point where they themselves are confident of their own abilities. Positive reinforcement by management will also help encourage confidence within individuals.
This level of confidence instills a sense of trust within customers as regards your ability to effectively deal with their issue in a professional and prompt way.
Lastly, once you build up excellent customer service skills it is important to share this knowledge with others. Leadership and mentoring of new representatives is the long-term goal for aspiring representatives as this ensures the company can expand its existing workforce and improve the quality of service they provide by all individuals. See also my article covering Colin Powells top 18 leadership skills.
Innovation strategy in service industries
Service innovation strategy involves different processes for improving existing service through incremental changes or complete replacement. The importance of these strategies is that they must be replicable within the workplace and therefore modeled and reproduced systematically by other individuals when dealing with other customers are environments.
These can include innovative new ways of using technology in the service process, completely new forms of operation to improve supply chain visibility, innovative ways of organizing/managing your services as well as new ways of interfacing with customers.
Since the service industry is fairly intangible in that it involves human interaction to a great extent, it is essential that innovations relates to the organizational processes (e.g. around cost-cutting or quality). More commonly however it is the client interface points between the customers and service provider that are often reassessed to see how they can be improved. The latest innovations in self-service technologies (e.g. online bank account access) are some of the more common interface channels now being used.
Service innovations are also being made in the field of technology use where new software and systems can be used by customer service representatives for accessing and collating information relating to customers. This knowledge management allows for better personalization and bespoke communications when dealing with customers over an ongoing.
This requires good knowledge management systems in the back-end, a well-defined business intelligence strategy and integration with voice-recognition technologies.
As an example, many phone support services incorporate voice technology to read data from customers directly and representatives use complex software systems to access previous communications data relating to each customer they are dealing with to provide the greatest level of personalized interaction as possible.