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Client success - 8 min READ

8 Customer Service Skills Your Customers Will Love You For

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Author photo: Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee

Customer Enablement Manager

If your business has a customer service team, you’re in the business of making people happy.

In fact, when your existing customers are happy, they’re willing to spend up to 17% more on what you’re selling. That’s how valuable good customer service is to them.

On the other hand, bad customer service means your business is losing out on money. In fact, a study by NewVoiceMedia shows that businesses in the U.S. lose about $62 billion every year due to bad customer service experiences.

Many customers end up switching to a different provider after a bad experience. Their top reasons for switching might surprise you:

  • 49% switch companies because they feel unappreciated.
  • 37% switch because the customer service staff was rude or unhelpful.

No one said customer service was easy.

And with more and more companies realizing the importance of good customer service, how can you make sure your customer service rises above?

Glad you asked.

Today, I’m going to introduce you to eight customer service skills that everyone in customer service should be working on:

  1. Show empathy.
  2. Be a problem-solver.
  3. Develop your product knowledge.
  4. Pay attention to details.
  5. Learn to compartmentalize.
  6. Be a clear communicator.
  7. Manage your time.
  8. Develop your listening skills.

1. Show empathy.

Empathy is defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary as “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.”

To truly help your customers, you need to understand where they’re coming from.

Try these three ways to cultivate empathy:

Put yourself in their shoes.

While somewhat over-used, this expression is important for people in customer service. Visualize their situation, understand their motivations, and you’ll have more empathy for what they’re feeling right now.

Ask the right questions.

To understand what’s going on, ask specific questions focused on this particular customer.

Get to know their business goals, both short-term and long-term. Then you’ll better understand how to provide the solutions they need.

Show interest by your tone of voice and facial expressions.

Empathy comes from genuinely understanding someone else's feelings. If you can patiently listen to someone vent and share in their frustration (or excitement, or any other emotion), you'll naturally match your tone of voice to a situation and make the right facial expressions or gesturing—without faking it.

Even if you’re on the phone, the emotions you’re conveying will be heard in the way you speak. What you say and how you said it will be the keys to showing customers you really understand and care about their situation.

Image for post Know thy customer. 🔎

Know thy customer. 🔎

Provide better customer service by knowing how to collect information and feedback—learn how to do it with this free handbook.

2. Be a problem-solver.

Remember: one of the biggest problems people have with customer service is the fact that they’re not getting the help they need.

Even if you can’t solve their problem outright, no customer service interaction should be unproductive. If you develop a problem-solving attitude, you’ll be on the lookout for ways to go above and beyond to help customers solve their issues and reach their goals.

Look beyond what’s in front of you and see the big picture: how can you help this customer get to their destination?

Here’s how to cultivate a problem-solving attitude:

Use positive language.

After a customer explains their issue to you, always start by acknowledging their situation and feelings. Then, use positive language to work towards a solution.

For example, avoid saying things like, “No, there’s nothing I can do.” Instead, try this, “I’m sorry you lost some of your data, that’s so frustrating. Let’s see if we can recover it together.”

Look for alternative solutions.

Sometimes a customer wants to do something with your product that just isn’t possible.

Instead of just saying no, see if you can come up with a workaround. It may not be the perfect answer they were looking for, but at least you can still help them get around their obstacles.

Develop your own problem-solving workflow.

Having a pre-made workflow gives you a clear path towards solving the customer’s problems. While each customer service rep’s process is unique, your workflow could look something like this:

3. Develop your product knowledge.

When you need to fix your car, you bring it to the mechanic. Why? Because they’re the one with the knowledge and skills to fix it.

When customers come to you, they’re putting their trust in you to fix their problems. That’s why having a deep knowledge of the product is one of the most important customer service skills to have.

However, if you really want to go above and beyond, it’s important to have a working knowledge of more than just your product. You need to understand the space and the industry.

Help customers understand what people normally do in similar situations or how they use certain features of your product to accomplish different tasks.

That way, you’ll provide that extra bit of help they need, and help them fall in love with your brand.

This is how to build up your product knowledge:

Read through and memorize the company resources.

While it’s not the kind of reading that will keep you turning pages through the night, reading through resources like the company’s knowledge base or product help articles will give you a clearer understanding how to use certain features and how to work around common issues.

Try the product for yourself.

To really understand and help customers work through issues, it’s important to know exactly how the product works, where its menus and buttons are, and how to adjust its settings. So, go ahead and give it a spin!

Develop a working knowledge of related products.

For example, our product here at Copper is a CRM. But, related to CRM is email marketing, email automation, lead generation tools, and so forth.

These related tools could get a customer out of a sticky situation, and knowing how to use them will give you an advantage when trying to help.

4. Pay attention to details.

To make your customers feel like you really understand their situation and their needs, you need to listen to and remember important details.

Unfortunately, my memory isn’t perfect (and I’m guessing yours isn’t either).

That’s why, in order to really pay attention to the details, you’ll need to come up with a process for taking notes that allows you to review and keep track of important points in your conversations.

Try these methods to make sure you get all the details.

Develop a system of note-taking that works.

One of the best places to take notes is in your CRM. That way, you can see the current status on this person, write down notes from a phone call, add any related tasks, and easily review your notes whenever you need them:

Be a master of search.

Wherever you decide to take notes, make sure you have a way of finding information quickly. If you’re taking notes by hand, that might mean using certain organizational methods, and if you’re using an app, it should have search capability. That way, you can find the information you need without wasting your time (or your customer’s time).

