21 Skills to Look for in a Good Customer Service Candidate
We all know the feeling of terrible customer service. You’re on hold for what feels like forever, only to be transferred five times and then told the person you need to talk to is unavailable. Or maybe you’ve been in a store where the employees are so busy chatting with each other that they ignore you completely. Good customer service is essential for any business, yet it can be so hard to find.
When I was younger, I worked at a fast-food restaurant. It was my first job and I was eager to please customers and do a good job. However, no matter how hard I tried, there always seemed to be something that went wrong. Orders were mixed up, drinks spilled — it felt like everything was going wrong. After a while, I started dreading my shift because I knew that chances were high someone would end up leaving angry or disappointed.
In this article, we’ll discuss how you can train your support team to carry out good customer service and make clients happy.
What is customer service?
Customer service is when you help both prospective customers and current customers. You do this by answering their questions and responding to their inquiries through a variety of channels, including phone calls, emails, chats, and social media posts. You may also create documentation to help your customers solve their problems.
Customer service can vary depending on the organization. Some organizations provide excellent customer service, while others do not.
Good customer service means putting the needs of your customers first. This commitment is what sets you apart from your competitors.
If your product is great but your customer service is poor, people will complain and you will lose customers.
It’s not impossible to turn things around when it comes to your customer service. Though it won’t happen overnight, transforming your customer service is possible.
It takes a lot of dedication to make real change, you need an amazing team of customer service professionals, and everyone in the company has to be on board.
Why is customer service important?
Since 86% of consumers leave after a negative experience, it’s up to companies to do everything possible to turn that around. This could mean gaining a new customer, keeping an existing one, or upselling them.
Good customer service is important for companies because it can help to create a positive experience for customers, which can then lead to increased revenue.
According to studies, American companies lose more than $60 billion every year due to poor customer service. And 70% of consumers say they are willing to spend more money doing business with a company that delivers good customer service.
Customer experience is so important because it can make or break your business. By leveraging your customer service team, you can engage your customers in exciting ways that will make them happy.
4 Principles of Good Customer Service
There are four principles of great customer service: personalized, competent, convenient, and proactive.
- Personalized: Great customer service always starts with a human touch. Personalized interactions are key to providing excellent customer service and letting customers know that your company cares about them and their problems. Instead of thinking of service as a cost, consider it an opportunity to earn your customer’s business all over again.
- Competent: Competency is the key to providing a good customer experience. Customer support professionals must be knowledgeable about the company and its products and have the ability to resolve customer issues. The more they know, the more competent they become.
- Convenient: Customers want to be able to contact you via the most convenient channel for them. Customers want to be able to reach you through the channels they trust most.
- Proactive: If one of your products is delayed or your website is going to experience downtime, it is important to proactively reach out to your customers and explain the problem. This way, they will be kept in the loop and will appreciate the transparency.
By focusing your customer service strategy on these four key principles, you can create a positive and convenient customer experience for all.
21 Valuable Customer Service Skills
Delivering consistently excellent customer service takes effort and alignment across the entire organization. A good place to start is your support staff.
It’s important to find people who are passionate about helping your customers succeed, as well as offering competitive rates to attract skilled professionals.
There is no one size fits all answer to who the perfect support team member is. Instead, it is more about finding the right personality, attitude, and experience.
Rather than focusing on qualities that can’t necessarily be taught, focus on characteristics that can be.
These people are great at one-on-one interactions and problem solving within their community.
They are sympathetic, engaging, and competent in teaching other people the principles of things.
Here are 21 skills all customer support professionals should develop and leaders should seek out when interviewing potential new hires.
1. Problem Solver
Sometimes customers don’t know exactly what they’re looking for. It often falls to the customer support representative to troubleshoot the issue and find a solution.
For example, a customer is having trouble resetting their password. It’s obviously because they want to log into their account.
Good customer support will go above and beyond to reset a password, provide new login details, and teach customers how they can do it themselves next time.
A problem-solving sales pro can preempt issues before they arise by offering solutions that customers might not have even considered.
Patience is key when talking to customers because often they are confused or upset.
If you listen to your customers and are patient with them, they will feel that you are going to help them solve their current problems.
