Any list of examples of customer service skills is bound to be incomplete. Customer service and customer experience management incorporate operational, technological, and interpersonal skills that are as diverse as they are numerous. However, identifying and developing core customer service skills — in hiring, in promotion, in restructuring — can be an incredible source of strategic advantage for a company.
Below are 5 essential examples of customer service skills that should apply to almost any organization.
In almost any organization, the service is only as good as the systems that support it. Knowing how to break down the customer journey and prepare to deliver service excellence at each point along the way is a crucial skill to have (or to hire).
Being able to strategically prepare takes a mixture of experience and creativity; one must imagine what might be based on what has been before, then craft a strategy to prepare for it.
Awareness is one of the great differentiators between good service and great service. Are you reading the body language of the person tapping their foot while waiting in your lobby? Are you on top of the fact that your key customer did not send you a holiday basket for the first time in 15 years? Awareness entails noticing the details and looking for the silent problems that go unmentioned.
Awareness is an inherently proactive activity. It takes desire to be “always on” and the courage to look for problems to put on your desk when you have plenty there already.
In today’s digitally distracted world, listening is becoming an increasingly rare skill. Of course, people speak at different speeds — some take longer to get to the point and some never get to a point at all. But if they are your customer, they deserve not only to be heard but to be paid attention to.
Active listening takes it a step further. It means you care enough to put the effort into providing verbal and nonverbal feedback to the person speaking, feedback that tells them you are listening and are focused on what they are saying. Nodding your head, making a quick commentary to emphasize their points, and maintaining good eye contact all signal to the listener that they, and what they have to say is important.
And eye contact means with the person, not your iPhone.
The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.
Empathy is the ability to relate to how someone is feeling, to understand what they are going through. While we can’t all walk a mile in the shoes of each person we meet, we can attempt to put ourselves in their place.
Empathy is a skill because it involves being able to see past your own frame of reference and attempt to see the world as someone else does. We’ll never see it just right, but trying can make all the difference. The need for empathy in customer service is really clear in this customer service training video.
Customer service is all about problem solving — even when there is not a problem to solve. Finding the glitches in your customer experience and the ways to patch them is an example of proactive problem solving.
And of course there is reactive problems solving. How to make a dissatisfied customer happy within the bounds of your authority. How to turn a customer disaster into a customer save while taking into account legal constraints.
Solving problems, before and after they occur, is at the heart of great service.
As noted in the opening, the potential list of skills for customer service is almost endless. However, the 5 examples of customer service skills above should not be ignored. Regardless of the industry, these 5 skills almost universally apply to any customer facing role.
Whether hiring, training, or promoting, these skills are important to the success of anyone in customer service.
What are other great examples of customer service skills? Which of the examples above do you feel is most important?
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.