14 Customer Service Skills to Cultivate [+ Self-Test Cheat Sheet]
Customer service skills should be perfected, whether you like it or not. What are they? We spill the beans here, come over and check out!
Written by Olesia Melnichenko
Do you know how many times a customer service rep can play the wrong card? 🃏 Once. Ok, thrice tops. Then, the odds are the whole communication with a client develops into a huge drama, with them making adieu to your company.
The thing is that a customer service position goes way beyond fielding clients’ questions and complaints. Nowadays, it equals meaningful human interaction. Of course, people appreciate an emotional bond with a brand. So, knowing how to build it and what skills to master is your recipe to avoid the given scenario.
Providing excellent customer support wouldn’t even be half the battle. What lies deeper is polishing your good customer service skills.
So, whether you are a newbie or a seasoned expert, you will find out how to keep your cool after reading this article. Before we get to the ins and outs, why don’t we discuss what customer service skills are 👇
What are customer service skills?
Customer service skills represent the set of proficiencies that you should ace in order to assist clients via live chat, email, phone, social media, or in-place. They are indispensable when it comes down to communicating, troubleshooting, or just listening to a customer who knocks at your door.
Here is a quick graphic customer service skills list. It contains a fair share of them, however, you’ll get a helicopter view after you read the article. Anyway, study it before we take a deeper dive into the topic. By the way, we’ve also coined a cheat sheet for your comfort—it waits for you at the end— remember? So be our guest! 💁
Why are customer service skills important?
Customer support staff is usually thought of as the first resort for a client. They form the initial impression when a person reaches out to a brand. A skilled professional will organize a positive dialogue, fostering loyalty and a flawless brand reputation. Needless to say that such a customer-centered approach will yield fruit.
As Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur and motivational speaker, once said, “If you just communicate, you can get by. But if you communicate skillfully, you can work miracles”. This quote just hits the nail. Learning and developing the most important customer service skills should be an indispensable part of your workflow if you want to move up the ladder.
Sufficient customer service soft skills
As you’re in customer service, you should know this industry requires hard (that you can learn) and soft skills (the so-called ‘interpersonal skills’). Luckily, we’ve covered both groups and some valuable tips on how to cultivate them in this post. Here we go! 🚀
1. Clear communication
When hiring customer support experts, communication skills should be tested first. These come in both written (we’ll get to that later, stay tuned 😉) and verbal forms.
If you’re a phone customer support agent, your major principle should be ‘no mumbling’. You need to explain the solution to a client’s issue concisely, avoiding jargon and technical terms. Otherwise, people will switch to a brand that is on the same page with them.
How to hone clear communication:
Speaking of practice, there is worthwhile literature on mastering communication skills for bookworms. You should also consider watching some engaging TED Talks to bolster your speaking. I, for one, enjoyed this video produced by TED and Institut Le Rosey on the ‘art’ of communication.
Proactivity is a top customer service skill. Clients appreciate it when a support rep shows initiative in order to solve their issue ASAP.
Don’t take my word for it: 87% of customers prefer to be reached proactively, and 68% say that their perception of a brand increases when they receive proactive customer service notifications.
You might ask why helping people proactively is better than reactively? Everything is simple: by initiating a conversation, you take a step forward to amaze a client. This way, you can catch all the customer pain points before they grow into something bigger. Plus, a proactive approach saves much time for customers as they don’t have to waste it searching for a solution.
How to train proactivity:
As I’ve already mentioned, great customer service skills are hard to imagine without leading the dance. To master a proactive mind, I would suggest doing the following:
- Don’t be shy – I know, you might get rattled reaching out to a client first. But once you do that, you’ll notice trust on the customer’s part. And this is what proactivity is for.
- Get to know your audience – listen to what they’re talking about on social media, your chats, or even a brand’s online community (if you have any) to solve their pain points faster;
- Gather feedback – this intel will be a powerful base for you to see the trends that crop up. Do you need to improve your pitches? What other proactive activities do you have to put on the front burner?
- Infuse proactivity into your company’s culture – develop a certain mindset among employees so that they create an enjoyable experience for customers along their journey with your brand.
3. Patience (aka coolness)
There are lots of idioms describing this customer service skill: ‘be at peace with the world‘, ‘be as cool as a cucumber‘, ‘easy come, easy go‘. All of them share the same bottom line, which is the ability to stay calm even when things get a little topsy-turvy.
As you can guess, the key skills for customer service also include patience and coolness, so you have to work it out. As soon as you take it easy, you’ll notice how fast you alleviate customer frustrations.
Steps to master patience and coolness:
Numerous studies have shown that patient and cool people tend to be more healthy and happy. So, how do you develop it? Jane Bolton from Psychology Today gives a piece of sound advice:
- Realize the nature of anger and irritation
- Upgrade your attitude towards discomfort
- Pay attention to when irritation starts
- Mind your self-talk
Patience is one of those advanced customer service skills that are hard to reach. But with a bit of practice and tenacity, it will be a snap. Make small breaks during your day, read an interesting book, or just go for a quick stroll. By the way, communicating with your clients having a zen mind can be an excellent way to avoid customer service burnout.
