Soft Skills: Customer Service Skills

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 have come to 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 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 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. For customer-facing positions soft skills 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

Listening can be found on almost any customer service skills 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, before you start crafting a response. Good listening skills help agents to avoid misunderstandings and handle service issues faster and more efficiently. 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.

2. Attentiveness

Attentiveness is truly one of the key skills in customer service. Being attentive to all the details a customer is sharing allows targeting the problem more precisely and avoid miscommunications. 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.

3. Patience

Since service agents have to deal with unhappy customers almost on a daily basis, patience is of the most essential customer service soft skills to have. Demonstrating self-control and the ability to stay calm in challenging service scenarios can help to 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.

4. Empathy

Empathy – the ability to sense and share the emotions of others – is on top of exceptional customer service skills. Showing care, concern and understanding can go a long way, especially when interacting with complaining customers. Taking into account that 70% of the buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, according to a study by McKinsey, empathy allows creating 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 on customer oriented positions. Both, oral and written communication skills equally matter. Using unclear language, slang and specific jargon, mumbling, losing focus and being unable to get the message across in a clear, concise manner can create the source of 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 a 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 coming up immediately 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 situation demands. Problem solving skills also help service agents to manage conflicts and deal with unhappy customers.

8. Positive Attitude

Considering the stressful nature of customer service job - constantly dealing with complaints, negative feedback and customer frustration - being able to maintain a positive attitude in any situation can help service agents to avoid burnout, keep motivated, maintain good performance and high productivity levels. Positive attitude is also a 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. Adaptability and mental flexibility are critical as those help to adjust to every single customer and effectively resolve challenging issues that are not covered in the company’s guidelines.

10. Time Management

Since customer service agents usually have a variety of tasks and responsibilities to handle during a day, time management ability is one of the must-have skills for customer service. It includes smart planning, setting realistic goals, prioritizing daily activities, minimizing interruptions and delegating tasks. Time management skills help service reps to effectively manage their workload, meet deadlines, maintain high performance, maximize their productivity and deal with multitasking.

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