Take the time to listen and understand your customers’ problems. If you rush through interaction, you may miss important details that will affect your ability to provide them with the best solution.
Listening to your customers and paying attention to their needs and concerns is essential to providing the best service possible.
It’s important to not only listen to customer feedback but also identify trends or patterns in that feedback. This can help you address any recurring issues.
For example, your software’s dashboard may not be laid out correctly, which could be causing customers to feel frustrated.
Your customers may not necessarily tell you directly that your user experience needs improvement, but they may hint at it. For example, a customer may say, “I can’t find the search function,” or “Where is that feature again?”
Listening to what customers are saying allows you to provide better customer service.
4. Emotional Intelligence
Great customer service reps know how to deal with all types of customers, but are especially good at dealing with angry or upset ones.
They prioritize empathy and swiftly communicate it to the other person.
Think about all the times you’ve dealt with a customer service issue and the person on the other end of the line took the time to understand your situation. It’s a lot easier to sympathize with someone when they’ve taken the time to empathize with you.
When a customer is upset, a good customer support representative can calm them down by repeating their problem back to them and validating their frustrations.
5. Excellent Communicator
Your customer service team is on the front lines of your company and is tasked with resolving customer issues.
The customer service representatives will be the face of your business, so they must know how to communicate clearly with customers.
For instance, it would be pointless for the customer to receive a long and detailed explanation of how to solve a specific problem.
Being able to communicate effectively with customers is critical because miscommunication can lead to disappointment and frustration.
Customer service reps should communicate clearly and concisely with customers, leaving them with no questions.
6. Good Writer
Good writing is all about getting as close to reality as words will allow. The ability to write well is often overlooked but it is one of the most important skills for customer support. Good writing can help to resolve issues and keep customers happy.
Since communication through writing is less personal than face-to-face or voice-to-voice interactions, it requires a unique ability to express nuance.
How you phrase something can have a huge impact on how it’s perceived. For instance, “you have to log out first” makes you sound like a jerk while “logging out should help solve the problem” sounds like you genuinely care.
Writers who excel at grammar and sentence structure are also more reliable and trustworthy. This reflects on the company itself.
Even if your company offers only phone support, writing is still an important skill to have. It’ll help you craft clear, concise emails, as well as help you think and communicate more clearly.
7. Creative and Resourceful
Being creative with your solutions not only helps you solve problems but can also make your job more fun.
It takes a certain level of finesse to make a typical customer service exchange memorable and warm. If you can find a customer service representative with the right attitude, your customer service will go from being just good enough to something people will want to tell their friends about.
According to Chase Clemons of Basecamp:
“You want to have somebody who you don’t have to give a lot of rules and regulations to. You want to have somebody who is talking to a customer and understands ‘Their boss is really yelling at them today. This person is having a really bad day. You know what? I’m going to send them some flowers to brighten things up.’ That’s not really something you can teach. They have to go the extra mile naturally.”
Sometimes, people message customer service not to ask for support but to consider buying a product.
In these situations, it helps to have a team of people who are skilled in persuasion. This way, they can convince interested prospects that your product is the right choice for them.
Don’t make a pitch in every email you send out, but don’t let potential sales slip through your fingers either.
9. Positive Speaker
Customer service is all about creating positive experiences for your customers. Making small changes to the way you communicate can make a big difference in how satisfied your customers are.
The way you speak can have a big impact on the way people view you and your business. Your language can create positive or negative perceptions in people’s minds, so it’s important to use language that will make your company look good.
A customer may contact your team with interest in a product, but if the product is out of stock, the customer may need to wait until next month for the product to become available again.
Instead of responding with “I can’t give you that item until January,” you should respond by saying “That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse.”
By phrasing your response more positively, the customer will feel like their question is being addressed and that their needs are being met.
While the first example isn’t necessarily bad, the tone it portrays can feel too blunt and rude, especially when it’s used in customer support emails.
On the flip side, the second example is saying the same thing (the item is out of stock), but it’s emphasizing when and how the issue will be fixed instead of dwelling on the negative.
The best way to become a customer service superstar is by knowing the ins and outs of your company’s product. After all, without this knowledge, they wouldn’t be able to help customers with their problems.
