10 'Must-have' Customer Service Soft Skills

10 ‘Must-have’ Skills for Being Awesome at Customer Service

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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Mary Shulzhenko
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  1. I agree that there is always room for improvement. No matter how superior you think your customer service already is, there’s always aspects of your service that you can do better. The key to displaying superior customer service is actually found in the Golden Rule: Do unto others what you want others to do unto you. Always try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and think about how you would want to be treated.

    1. Thanks Ian, that is truly the Golden Rule in customer service that everyone should remember when interacting with their customers.

  2. Very Nicely Listed all the important skills . I have been in Hospitality Training Since last 20 Years and have trained More than 3000 Participants . I feel Under present scenario Multitasking is yet another Important skill that must be added.

  3. I think one of the most important things we can do to the list is to add in our own unique personality, I believe we should shine on our with our natural charm and not become too robotic when dealing with guests, I feel this puts myself and the customer at ease if I dont seem like I’m practicing text book training. I love to add in a level of professionalism but keep myself not too distant from a more personalised and natural care.

  4. #1 is knowledge of the subject. In the insurance world, agents may think they are doing a good job of servicing and protecting their policyholder clients. However, with better knowledge they may actually do a much better job.

    1. Thanks Antone. Knowledge of the subject, product or service is no doubt number one, though I consider it more as technical skills, while those listed in the article are soft skills which are extremely important too.

  5. As customer service ,Yes ,this skills both is very important during working as customer service,Especially be paintently ,i always happend such kind of situation,Some customer when he is angery ,you need to stand out of the situation ,do not rush the customer opion,agree and persuade the customer to know what is the problem and why will be this results.
    Thanks for your share.

  6. I have found that having all of these skills are often after a few years at learning your trade. In the first years of my career, I am very certain that I did not meet the the standards of the ‘must haves’, Now after a solid career in the Customer Care arena, I find that I have the skills and try to pass on my experience to the next generation.

  7. All the skills shared so far are must needed. One of the basic is ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. Acknowledging and following customer help you to build a rapport with the customer at the same time customer will feel they are chatting with a human and not a bot. In addition to it I feel buttering a customer should be avoided instead focus should be on resolving customer’s issue. We should not forget that ultimately customer reaches us with an expectation that we will be resolving their concerns. Thanks a bunch for the post and sharing skills.!

  8. Great list, Mary. These are not only skills that work towards improving customer experience, but I think the 10 skills you listed are also staples of success. Most people work in a field that requires human interaction and the necessity to work with others to accomplish the tasks at hand. These skills, if learned and utilized, will allow anyone to do that successfully and be a good leader.

  9. Mary,

    it actually takes time to get to the point, where understanding customers needs comes easily or even better naturally. Some people have more empathy and they are naturally better suited for customer service jobs than other people.

  10. In our industry, sometimes Homeowners have an unrealistic expectation that we should know of every violation and maintenance issue before it even occurs. I try to emphasize the value of the caller reporting these items to me, as correcting the issue can be handled more promptly. Informing Homeowners that we are working as a team helps to minimize frustration.

  11. Knowing how to handle an angery customer. Letting them know you understand their concerns and will help address and solve the issue, while keeping your kool is extremlly important! They are upset over the issue, so it can be harder to get to the root of the issue.

  12. Hi, Mary. Customer service has to be the hardest jobs in the world. They’re at the frontline, which means each interaction can significantly affect customer retention.

    Customer service is one of the key factors why customers choose to stay or leave. You can have the best product in the market with the most competitive pricing strategy, but when customer service sucks, your clients could start looking elsewhere.

    These tips you’ve shared are spot on! Active listening instead of selective listening is important. So is objectivity (self-control), the willingness to help, and the ability learn and rise above the occasion. Keep them coming!

  13. Well written article. most of us are human, but when dealing with the multitudes of different people it is # for a customer service rep to be understanding and knowing how to defuse a potential lost customer without bad publicity

  14. Taking the responsibility that’s the best thing to practice in customer service environment, because customer are there always to be heard and their query to be sorted urgently.

  15. Very informative article here. More often than not, CSRs have a tendency to offer generic solutions based on keywords they heard from the customer. And generic solutions do not make rockstars. Apply active listening. Treat each call unique. Make the customer feel she is special and that you are providing her a special solution to her unique concern. And then see how many “smileys” you get at shift’s end.

  16. Nice customer service skill list. Time management is crucial in customer service if 5 customers at a time and only one agent available how they can manage time with each customer.

  17. Hi, Mary. such a great post, thank you for sharing! At the end of the day all business is about people and if you continuously strive to serve people better, your business will get better. Your post did a great job of pinpointing this message. Thanks again!

  18. Being a persuasive speaker can dramatically increase your customer interaction. The secret of persuasive speaking is putting a verbal focus on the target of persuasion (the customer), not on the speaker.

  19. I figure this guidance could apply to any kind of composing and even up close and personal correspondence. I’m anticipating propelling a non mainstream application soon and client bolster is one of the greatest concerns I have – being prepared and furthermore even inspired to manage it always.

    It additionally makes me somewhat on edge of me saying the wrong thing, or getting irate or restless individuals requesting help or who simply need to blow some steam and that potentially making the entire thing a negative affair for me. I feel better arranged at this point. Much appreciated! Compassion, Patience, Positivity, Clarity. I truly think those are ideas that assistance improve copywriting and UIs as well.

  20. The steps you shared you discussed i agreed all these steps i think this is awesome and i think its very useful steps for interacting with customers.

  21. Good customer service means helping customers efficiently, in a friendly manner. It’s essential to be able to handle issues for customers and do your best to ensure they are satisfied. Providing good service is one of the most important things that can set your business apart from the others of its kind.

  22. Everything would be great if it weren’t for our customers” is really a frightening comment!

    If it weren’t for our customers we wouldn’t make money!

    I am happy to say that I work in a very sales focused company, meaning we all care and work with our customers and will therefore never say anything like that.

    The problem is when many of the employers are so distant from the end users, they only see them as an annoyance.

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