For example, when you search in Copper, you can easily see any people, companies, opportunities and more that contain that search term. Plus, you can filter the results to find what you need quickly:

5. Learn to compartmentalize and keep your cool.

It’s not always easy to stay calm when working in customer service. Unfortunately, not every caller will be quite as chipper as you are. And, even when the customer is pleasant, negativity can filter in from issues that you can’t solve.

That’s why it’s important to compartmentalize. Be careful not to absorb the negative energy from unhappy customers, because that can easily weigh you down.

Compartmentalize that negativity by doing this:

Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.

You’ve got a playbook you’re following, and you have different ways to help the customer. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to solve 100% of the problems that come to your desk.

So, don’t dwell on a situation if you really can’t help a customer: instead, focus on what you can do.

Avoid getting frustrated by remembering their point of view.

When a customer is upset, our natural reaction is to respond in kind. In these moments, it’s important to draw from another essential customer service skill: empathy.

Remember where this customer is coming from, and the frustration they’ve had with the issue at hand. Seeing things from their point of view can help you to be a bit more compassionate when dealing with an upset customer.

6. Be a clear communicator.

Communication is vital when working in a customer service role. Miscommunications can lead to distrust or make it seem like you’ve been untruthful.

If you’re not getting your points across clearly, your listeners will always end up frustrated.

So, don’t leave anything to doubt. Especially when it comes to important points, make sure what you're communicating is clearly understood and not open to interpretation.

Here are four ways to make sure you’re communicating clearly.

Practice with presentations.

Whether or not your work involves presenting, building up your public speaking skills is an excellent way to communicate more clearly. You might even be able to take a public speaking class to help boost your confidence and clarity of speech.

Speak clearly.

Studies by Professor Albert Mehrabian found that communication is largely accomplished not by what we say, but by how we say it and our body language.

That means, if you want to get your point across efficiently, you need to practice speaking in a way that’s easily and clearly understood—good pronunciation and pace are key.

Get rid of the jargon (or explain it).

Technical terms and jargon that are frequently used in your industry probably aren’t in the day-to-day vocabulary of your customers. So, skip the tech talk. Keep your explanations simple, and don’t overcomplicate the problem. If you do need to give some technical information, make sure you explain any terms your customers might not understand.

Cut the lecture short.

Short, concise speech is easier to understand and digest. Don’t overload your customers by giving a long-winded lecture or explanation—give them the information they need to know as quickly and clearly as you can.

7. Manage your time.

Spending time with your customers makes them feel appreciated and generally leads to a good customer service experience.

However, if you spend too much time with one customer, others will feel neglected (or they won’t get the help they need).

So, be balanced. To help each customer feel appreciated and satisfied with the support they received, you’ll need to decide how much time to dedicate to each one.

Try these three time-management tricks.

Set a daily schedule (and stick to it).

Scheduling different tasks into your workday helps you complete everything on time, and gives your day structure.

For example, you could set aside specific hours to answer emails, research solutions for complex issues, and answer phone calls:

Know when it’s time to stop.

While going above and beyond is important for a customer service rep, it’s also important to know when to stop. Otherwise, you could spend hours chasing nonexistent solutions, and ultimately wasting both your time and the customer’s.

Prioritize your tasks based on their impact—if a task that requires a lot of effort or time will produce only meager results, think twice before jumping down that rabbit hole.

Be prepared to pass the baton.

Customer service is a team effort. For example, let’s say a customer comes to you with a specific problem that you’re not familiar with. However, you know that Dan in the cubicle next to you has intimate knowledge and experience with this specific kind of issue. In this case, you may be able to pass the baton to Dan, and make sure that problem gets solved faster by someone with the right knowledge.

8. Develop your listening skills.

To solve your customers’ problems efficiently, you need to understand what they are.

You may hear the same problems repeatedly, but that doesn’t mean you can skip the listening and jump right to the solution. Making assumptions based on half of the story can easily frustrate your customers (especially when your assumptions are wrong).

Here are a few ways to be a better listener.

Allow them to explain, and help the process with good questions.

Give your customers the space to explain their problems and their frustrations. When a customer has a tendency to ramble, you can help them stay on track by asking direct, insightful questions. Asking questions also helps the customer feel like you’re making an effort to understand their situation.

Don’t multitask.

If you’re looking up information on the problem (or checking Facebook) while your customer is talking, you can easily miss important details in the story. Instead, direct your full attention to the customer, and jot down notes as they’re speaking to help you retain the information.

Repeat back important points.

To make sure you’ve understood the issue at hand, repeat back to the customer what you’ve understood. This ensures you're working with the right information, and shows the customer you were paying attention.

Note subtle clues about their mood and personality.

Don’t just listen to the words: listen to how they’re said. What does their tone of voice show? Is there a hint of anger? Do they respond well to humor? These clues can help you phrase your responses in a way that shows you care and diffuse situations before they're beyond repair (like when a customer gets really angry).

These customer service skills will make them fall in love with you.

But more importantly: they’ll fall in love with your brand.

When you work on customer service skills like the ones we’ve discussed, you’ll find that customers respond better to you and are more likely to stay with your brand.

The more good experiences people have with your customer service team, the more loyal they’ll be to your brand and product.

By being empathic, listening to your customers, and developing a problem-solving attitude, you can make almost every interaction with customers a positive one.

When you continue to develop these essential customer service skills, your brand will develop a reputation for excellent customer service and you’ll get a leg up on your competition.

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