Customer service skills are crucial to the success of your company. A positive customer experience can differentiate a brand from its competitors even more than pricing.
Businesses that are conscious of that advantage often go to great lengths to improve their customer experience. They widen their support channels, personalize their offerings, and make more customer-centric decisions. Because they know that:
- 70% of consumers say they have already made a choice to support a company that delivers great customer service.
- 68% of customers believe the key to great customer service is a polite customer service representative.
- Service insight and knowledge is also key to a good experience according to 62% of consumers.
- Attracting a new customer is 6-7 times more expensive than retaining a current one.
- These stats were taken from Nextiva.com, and you can find many more if you're not convinced.
6 Customer Service Skills to Increase Customer Satisfaction
Let's explore the 6 customer service skills that are guaranteed to increase customer satisfaction. But first, take a look at what Eddi Bello, CloudTask Head Of Training And Development, has to say about customer support:
#1 - Knowledge of the Product
In order to advise customers properly, you’ll need a thorough understanding of the product they use every day. If you aren’t a master of the product or service you provide, you won’t be able to grasp the issues your customers run into.
There are some key ways to ensure you stay up-to-date with your product/ service:
- Initial and ongoing training
- Continue to actively use the product or service while doing your job
- Provide easy to read and accessible resources
#2: Active Listening and/or Reading
Less talk. More listening.
One of the great paradoxes of communication is that if you want to be known as a good conversationalist, you have to stop talking and let the other person say what’s on their mind.
In the best selling self-development book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Steven Covey states ‘Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.’
A Customer Service Representative should ask open-ended questions instead of yes or no questions. This helps to reveal complete thoughts, so that the Rep thoroughly understands the issue.
A Rep should also seek to clarify all points with appropriately timed verbal responses, by asking questions as needed and also summarizing what the customer has said back to them. This is necessary because sometimes customers’ may gloss over important points, which can be key to solving issues.
Remember to avoid distractions as this type of activity will increase the probability of error.
Barriers to effective listening include:
- Distractions (your phone, noise, another conversation)
- Mental preoccupation and drifting off in another direction
- The topic is something you dislike
- The tendency to rebut
- Being put off by the way the customer is communicating
- Manage distractions so that you can focus. Put away your personal phone!
- Develop a curiosity of what the other person is saying by mental and physical energy to juggle your priorities
- Don’t worry about your response, worry about a solution to the customer issue
- Try not to be too judgmental of the speaker, have a bit more compassion and don’t worry about how the customer is performing as a communicator
Be patient and remember it's about the customer.
#3: Fast Response Time
The ability to solve customers’ problems in a timely manner is the yardstick by which customer service customer and experience is measured. There are two key variables that come into this:
- First Contact Resolution (FCR) - if a customer’s issue is solved on their first contact.
- Average Handle Time (AHT) - the total duration of an interaction. For example, if you call a support centre, are on hold for 5 minutes, speak to a Rep for 10 minutes and then are transferred to another rep for 5 minutes, that’s an AHT of 20 minutes.
A rapid response to a customer query is one that meets or exceeds customer expectations, creates confidence and conveys the quality of service.
The goal should be to return emails, phone calls, and tickets the same day they are received. If a customer is having a high priority issue, the goal should be to provide a solution immediately.
The best companies take a dedicated stance to providing stellar customer service, practicing proactive outreach, creating a sense of urgency, and the ability to anticipate needs ahead of a customer's’ request. The easier you make the resolution of problems, the better off your customer is going to be.
Another way to increase response time is through preprogrammed artificial customer service agents to aid human representatives and serve as a buffer to weed out non-value, repetitive questions. This improves operational efficiency and makes it much easier to delight customers.
The reality is, people want whatever they need fast. Customers pay extra to upgrade shipping from 2 days to next day. Speed is a competitive strategy, so how fast you return a call or an email is sometimes a deal breaker for clients.
Fast is good, instant is even better, so this should be the operational parameter of all departments.
