It's all well and good to decide to improve your company's customer service through technologies, but the human element is an essential factor too. There are plenty of ways to train customer service professionals and monitor their interactions with customers, but which skills should you focus on? What matters most to consumers?
Let's dive into the most important customer service skills, soft skills, hard skills, and communication skills for your customer service team to work on during training sessions. Your customer support team can then put these people skills into practice on the front lines to keep customers satisfied and coming back for more.
The Most Important Customer Service Skills
A large number of interpersonal skills can make or break someone's career as a customer services specialist. The ability to communicate with strangers who are already upset, frustrated, or angrily confused and ready to take it out on you is made up of a variety of skills that work together to calm down a consumer and help them straighten out the issue whenever possible.
At the end of the day, customers have questions, and they want answers. How you deliver those answers definitely matters, but you must offer actionable solutions to their problems. If you can't do anything to help their situation, give suggestions about things you can do, or offer advice about who else they can reach out to.
Likely one of the first skills that anyone working in customer service needs to master is the art of self-control. No matter how efficient or well-mannered you are, there are going to be people who don't get in contact with you until they are at the end of their rope, and it won't be pretty. Part of serving customers is learning to take that frustration in stride.
Hopefully, customers will acknowledge that their problems weren't caused by you on a personal level and won't start by slinging insults, but it's impossible to know, and some people really lack manners. On the chance that customer interactions go badly, you need to be able to count on your customer service representatives to stay professional, positive, and calm under pressure.
If you have a customer service staff member who loses their patience with a customer, that's problematic. Plenty of customers have begun recording their interactions with companies in order to embarrass them on social media and if they have proof that your employee couldn't take the heat, it could cause widespread damage to your brand's reputation.
Most customer service representatives will need to master the art of multitasking, especially considering how many ways there are for customers to communicate their needs. Gone are the days of just fielding phone calls; now, they must also contend with live chats, texts, in-app messaging, posts on social media, and emails.
Some customers may try contacting your business in a few ways at the same time, just to see which one gets them a response first. Hopefully, your customer service representatives will have some help through automated technologies to route the right questions to them, along with the customer's account and information, but they'll need to stay on their toes to keep everything straight throughout the day.
Knowing what type of tone and language to use in a conversation of any kind is a skill unto itself. It gets even harder when you can't hear the other person's tone or see their body language through email, chat, or text. But responding to someone who is angry and upset is already challenging. Customer service reps have to walk a fine line of staying upbeat without being dismissive or condescending to the customer.
Whenever possible, customer service representatives should try and mirror the type of language used, even if they take a positive tone. For example, if a customer calls in, their general level of education and knowledge of the product should become obvious early on in the conversation.
If someone has a common issue or a problem that they don't know how to articulate, you won't get anywhere by asking them detailed questions about the products' specs since they clearly don't know. Using words outside of their general vocabulary or beyond their comprehension can seem rude or belittling, especially when they're already aggravated about having a problem.
On the other hand, if someone has all of the information and presents a detailed explanation, you can use larger words and more technical jargon to explain the solution. If you try to explain it as you would to someone who doesn't understand, this customer might get annoyed and think you're talking down to them, even when you have innocent intentions.
One of the biggest complaints from customers is that they don't feel like they're heard when providing customer feedback. Now, their problems may not actually be unique, but no one wants to feel like they're talking to a brick wall. Part of active listening for a customer service agent means responding to specific concerns and questions with a positive attitude to provide creative solutions without sounding like a robot.
Precise and Detailed
Being precise and detailed means that you must speak clearly when answering questions or providing product knowledge, without mumbling, that you must stay on topic, and you must enunciate your words. You and your customer may be from different regions or have different first languages, and it is essential that they are able to understand you, despite any accent you might have.
While it's completely normal for customer service representatives to specialize in certain aspects of your company, more and more consumers are churning from companies when they have to be switched around to multiple departments. This can be solved in a few ways, one of which is to use an automated technology that routes the customer to the right department on the first try, but it is also important for all of your customer service staff to know the company as a whole.
The more knowledge individuals have access to, the easier it is to solve customer issues. Customers may become frustrated if an employee doesn't know the answer to a question about how to use a product or why a feature isn't working. Even if the employee doesn't know the answer off the top of their head, they should be able to access the answer through internal company documents.
If they have to put the customer on hold to get their manager and then wait for the manager to look up the answer, that can cause customers to become belligerent and annoyed. This is why it's so vital to give customer service representatives access to widespread information throughout the company and its products or services.
No one wants to be lied to, especially not by a customer service representative. A frustrated customer may become irate upon learning that you don't know the answer to their question and need to ask someone else or transfer them to another department, but there's nothing wrong with being honest about what you do and do not know.
It's less time-consuming to admit you don't know the answer and ask them to wait while you find out than to try multiple shots in the dark to solve the problem while pretending like you know the answer.
Good customer service starts with emotionally understanding how a customer is feeling and what they're dealing with. This means avoiding letting boredom creep into a customer experience representative's voice or answering with short, clipped sentences. Even if you can't solve their problem, whether it's because you don't know how or you have heard this issue before and there is nothing that you can do, be kind and gentle while explaining that to the customer. Instead of just saying, "No, I can't do that," try explaining why you're unable to provide that refund and see if there is something else you can offer instead.
In the end, many customers are less concerned about actually receiving a refund or solving their issue and more concerned about their customer service experience. By staying in tune with their emotions and explaining what you can do for them, you're likely to find that customers are less disappointed or angry, even if you can't solve their original problem.
Considering how highly consumers value customer relationships, it is essential that you ensure your customer relationship managers employ these important skills when interacting with your customers. Some of them may be more challenging than others, and most people won't have mastered them before starting, but they are vital skills to monitor and improve as you go.
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