Customer Service Skills For Today’s Customer Service Representative

Last month, we discussed the advantages of having exceptional Customer Service as your USP. This helps create a niche for your business and also establishes you as a customer centric business when compared to your competitors.

Let us now address a few more critical areas that govern good customer service. One of the most important assets for a company to do customer service is to have the right skills to execute and deliver the same.

Related: Try out HappyFox – Voted the best customer support software in 2015 by PCMag, to see how good your customer support skills are.

What is it like to do customer service?

Customer service is the backbone of your company. Even though your designation says ‘Customer Service Representative’, you practically represent your company to your customers.

45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quicklyForrester

Therefore, even a bad product could survive for a while in the market, but bad service is going to take your company to the cleaners. Your customer service job could be anything from sales to marketing to billing and order management but it is important for every single communication to have a good reputation with your customer.

The myths of Customer Service

Customer service is commonly misconstrued to be a boring job that is monotonous and completely unrewarding. It is considered a very bland thing to do, sitting and taking calls or responding to mails all day with little or no breaks and lot of fatigue. There are times of difficulty when volumes are high and stress factors reach their peak and agents are never satisfied with their work.

Customers being angry or rigid is also considered a common problem. Each of your customers carry their own emotions along and you will have to parry their personal problems while also handling their product issues. Different kinds of people might approach support agents on a regular basis and handling them is understood to be a huge pain point for customer support representatives.

Cracking the myths of Customer Service

Let’s go one by one.

1. Customer service is boring

Customer-facing jobs are normally the most fun jobs in a company. You get to directly interact with customers, meet and speak with a variety of people on a daily basis and also gather insights on how customers evaluate your product.

2. There is no satisfaction in support

This is absolutely untrue. There is no better satisfaction that serving a person in need and no better person to do it than an informed customer service representative.

3. Visibility is minimum

Even a single good deed goes a long way in making your customer stay loyal to your product. Every good call or a ‘Thank you’ email shows how much that customer has valued your support. The same is a huge parameter of appraisal for middle managers to evaluate support staff.

4. The growth curve is hardly linear

It certainly is a highly linear curve because, as a support agent, you are expected to know all the details of your product so that you can provide quick and efficient customer service. This gives you a lot of clout as people will always come to you when in need of clarifications as you are fully informed about the product and its features.

Now that we have seen what customer service offers you, let us see what are the skills necessary for a person to deliver that kind of customer service. The skillset for customer service can be broadly classified into four categories.

The four Ps of Customer Service

  • Product-oriented skills
  • Personality-oriented skills
  • People-oriented skills
  • Presentation-oriented skills

Product Oriented skills

First off, product.

i. Know your product and its features

You need to be completely informed about the intricacies of your product and all its features so that you do not look shamefaced when a customer mentions a feature you have never heard of. Further, it really throws bad light on your company’s customer service when a representative is not sure of their own product feature.

ii. Know where to look for information

When there are times when a customer asks for a demo or for a detailed guide on something specific about your product, you need to know where to gather the information quickly and provide it to your customer. It is never a good practice putting a customer on hold while you go looking. This also emphasizes the need for a robust knowledge base for your product. (Take a look at how to build a good knowledge base.)

iii. Know who to go to in times of need

Not every ticket that comes in can be resolved by a support agent. In case it is a new requirement or a clarification from your sales or marketing team, an agent should know who to go to so that they can obtain swift resolution for the customer queries.

Personality-oriented skills

Next up, personality.

i. Be polite and understanding

It is mandatory for a support agent to be nice and polite to a customer. Customers remember people by the way they have been spoken to and relationships thrive on how polite and genuine a support agent is.

ii. Show confidence

If you are not sure, they are never going to be. If you have a solution in hand that might be temporary, you should still be able to confidently offer it to them before proposing a timeline for a permanent one. A weak answer is going to upset and enrage customers.

iii. Apologise when the situation demands

Apologies are the signs of a strong person. If you know the mistake lies on your side, admit it and apologize and rectify the mistake at the earliest.

iv. Be receptive and observant

Listen to your customers problems fully, analyze the situation well before offering a solution. Anything done in haste is never going to be a good resolution.

People-oriented skills

Next, people.

i. Understand customer sensitivities

When you speak to a customer, you need to know his potential sensitivities and emotional status before responding to him. Anything that can offend his personal or emotional sensitivity could be a huge hazard to your reputation.

ii. Never lose your patience

It is natural that some customers can be extremely angry or frustrated about an issue. A support agent should learn to be patient and listen clearly to the issue before proceeding to offer a solution.

iii. Explain your analysis

Some customers like to know if you have understood their issue clearly. It takes hardly ten seconds for you to summarize the issue and confirm if it is as described. This provides clarity and also eliminates margin of error.

iv. Clarify timelines

Always give them a clear timeline on when you will be able to resolve their issue. Customers cannot be left in the dark about resolution time nor can you expect them to know your SLAs.

Presentation-oriented skills

Let’s talk presentation next.

i. Be professional

Right from the body language to the attitude to the communication, every thing about a support agent needs to be strictly professional. Customers like to know they are speaking to someone who knows what they are talking about.

ii. Probe well

As a support agent, you need to probe completely to understand the issue at the very root. Without understanding the issue completely, there is no point trying to provide a resolution.

iii. Put it succinctly

Customers like to hear things in a crisp and succinct manner. Whether it is an update about an issue or a feedback call, be very concise in speech and convey the message perfectly.

iv. Hone written communication

When writing to a customer, learn to put things in a simple manner and avoid technical jargon so that your customers understand their issue is being addressed by the support team rather than being confused about what is being said.

Let us know if we have missed out on any other specific skills that helped your company build customer support productivity and we would be happy to add that to our list.

Bonus – Infographics on Customer Service Skills

Customer_Service_Skills_Infographic courtesy Mattsfactor

Murali Satagopan

Customer service blogger, HappyFox enthusiast.