Turning a “good” customer service team into a “great” one takes time. While technology such as customer service software is important to making this jump, the software is only as good as the people who use it on a daily basis. Here are 11 essential customer service skills so you can elevate your entire service team by working together to improve in these areas…
1) A Desire to Learn – Simply put, an agent may have some highly desirable skills but if they're not interested in learning then they will fail to contribute in improving your team. Not all agents need to be the fastest learners; instead it’s showing an interest in acquiring new information about products and ways to help customers that is important. Agents interested in learning and growing professionally are a must have.
2) Company Knowledge – This skill is an easy one because if an agent wants to learn then you can teach them about your company. It’s also essential because all agents need to understand what, why, and how they are helping the customer before they can assist them. Excellent employees who can not only retain company knowledge but also share it with their colleagues are a great asset.
3) Customer Attentiveness – When an agent is ready to speak with customers, the most important element of a conversation is attentiveness. If a customer isn’t feeling like they are being heard, the conversation will go south quickly and become irreparable. Ensure agents listen to customers and pay attention, asking follow-up questions as needed but referencing what the customer has said when they frame their own communication. A customer service soft skill like attentiveness shows customers you care.
4) Sincere Empathy – In customer service, sometimes a customer just wants to talk and vent their frustrations. Maybe a product isn’t working right and it’s compounding with something else that’s happening in their life. When this occurs, agents who are skilled in showing empathy let a customer talk while being sincere with their concern. This can go a long way in building a customer relationship, especially in the B2B (business-to-business) industry.
5) Calming Presence – When a customer reaches out in frustration, empathy is often paired with a calming vibe to talk them down. This skill is fantastic for agents to have as it can take a negative conversational tone and completely change the customer’s mood. People are generally hard-wired to mimic each other, and having agents that remain calm will only help to de-escalate stressful situations.
6) Predominately Positive Attitude – Once a customer has been calmed from a stressful situation, great agents reassure them that they can resolve whatever issues they are having and that everything will be fine in the long run. Agents who can be calm AND positive are rare and highly sought after because they are perfect for enforcing a company’s business strategy with delicate (but high revenue) customers.
7) Precise Communication – While positivity with a customer is a good skill to possess, it’s also important to make sure you’re not painting the situation to be unrealistically awesome. Customers usually reach out when something is wrong and utilizing precise communication to make sure you’re saying the right thing, clearly and concisely, is vital to setting expectations. This skill is especially important for live chat agents as customers don’t want to wait ten minutes for an exhaustive response in a chat window.
8) Interpersonal Judgement – One of the underrated skills great agents possess is being able to catch interpersonal cues on how a customer is truly feeling. When an agent is engaged with a customer in a long and complex conversation, the customer may say one thing but truly feel differently. Possessing the judgement to pick up on these subtle cues – such as going the extra mile to send a replacement product when a discouraged customer tells you they don’t need one – can go a long way in improving customer retention rates.
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9) Conversation Flexibility – It’s not uncommon for a customer to reach out about one topic and then pivot almost immediately to another topic an agent may not be as proficient in speaking to. When this happens, some agents possess the skill of being extremely flexible in their conversations even if they aren’t experts on the topic. Being able to chat about an unfamiliar topic at a high-level without moving the customer immediately to a different agent accomplishes two things. It makes the customer feel like they aren’t being bounced from agent to agent and you can prepare the new agent in real-time by entering quick notes about your conversation into your customer service software solution.
10) Subtle Persuasion – Sometimes when being flexible with a conversation, agents will find unique situations where they can upsell current customers. Being able to passively bring up a higher priced product can plant a seed in a customer’s mind that there is a way, albeit more expensive, to resolve their issue. This tactic works especially well for B2B customers where an agent has repeat interactions with the same contact and they can slowly persuade them to speak to sales for more information on the higher priced product.
11) Situational Awareness – The last one is arguably the most important skill for an agent to possess. Being able to fully comprehend different situations (and their long-term impact) is vital to creating a great customer service experience. Agents need to understand when they’ve spent too much time helping a customer and when they need to escalate specific issues to other areas of the business. This is a skill that takes time to develop but is important in maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction.
Finding agents that have mastered all of these essential customer service skills is nearly impossible, but it should provide a framework for improving the customer service of your business. Instead of looking for the “one-in-a-million” agent that’s amazing at everything, find agents that are good at several skills and utilize your customer service leadership to highlight their strengths and hide their weaknesses. By doing so, in time you’ll create a customer service team that will work well together and cover every skill. This group will not only keep current customers happy but will become a competitive advantage for your sales team as they work to acquire new business.