Customers can be initially attracted to a company’s product. But what can make them long-term? That’s right: empathy and help. According to the statistics, 53% of consumers will choose another brand if they feel underappreciated, and 42% switch due to rude or unhelpful service.
How to learn empathy:
Imagine how you would feel when chatting with an unempathetic support rep. Probably, not in the mood. Try to put yourself into the customers’ shoes and not jump into defending yourself or your company when a client argues. This will rile anyone up. Take a step back and imagine, let’s say, a friend and what you would say in this case.
Before solving an issue, apologize for the inconvenience: ‘I am really sorry for the situation and totally understand your frustration‘. Assure your customer that you’re doing your best to change the situation for the better: ‘I am checking all the details right now to help you as soon as possible‘. Remember to sound and act like a human: clients will feel your empathy and ease up a little. This is what excellent customer service skills predetermine.
5. Stress management
Stress is an old friend of all customer service reps out there. Luckily, there are various psychotherapies and techniques that help cope with it (stress management, that is). For instance, meditation, shifting the mindset, or even self-care.
After you overcome it, the positive benefits will be around the corner: improved sleep, clear cognition, and good mental health, to name a few. So, with decent planning and a pinch of rationality, stress will simply vanish.
Ways to conquer stress:
You have to take stress for granted, as it’s an integral part of a customer service position. Customers may drop in all at once: some might be disgruntled, and others may be hard to understand. But everything is manageable.
A health psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive emotion and introduces a stress-reduction mechanism: reaching out to others. Check out the full video below:
Stress management is one of those effective customer service skills needed and are worth gold. Next time you fill in your CV, don’t forget to add this skill to the set.
If you’re a live chat support agent, you know how tough it is to handle multiple conversations at a time. A phone service expert often looks up some info when a customer is still talking. You might say these activities require multitasking.
Tricks to stay flexible:
Anyone can build the skill of multitasking. You just need to keep the basics in mind:
- Offload easy tasks
- Develop multitasking abilities
- Stay active even in idle hours
- Know your multitasking limits
In chat support, it’s a common thing to communicate with several customers simultaneously. A lot of progressive companies, like HelpCrunch, for that matter, have already made the lives of their service agents much easier.
The feature-packed customer service software with a shared inbox and a bunch of other valuable specs allows processing customer requests faster. Besides, the custom data needed is always at your fingertips. Yeah, choosing the right tools is also among the top customer service skills.
7. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence means the ability to read people’s emotions and react to them in a constructive way. This customer service skill is extremely vital for support agents because not all customer problems are product-related.
How to develop emotional intelligence:
Customer issues usually stem from external factors preventing clients from achieving their goals. Emotionally intelligent service reps can identify these factors and reduce their impact on the customer’s experience.
Besides, emotional intelligence has 12 elements that each support rep should train one way or another:
Let’s say, you’re on a phone call with a frustrated client who has this trouble with a subscription. You can hear the kids screaming in the background while the client tries to stay focused. Skills in customer service also cover this picture 😌
If you’re an emotionally intelligent support agent, you can detect this pain point and easily make a joke about children taking part in your conversation. Instead of going into ostrich mode and ignoring the external situation. This would be adaptability and organizational awareness (see the table). As easy as that.
8. Desire to improve
You can’t master every customer service skill that’s been said and written about. But you can think of the sides that could require improvement. That’s why a sincere desire to learn and be a better version of yourself is valuable.
How to develop your desire to improve:
Customer service training is one of the handy ways to enhance your key traits in this context. But traditional learning techniques are a bit old-fashioned. In the Internet era, there is some cool stuff.
I mean, you shouldn’t exclude customer service scenarios or some team-building activities, too. But what about webinars or online courses? Here are suggestions you could take advantage of:
- eLearning from such online course platforms like Udemy or GoSkills
- Webinars like the ones available in Lorman
- CSM Certification Programs from Oxford Home Study Center
All the above-mentioned superior customer service skills might not be enough to get the job done. From my perspective, it’s persuasiveness that helps make a skeptical customer sign up/buy a product/choose another pricing plan.
How to practice persuasiveness:
It has something to do with how you ‘read’ your clients (yeah, kind of like reading the room). This can be simply achieved by listening more than talk. In this article, the author presents a company that teaches its service reps to quickly detect a client’s personality and provide them with decent help.
Sure thing, being persuasive doesn’t mean being rude or dishonest just to please a customer. Your aim is to be confident of what you’re telling and persuade a person to make a positive decision. That’s what I call strong customer service skills.
Must-have customer service hard skills
10. Perfect writing
Basically, every position involves writing. Being a customer support agent, you’re supposed to communicate with clients via live chat or email tickets day by day. Messages filled with typos and grammatical errors will not reflect well on you.
How to perfect your writing:
You can omit those errors by checking your spelling and grammar via such digital language tools as Grammarly or Hemingway Editor. Smart writing assistants give in-depth feedback so that your content is clear and comprehensive.