All new employees at our company, including myself, receive training on how to provide good customer service during their first week or two.
Having a solid understanding of your product and how it works not only ensures that you’re prepared to handle any customer issue, but also allows you to gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ experience.
Team members need time to learn about the product and understand its complexities. For a complex product, this may take years.
11. Good Acting Skills
There are going to be times when you and your team are going to encounter people that you just won’t be able to please.
Sometimes, things out of your support team’s control can pop up. But don’t worry! There are ways to deal with these situations.
To provide great customer service, it is important to have basic acting skills. This way, you will be able to maintain your usual cheerful persona, even when dealing with grumpy customers.
12. Time Management Skills
It’s good to be patient and take the time to understand a customer’s problems and needs. On the other hand, it’s also important to make sure you and your team are efficient. This means that you should dedicate a set amount of time to each client so that their requests are met on time.
Good customer service representatives know when they can’t help customers and can find someone else who can help.
13. Ability to Read Customers
It’s important to understand some basic principles about human behavior when reading your customers’ emotions. As Emily Triplett Lentz explains:
The best support professionals can read their customers to gauge things such as mood, patience level, and personality. This allows them to keep customer interactions positive.
Some people can remain calm and collected when things get hectic. This is called keeping one’s cool.
Customer service representatives who can stay calm when interacting with customers are better able to defuse stressful situations.
15. Goal Oriented
Giving your employees unfettered power to “WOW” your customers can be detrimental to your business.
This can happen when employees are left without any specific goals for customer service, and this can result in them not doing their best to help customers.
16. Ability to Handle Surprises
Customers will sometimes make requests that fall outside of company policy. Other times, they’ll react to situations in unexpected ways.
In these situations, it’s good to have a team of people who can think on their feet and take the initiative to create guidelines for everyone to use in these situations moving forward. This way, your team will be better prepared to handle any surprises that come your way.
A strong work ethic and dedication to completing tasks correctly (without taking shortcuts) is an important skill for providing excellent customer service that people will talk about positively.
18. Ability to Seal the Deal
It’s important to be able to close with a customer as a customer service professional to ensure that they are satisfied with the conversation. This means being able to address all of their concerns and making sure that they feel like everything has been taken care of.
Make sure your team is taking the time to ensure all customer issues are resolved before booting them.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s a character trait that can be learned and improved upon.
If you’re hiring for positions in customer service and you’re testing candidates, look for candidates who show empathy for customers.
When you can’t tell the customer exactly what they want to hear, it’s important to show care, concern, and understanding. This can make all the difference in steering the conversation toward a better outcome.
As a support representative, it is important to be able to empathize with customers and craft messages that will lead to a positive outcome. Oftentimes, a little empathy can go a long way.
In business, hasty decisions can lead to wasted time and money. That’s why it’s important to hire people who take their time and aren’t easily distracted.
One, they’ll take the time to get to the heart of a problem before responding. There’s nothing worse than trying to provide a solution only to have it completely miss the mark in terms of solving the actual issue.
Two, they’ll proofread their response carefully. A well-written reply can lose its effectiveness if it’s full of typos.
Three, the most important thing, is that they follow up regularly.
“Hey! Remember that bug you found that I said we were looking into? Well, we fixed it. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.”
The best hires can maintain their professional composure under regular fire.
As the support team is often tasked with cleaning up other people’s messes, they need to understand how not to internalize the urgency – and potential ire – of frustrated customers.
They keep their cool when things get a little rough.
21. Willingness to Learn
Learning new skills is the foundation of a great customer service career. It shows that you are willing to learn and open to new ideas. This positive attitude will help you succeed.
Your team needs to be continually learning about how to communicate well with customers and each other. They should also know when to follow the rules and when it’s okay to deviate.
If you’re not always trying to improve, you’ll be overtaken by those who are constantly seeking to improve their skills. Whether you’re improving a product, a business, or a customer’s experience, those who aren’t continually learning will be passed by those who are.
It’s important to remember that good customer service is the key to a successful business. By taking the time to understand your customers and providing them with the excellent service they deserve, you’ll be sure to keep them coming back.