There were times when being a customer was much harder than it is now. The options to express your opinion about the company, complain about products or services, or simply go shopping were limited to the minimum, and dealing with the staff in-store was not necessarily the most pleasant experience you could have.
Customer service, as we all know it today, has gone through a big change. The development of technology has not only enabled people to effortlessly shop online, use various channels to get in touch with businesses, but also left them in control of brand perception. 74% of customers admit that customer service is the driving force behind their purchase decisions, which means that becoming or staying successful as a company highly depends on its ability to leave its customers satisfied.
So if you’re wondering what is customer service and why is it so important, what customer service skills to focus on, and how to meet those ever-growing customer expectations, this article might be a good place to start.
Let’s talk customer service
Customer service definition is simple – it’s the assistance that the company provides to the people who buy its products or services. Although this sounds like a breeze, it now requires much more attention and additional effort than ever before.
It’s no longer just answering calls or any other kind of direct interaction between a specific business and a customer. Tons of new channels that allow shoppers to reach out to companies have emerged, and the boundaries of customer service have noticeably expanded, raising some new challenges for customer support teams.
It now starts way earlier than the first inquiry reaches your inbox – for instance, when a potential customer decides to check your FAQ page for more information. Hence, keeping this in mind can really improve your customer service, meaning that in the end, you get to enjoy the fruits of your hard work.
Why focus on providing great customer service?
Great customer service:
- Boosts customer loyalty and retention
- Opens an opportunity for upselling and cross-selling
- Builds stronger relationships
- Enhances brand reputation
- Results in positive feedback
- Improves work environment
- Drives business growth.
Yet without a great team, there’s no chance any of this will happen. People who work in customer service should actually possess several crucial skills required for the best performance in such a demanding position.
Let’s go through some of the key ones that can positively impact your company’s bottom line and really help it grow.
8 essential customer service skills that drive success
The ability to understand what the other person might be going through is what empathy is all about, which makes it one of the most important skills in a customer service representative's skillset. It can help to delve deeper into a particular problem and better control those stressful situations that customers find themselves in.
It means that an agent who’s empathetic can put himself into customers’ shoes, greet them in a way that makes them feel heard and valued, and sincerely try to help. Even though there might be no way to solve a particular problem, empathy can at least lower the amount of frustration, making such interactions memorable and reflecting positively on the overall brand image.
2. Patience and self-control
Patience and self-control are tightly bounded and are two other crucial skills for a great customer experience. Let’s face it – most of the customers who contact the support team are irritated or angry about something, and it might be difficult not to lose control and react back in a similar way.
That’s where staying patient plays a key role – it’s important to hear out what the customer is saying, take a second to go through possible solutions, and let them know you’re there for them. Depending on a specific issue, it might not always go as well as you expected, you might still get shouted on or even insulted, but patience and self-control can truly help to slowly but steadily seek resolutions and handle any kind of situation in a way that leaves you proud.
Being attentive in customer service is equally important both for your business and your customers. First of all, not giving your full attention to the customer might result in even more frustration. Moreover, customers are not always able to express what’s bothering them directly, so you have to read carefully between the lines since it can help you fix some major issues.
For instance, let’s say you’re a developer of some kind of software, and your client is reaching out because he has troubles navigating it. It’s unlikely that he’ll tell you just to “fix your user experience” (UX). It’s more likely that you’ll be told that he can’t find some specific feature. Being able to identify customers’ problems even if they’re not actually saying them is a valuable trait of a good customer service rep.
4. Active listening
Active listening could be considered a combination of previously mentioned empathy and attentiveness that can help to uncover some important information, leading to customer satisfaction.
“Active” is a part of it for a reason, though. Since listening can actually have several different goals, active listening also needs responding for better mutual understanding. It means that just listening is not enough – it includes asking questions, reflecting on what’s being said, asking for clarification, verbal and nonverbal feedback, etc., yet no interruptions. It can show how much a customer support agent actually cares about that specific inquiry, resulting in positive word of mouth.
5. Time management
Being able to efficiently solve customers’ problems is partly the result of good time management skills. Learning to prioritize tasks and requests can help to accomplish more in a shorter period of time, especially during the “higher volume” days.
To put it very simply, time management skills allow a customer service representative to organize his or her working day in such a way that allows them to serve each customer, without leaving anyone out. When customer expectations for fast and attentive support are growing exponentially, this skill that the customer support team shares can help to stand out from the competitors.
Same as in life, in customer service things don’t always go as planned. Flexibility means that you can adjust to any kind of situation that the day throws at you, and react accordingly.
For this, customer service representatives need full trust from the company and take responsibility for their actions. They might need to come up with their own decisions and there's not always going to be much time to talk it through. For example, a company should be flexible enough to grant unhappy customers with a small gift or at least offer free shipping – bending the rules once in a while could help maintain good relationships.
7. Positive attitude
Although the customer service department might not carry the image of the most positive place on earth due to solving problems of irritated customers all day, individual customer service agents can still keep it this way. Not only this can maintain a healthier work environment, but also improve their performance and boost customer satisfaction.
Smiles are contagious and even though you’re serving customers online, they should be able to feel that positive vibe. Imagine the combination of effectively resolving issues and passing some good energy as a bonus – that would definitely add up to the overall customer experience with a brand.
There are many reasons why you should always be honest with your customers:
- It helps to gain their loyalty and generates trust
- It builds brand credibility
- Honesty shows that you care
- It might encourage a positive word of mouth
Furthermore, being honest with your customers can and will improve your bottom line and even company morale. Creating an environment that employees can be proud of can improve their productivity, resulting in better customer support.
Following the trends of customer service and trying to achieve the best results will never work without a strong team, equipped with the right tools. The customer service team is at the forefront of every company and carries a huge responsibility of helping customers solve their problems. For this, they need to stay patient, empathetic, attentive, and also listen carefully to what the customers are saying. Such a skillset allows agents to help customers in the best possible manner, leaving them satisfied, thus boosting the chances of seeing them again in the future.