Given that people are more demanding than ever today, they will expect an instant response from you. That’s why a skilled customer service rep should type at a fast clip. This is when your technical customer service skills start.
Take your support team’s typing skills to the next level with a typing speed test. It’s not only fun, but also really productive. You or your customer service team can spend 15 min per day practicing delivering faster support.
Plus, crafting canned responses could be a blessing as well. You can pre-write and shoot them later to save yourself much time.
11. Proficiency in languages
‘The more languages you know, the more you are a human‘. This saying fits the list of customer service skills as a fiddle. Since customer service is now more of a human attitude, the knowledge of numerous languages can set you apart from your competition and provide a massive plus in your job.
The importance of speaking your customers’ language is paramount. Here’s why:
- Increase in sales: 75% of consumers prefer customer service in their native language. That’s pretty obvious. Who wants to chat with a Google Translator instead of a live agent with perfect language skills?
- Access to a wider market: getting international audiences interested in your product is always a good idea for company growth.
- Enhanced brand loyalty: a customer will realize there’s someone to understand their needs (especially when a problem pops up).
- No miscommunication: when an unhappy client reaches out to you, they have an opportunity to express themselves more easily. Besides, any bit of information will be lost due to translation.
How to stay proficient in languages:
To stand out from the crowd, hire multilingual customer support specialists. They could also help you build a multilingual knowledge base down the road.
Such a resource center could be perfect for storing valuable onboarding information, explanatory materials, and other documentation in the original (which, by the way, reduces the likelihood of miscommunication).
12. Computer skills
Are you not a tech-savvy person? Well, the sky isn’t falling here. Customer service skills and abilities imply that you still have to know some basics in this area, though: how to fill in a Microsoft Word document, create an Excel table or a PowerPoint presentation, and be familiar with Google Drive.
Ways to pump computer skills:
When it comes to advanced customer service skills, you might need to have a clue how such software as Jira or Trello works. These are helpful tools for managing teams’ tasks. A lot of businesses also use a help desk feature as it makes support agents’ lives much easier:
- Multichannel support – I don’t mean to brag, but we at HelpCrunch are no strangers to going multichannel. If you’re a user, all your correspondence from live chat, email, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and Viber will flow down to one place. Isn’t it handy?
- Chatbot flows for faster troubleshooting – the world will never be the same as there are chatbots! With this technology, you can shape dialogues for any scenario, be it debugging or offering a special deal. You teach a chatbot how to assist and are able to focus on more complex stuff.
- A shared inbox for managing customer data – you can throw away the notebook with your customer’s addresses, contact data, etc. A unified dashboard allows you to keep track of such info and always keep your finger on the pulse.
13. Product knowledge
How is it possible to assist a client if you lack the most important: product knowledge? It often stays in the shade of a customer service skill list. Your readiness to listen and an excellent customer service mindset won’t do much good when you’re not able to answer a client’s question.
How to own product knowledge:
If you’re a business owner, consider a client onboarding checklist as the number one thing to present when a newbie arrives. Plus, carry out regular presentations, discussions, and meet-ups so that the staff is aware of everything that’s going on behind the curtains. Otherwise, your staff’s work would lose its gist.
For instance, we at HelpCrunch are serious about our new hires (that’s why we rock!), so everyone should pass a 3-day onboarding process. After that, a skilled employer is ready for the fight 💪
14. Time management
Making optimal use of your time is a customer service skill that most service experts lack. Effective time management requires employees to analyze their workload, set priorities, and stay concentrated on productivity.
Hacks for time management:
Do you have problems with this skill? Cheer up and read on to know how to develop it:
- Prioritize: make a list of all your tasks for the day and decide which one you will do first, second, etc.
- Schedule: is a demo with a customer around the corner, and you totally forgot about it? Use some scheduling software like Google Calendar and relax.
- Write a To-Do list: prepare for a team meeting – check, provide a customer with a solution – check, have a snack – check.
- Have a rest: your job is one of the most exhausting ones. So, put your phone aside and have a good 8-hour sleep.
- Delegate: can Jim from the sales department help you with this pile of chats? Kindly ask them and you’re all set.
Shall we recap? Now that you’ve got up to speed on customer service skills, I’d recommend you to self-test. Grab a piece of paper and put an ✅ or any other mark anytime you think this or that proficiency is mastered:
- I am talking clearly and customers understand everything I say
- I am showing my initiative when a client comes with a question
- I can conquer impatience so that it doesn’t interfere with my work
- My customers feel my empathy, which helps me build meaningful relations with them
- Stress is no longer a challenge for me as I am able to suppress it with special hacks
- My head is always cool enough during a dialogue
- I know how to adapt to customers’ behavior and find the best possible way-out
- I am eager to master my skills every step of the way for the sake of customers
- My writing is polished, and I keep honing it from time to time
- My language skills are up to par, but I don’t rest on my laurels
- I can manage every aspect of my life, including the work-life balance
- I am interested in technology and can get the hang out of basic technical customer issues
Alright! The basics are covered, so your goal is to hone them to the best of your abilities. Why don’t you sign up for HelpCrunch to mix business with pleasure?