When it comes to providing outstanding customer service, it’s the people who make all the difference. While it certainly takes time, training, practice and dedication to become a rockstar in customer service, it doesn’t have to be that hard when you know where exactly to focus your efforts on. Here’s the list of 10 must-have soft skills that matter most and that everyone involved in customer service should master and use in their daily interactions with customers.
# 1 Effective Listening
Listening is the key to effective communication. Without the ability to listen carefully to what a customer is saying, a message could be easily misunderstood and misinterpreted. As a result, communication breaks down leaving a customer frustrated. Listening isn’t just about hearing. A good listener will not only listen to what is being said, but also what is left unsaid or partially said. Luckily, if your listening skills are weak, there are certain techniques for improving them.
# 2 Attentiveness
Attentiveness should run through every customer service experience – during the interaction and after it’s over. How often have you contacted customer service and been subjected to obviously scripted responses? Didn’t it give you the feeling that a customer service rep didn’t really pay attention to what you were saying and didn’t care about your problem? There’s nothing wrong with using canned responses, as long as they are personalized, used wisely and appropriately to the situation. That’s why attentiveness is crucial.
# 3 Patience
We all perfectly know it, customer service might be a stressful and challenging job when we have to deal with confused, frustrated and angry customers. In such situations patience is a real virtue and the way you respond to those customers will either calm them down or hype them up. The good news is that learning to be always patient with customers is as easy as learning to separate your feelings from the situation and understand that in most cases a customer is upset with something that has nothing to do with you personally.
# 4 Self-control
Maintaining self-control is paramount in customer service. Apart from the the ability to handle surprises and deal with angry customers without losing your cool, it also goes to treating each customer interaction separately regardless of how bad the previous one was. You just need to always keep in mind that each new customer presents a completely new issue and that the frustrated customer from the previous call bears no relation to the next customer waiting to be taken care of.
# 5 Clear communication skills
If you are not a great communicator, you will probably not go far in customer service. An ability to communicate clearly and effectively verbally (no mumbling) and written (strong typing, spelling and grammar skills) is essential. It also involves avoiding miscommunications that might lead to misunderstandings and unwanted consequences. Especially when it comes to important points, you need to communicate things clearly, simply and leave nothing to doubt.
# 6 Ability to use ‘positive language’
The way you express yourself will affect whether your message is perceived positively or negatively. That is especially the case in Web Chats. When talking to your customers face-to-face or over the phone, body language, face expressions and tone of voice convey far more than the meaning of the words, while in Live Chat conversations words are all you have to convey the message. That’s why your ability to use ‘positive language’ and avoid negative phrases will more likely leave your customers feeling satisfied.
# 7 Persuasive speaking skills
Being a persuasive speaker can dramatically improve your customer interactions. The secret of persuasive speaking is putting the verbal focus on the target of persuasion (the customer), rather than on the speaker. In practice, it means calling a customer by name, using action-oriented words, the active tense in words or phrases instead of the passive tense and avoiding prefacing statements (like ‘I think’ or ‘I believe’) that express your personal thoughts or opinions. Putting your customers at the center will make them feel more respected and appreciated.
# 8 Time management
Are you able to manage your working time efficiently? Effective time management includes smart planning, setting goals and priorities, minimizing interruptions, handling procrastination and delegating responsibilities. The last one should be applied in the situations when you simply cannot help a customer, whether it’s because you don’t know how or you’re not authorized to do it. That’s when the best thing you can do is to pass a customer over to someone who can help them, without wasting both of your time.
# 9 Taking responsibility
When things go wrong, customers expect you to take responsibility for the problems or negative experiences they are having with your company, products or services. It starts first of all with being able to sincerely apologize to a customer on behalf of your company, even when a problem or a situation that caused customer’s frustration was not your fault at all. It also means your readiness to do whatever it takes to make sure the issue gets fixed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
# 10 Willingness to improve
It might sound too ‘general’ as compared to other skills on the list, but it’s still absolutely necessary. In customer service, there’s always room for improvement and it always pays to invest in yourself. If you’re not seeking to get better at what you’re doing, you might end up being left behind by those willing to invest in their skills and self-improvement.
Which skills do you think should be be added to the list? As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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