Today’s customer service involves much more than face-to-face conversations or answering phone calls. With the proliferation of digital service channels and the growing demands of tech-savvy consumers, customer service roles have become more challenging. Apart from good product knowledge, service agents need to have a full range of customer service skills to be able to provide the level of service consumers expect.
Why soft skills matter in customer service
Despite the wide adoption of Artificial Intelligence and self-service technologies, human-to-human interactions are still key to delivering an outstanding customer service experience. In fact, ‘The State of Digital Care in 2018’ report by Conversocial found that 59% of consumers consider interacting with a human agent to be more important than being serviced by a bot or AI driven resolution. And when it comes to providing an excellent service experience, it’s the soft skills that make all the difference between an average service agent and the one who can really delight and wow your customers.
Though hard skills – like specialized knowledge or technical abilities are important, soft skills are becoming more critical. According to the Wonderlic National Employer Survey, 97% of employers agree that soft skills impact job performance. The LinkedIn survey also found that 57% of business leaders consider soft skills to be even more important than hard skills. In essence, soft skills in customer-facing positions are paramount.
Top 10 customer service skills to develop
Here are some of the most basic customer service skills that every employee whose job includes interacting with customers should master:
1. Effective listening
Active listening can be found on almost any customer service skill set list. Effective listening means being focused and fully present in the conversation in order to truly understand what the person on the other end is trying to say. Good listening skills can help agents to avoid misunderstandings, handle service issues faster, and be more efficient. While studies show that most people tend to remember only 25% to 50% of what they hear – developing good listening skills is essential for face-to-face and voice interactions.
Attentiveness is one of the key skills in customer service. Being attentive to all the details a customer is sharing allows customer service agents to target the problem more precisely and avoid miscommunication. Besides, since customers demand a personalized experience, service reps require a great level of attentiveness to make interactions more personal. Even when they have to stick to certain canned responses, attentiveness can ensure the dialogue remains meaningful and personalized for each customer.
Since service agents have to deal with unhappy customers on a daily basis, patience is one of the most essential customer service soft skills you can have. Demonstrating self-control and the ability to stay calm in challenging service scenarios can help diffuse tense situations with frustrated customers. It also takes patience to interact professionally with customers who struggle to describe the problem or follow the agent’s guidelines and instructions.
Empathy – the ability to sense and share the emotions of others – is a must have customer service skill. Showing concern, caring, and understanding can go a long way, especially when interacting with complaining customers. If you take into account that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, it comes to show that empathy allows you to create emotional connections with customers which is the foundation of a good customer service experience.
5. Clear communication skills
Clear communication is one of the most important customer service skills for everyone working in customer oriented positions. Both oral and written communication skills matter equally. Using unclear language, slang, specific jargon, mumbling, or being unable to get the message across in a clear and concise manner can create customer dissatisfaction. Communication skills are also interlinked with the ability to use positive language, which is discussed below.
6. Ability to use positive language
The ability to use positive language is among the most-desired skills needed for customer service. How service agents phrase their responses can have a big impact on the way customers perceive your company. Saying ‘This product will be available next week’ instead of ‘We don’t have this product right now’ makes it easier for customers to accept the information. Therefore, using positive sentence structure can create a better impression of your customer service.
7. Problem solving skills
Good customer service basically means getting to the core of the problem and immediately coming up with the right solution. With excellent problem solving skills, customer service reps can address challenging service issues more efficiently and make appropriate decisions, while also being able to think pro-actively and creatively if a problem arises. Moreover, problem solving skills also help service agents manage conflicts and deal with unhappy customers.
8. Positive attitude
Consider the stressful nature of a customer service job - constantly dealing with complaints, negative feedback, and customer frustration. Being able to maintain a positive attitude in these situations can help service agents avoid burnout, stay motivated, maintain a good performance, and high productivity levels. Positive attitude is also the key to more effective customer interactions, building emotional connections with customers, and creating positive service experiences for them.
9. Adaptability and flexibility
No list of good customer service skills is complete without adaptability and flexibility. There is a lot of variability in the average customer support rep’s daily routine – different customer personalities, different problems to solve, and different support channels to manage. Therefore, adaptability and mental flexibility are critical skills as they help service reps adjust to challenging situations that can arise.
10. Time management
Since customer service agents usually have a variety of tasks and responsibilities to handle during the day, time management is one of the must-have skills for customer service agents. Time management includes smart planning, setting realistic goals, prioritizing daily activities, minimizing interruptions, and delegating tasks. These skills help service reps manage their workload effectively, meet deadlines, maintain a high performance, maximize their productivity, and handle multitasking.