#4: Building Rapport
When it comes to customer service, building close and co-creative relationships with customers should be second nature.
Here are a few things companies can do to promote rapport:
- Feel, Felt, Found: Teach new Reps to use phrases that include the words feel, felt and found. This is an age-tested, proven strategy of moving your customers gently to a new way of thinking.
- See it from the customer’s perspective: Showing empathy is a crucial part of building rapport, as it helps to create trust and mutual understanding, while it enables Reps to show the customer that they are the priority.
- Allow them to vent: Angry customers are the most difficult callers to build rapport with, but it’s not impossible, as long as the Rep lets them “get it all out” first.
- Share their priority: Make your customers’ problem your problem!
- The value of an apology: A genuine apology at the appropriate time can defuse a difficult customer and break down the barriers to allow space to build rapport.
- Be flexible with formality: Try addressing your customers in the way that they introduce themselves.
- Be adaptable: There is no reason to think that all customers should be approached using the same style.
And for the keen reader, here are another 27 ways to build rapport
#5: Communication Skills
Communication is integral to every customer experience.
Even something that is not obvious, like an online order, has many layers of communication attached to it. From the language on the website, to the email that is sent once the order is placed, communication plays a crucial role, even in automated experiences.
Communication is at the heart of an organization’s relationship with itself, with its external stakeholders, and, of course, with its customers. At the organizational level, communication is a strategic imperative that should be aligned with goals and, whenever possible, carefully crafted to produce maximum impact.
On the front lines, it’s a skill that must be trained and mastered. Effective spoken and written communication depends both on your manner and on your confidence. The latter can be inflated by knowing the product like the back of your hand and having faith in your own abilities to solve a customer’s problem. By being confident in your stance, you’ll be able to take charge of the conversation, accompany the customer’s understanding, and manage their expectations.
You can improve the former by making an effort to speak slowly, giving yourself time to think ahead. Enunciate clearly, and give the caller a chance to chime in if they need you to explain further or reformulate. In any case, keep things simple and leave nothing up to chance. Here are a few ways to ensure great communication with customers:
- Persuasive speaking skills: Persuasion has long been recognized as an important sales skill, but it can also be invaluable for customer service.
- Empathy: The bottom line in most customers’ minds aren’t financial. They’re emotional.
- Ability to use positive language: Steer the conversation toward a positive outcome with the use of positive language. Focus on the solution, and thank customers for their patience, understanding and valued loyalty.
- Pace and lead: Start by showing urgency, confidence and care in your speech patterns to match and reassure. Then gradually begin to calm and slow your speaking pace.
- Be aware of intonation: Go up at the end of the sentence for questions, go down at the end of sentences for statements.
#6: Thick Skin
Your reps are on the front lines of your business, and they need some solid armor.
Insults, anger, and frustration need to bounce off of you. Make sure they know you support them and foster an environment where it’s okay to take a head-clearing moment between difficult calls.
Finding a customer service team member with all these skills is difficult, but there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Training your staff doesn’t happen overnight, so take it a day at a time. Each skill builds on and complements the others; focus on skills that can be improved the most and move on to each additional skill from there. Chances are, you’ll see a marked improvement sooner than you think.
Here is a list that you can use to build a mentally resilient Customer Service team:
- Don't take things personally
- Don't be self-focused
- Stop the self-talk
- Learn to be patient
It’s crucial to develop the customer service skills of your team. Doing so will greatly increase customer satisfaction and customer retention.
Your department should be specialized in dealing with clients empathetically and committed to their goals. Don’t forget that ultimately, the evaluation that customers make of your company is based on the experience they’ve had with it.
Establishing parameters for measuring performance, or setting customer satisfaction rates, can be a good way to improve and avoid stagnation. There are many indicators and tools that you can use to measure performance and improve the level of your team.
Remember, ‘Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your altitude.’ – Zig Ziglar
Top 10 Customer Service Skills: An Infographic by Hiver.
Want to take things further. Discover how you can improve your NPS with Customer Success: