All businesses have among their priorities to provide excellent customer service, or at least they should. According to research, American Express stated that 90% of Americans decide whether or not to do business depending on the quality of the customer service they receive. The best customer service experience often depends on the industry you serve. Customers in different industries have different service expectations. Customer service skills that work in one industry don’t always work in another.
But some customer service skills are universal. They cut across every industry and every business sector. They are key skills that every employee needs to excel at their job and fulfill customer expectations. They are part of a universal approach to customer service and usually come into play during direct customer interactions.
Working in customer service may sound easy, but agents must have various skills to deliver customer satisfaction and keep customers happy.
These skills can help you cultivate relationships with customers (and prospects), better handle customer complaints, and boost customer loyalty and profitability:
Listening skills are a must when serving as a customer service professional, especially when practicing active listening. This skill is critical for “wowing” customers with excellent customer service. It’s among the most essential customer service skills. Train your employees to listen closely to what customers say and how they say it.
Being attentive to what and how they say things can help you identify the real customer issue and find the best way to discuss it with a dissatisfied customer.
Train your staff on active listening and put themselves in the customer’s position. What would the customer want to hear from you and your business? How to best answer customer questions to increase your customer satisfaction scores? You can create the foundation for a better customer experience using the help of active listening techniques.
When a frustrated customer calls a company because they are confused and need help, your customer service representatives should have patience. It is reasonable for them to be stressed when calling. That’s why patience is required of all customer service agents.
Employees need to be patient to help unhappy customers with all their issues calmly and effectively. Excellent service trumps fast service and provides better results every time.
Communication skills are paramount when you’re providing customer service. But you must be careful about how a person’s communication skills translate into everyday language. Train your employees to err on the side of caution whenever they are in a questionable situation.
Make sure everything you do from a customer-service standpoint is clear and concise. Every customer who calls for help should walk away with 100% clarity on where they stand and the next steps they need to take. If your customer service communication is not clear, it can lead to more issues in the future.
The best customer service people know their product or service inside out. Product and technical knowledge can be why customers contact companies when they have issues. If your employees don’t have this profound knowledge, it can undermine a customer’s trust and confidence in the company. So, make sure your people undergo extensive product/service training.
Language is a critical part of persuasion. People create impressions through the words they use. Small changes in a person’s speech, like using more positive words, can make a difference. They make an impact by affecting the way customers “hear” what you say.
Train customer service people to use positive language. For example, if a customer calls in looking for a new product that is not in stock, you can answer in two ways:
“That product is not available until next week.”
“That product will be available next week.”
Both sentences say the same thing, but one sounds positive and reassuring.
In the old days, customers only called when they had an issue. Yet, now they communicate with your business through different communication channels. They call you or communicate with your business through social media, email, or chat.
Whatever way your customers reach you, your customer service response needs to be impeccable. That is why you need top-flight people that can “read” customers and take their customer service roles seriously. It’s a critical part of the personalization process. This is one of the key customer service skills because the last thing you want is an employee that “misunderstands” customers, upsetting them.
Smart employees stay calm when things get hectic and confusion reigns. Calm people can often influence other people during a crisis. The best customer service reps know they can’t let customers get to them.
Every business has to deal with difficult customers, but when a customer support agent is equipped with active listening skills, proper etiquette, and product knowledge, no heated customer has the power to force them to lose their cool. Instead, they become the eye of the storm when dealing with a disgruntled customer, provide exceptional customer service, and create a safe and calm environment for the customer to share their concerns and embrace the solution.
Last but not least, empathy is a required skill. When your customer service team demonstrates a high level of emotional intelligence and empathy with customers, it significantly impacts their bond with the brand or business. Little details can result in loyal customers and make them feel special.
Being empathic doesn’t mean being emotional. It means being comprehensive with your customer and letting them know you understand their situation. Having empathy can also help you when you have to deal with angry customers.
These skills cut across every industry and business sector and help your customer service team build rapport and confidence in customers who contact you. They can help your agents deliver customer service satisfaction, boost customer loyalty, and drive profitability. According to Psychology Today, the experience consumers have with a brand is vital and goes beyond the brand’s service or product’s features.
As mentioned before, every industry has to have specific customer service skills.
Providing excellent customer service makes your business grow. And it is also the fastest way to building customer loyalty. Why? It generates happy customers who refer you to others. Experts call this promotional approach “word-of-mouth advertising.”
Take, for example, law firms. Customer happiness is vital for the survival of law firms, but it is very difficult to achieve. While winning cases has a lot to do with the success of a law firm, you should never underestimate the power of excellent customer service skills. Bad customer service can cost you clients.
Improving customer service generates new clients and boosts profitability and brand loyalty. Customer feedback matters significantly for a law firm that relies its entire activity on working with people.
Customer focus is key! That is why it is very important to cultivate customer relationships with the help of smart customer relationship management and experienced customer service agents.
The biggest challenge for businesses is motivating employees to adopt a customer-centric attitude.
Adopting a customer-centric attitude means providing a positive experience before and after you acquire a client. That drives repeat business, customer loyalty, and firm profits.
The four best practices for instilling a customer-centric attitude are:
Here are seven steps you can take to boost customer service skills at your firm:
The first contact is critical—A crucial step is answering the phone. Make sure a human does it; someone friendly, outgoing, and patient who goes the extra mile to help clients. Empower them to make decisions and do efficient problem-solving. Also, consider an answering service for 24/7 coverage.
Review your intake process—Examine your intake process closely. If you don’t have a systematized intake system, create one. Identify the steps needed to onboard a client successfully, review the tasks in the process, and make a checklist for every new client.
Automate client agreements—Create standard client agreements to serve as basic starting documents. You can then tailor the arrangements to meet the client’s situation. Then automate them. That streamlines the process, saves time, and eliminates errors.
Employ standard forms—Using standard forms also streamlines the process, saves time, and eliminates errors. Software tailored to law firms can help you create document templates for the firm. Then make sure everyone can access them. You can then adapt these forms to your unique intake needs.
Explain policies to clients—Explain policies and practices when onboarding clients. That helps create a positive customer experience. It’s as critical as listening to a client’s story and discussing fees.
Track new client activities—Customer-centric law firms closely track client activities, like scheduled meetings, court appointments, and follow-ups. Store these details in one place. That way, you can service your clients properly. Set reminders to let you know things like when to call back a client or notify them of developments in their cases.
Use collaboration platforms—Email communication and collaboration with clients is not secure. Instead, use collaboration platforms and tools to help you and your team members manage onboarding tasks quickly and efficiently.
Customer service is the lifeline of your business. In today’s competitive markets, you can’t afford to ignore customer service or give poor service. Implement or improve all these skills to provide excellent customer service and grow your business.
Post Update: Article updated August 26, 2022, originally published on November 20, 2018. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.