21 Key Customer Service Skills (and How to Develop Them) - Help Scout (2023)

No matter how good your product is, if your customer service is bad, people will complain and you will lose customers.

The good news: it's not impossible to change things. However, transforming your customer service from mediocre to great won't happen overnight. It requires a serious commitment to meaningful change, a team of Rockstar support experts, and work across the organization.

What is customer service?

Customer service is the act of supporting potential and existing customers. Customer service representatives typically answer customer questions in person, via phone, email, chat, and social media, and may also be responsible for creating documentation for self-service support.

Organizations can also create their own definitions of customer service based on their values ​​and the type of support they want to provide. For example, at Help Scout, we define customer service as providing timely, empathetic help that keeps customers' needs at the forefront of every interaction.

Why is customer service important?

And86% of customersLosing a relationship with a company due to a bad experience means companies must view every support interaction as an opportunity to acquire, retain, or upsell.

Good customer service is a revenue generator. Offer customers a complete and cohesive experience that aligns with an organization's purpose.

Respectivelya variety of studies, US businesses lose more than $62 billion a year due to poor customer service, and seven in 10 consumers say they have spent more money to do business with a company that offers excellent service.

When you understand that customer service is the cornerstone of your customer experience, you can use it as an opportunity to delight customers and engage them in new and exciting ways.

What are the principles of good customer service?

There are four key principles to good customer service: it's personal, it's competent, it's convenient, and it's proactive. These factors have the biggest impact on the customer experience.

  • Custom:Good customer service always starts with a human touch. Personalized interactions greatly improve customer service and let them know that your company cares about them and their problems. Instead of viewing service as a cost, view it as an opportunity to win back your customer's business.

  • Competent:Consumers have identified competition as the element that plays the most important role in a good customer experience. To be competent, a customer service representative must have a thorough understanding of the company and its products, as well as the ability to solve customer problems. The more knowledge they have, the more competent they become.

  • Convenient:Customers want to be able to communicate with a customer service representative through the channel that is most convenient for them. Offer support through the communication channels your customers trust most and make it easy for them to get in touch with you.

  • Proactive:Customers want companies to engage with them proactively. If one of your products is backordered or your website is down, proactively reach out to your customers and explain the problem. They may not be happy with the situation, but they will be grateful that you have kept them informed.

By building your customer service strategy around these four core principles, you create a seamless and positive customer experience for everyone involved in your business.

Customer Service Tips by Business Type and Industry

  • B2B customer service

  • B2C customer service

  • SaaS Support

  • healthcare customer service

  • home customer service

  • Customer service in education.

  • Financial services customer service

  • Customer Service for Small Businesses

  • Customer service in non-profit organizations

  • Ecommerce Customer Service

21 Key Competencies in Customer Service

While consistently delivering great customer service requires work and alignment across your organization, your support team is a good place to start. It's important to hire people who genuinely want to help their clients succeed and pay competitive rates for professionals.

Finding the perfect support team member can be challenging. No special checklist of work experience and college degrees makes the perfect candidate. Instead, look for qualities that can't necessarily be passed on.

These people thrive on one-on-one interactions within their community. They love solving problems. You are warm, approachable, and great at teaching other people how things work.

Here are the 21 customer service skills every support professional should develop and every leader should consider when recruiting new team members.

The Fundamentals of Great Service Discover the tools and techniques used by the best-performing customer service organizations with our free six-part video course. sign up for free

1. Problem solving skills

Customers do not always correctly diagnose their problems on their own. Often it is up to the support agent to take the initiative to reproduce the problem in question before seeking a solution. This means that they not only have to intuitively understand what went wrong, but also what actions the customer ultimately took.

A great example? Ultimately, when someone signs up because they're having trouble resetting their password, it's because they want to log into their account.

Good interaction with customer support will anticipate this need and may even go the extra mile to manually perform the reset and provide new credentials, while also educating the customer on how to do it themselves in the future.

In other situations, a problem-solving professional may simply understand how to offer preventative advice or a solution that the customer doesn't even know is an option.

2. Patience

Patience is crucial for customer service representatives. After all, customers who contact support are often confused and frustrated. Being listened to and treated patiently goes a long way in making clients feel like it will ease their current frustrations.

It's not enough to close customer interactions as quickly as possible. Your team must be willing to take the time to listen and fully understand each customer's issues and needs.

3. Attention

The ability to truly listen to customers is critical to providing excellent service for a number of reasons. It's not only important to pay attention to individual customer experiences, but also to be aware of and be vigilant about the overall feedback you receive.

For example, customers may not say so directly, but there may be a general feeling that your software's dashboard isn't designed correctly. Customers may not say, "Improve your UX," but they may say things like "I can never find the search feature" or "Where is (specific feature) again?"

You have to pay attention to what customers tell you without saying it outright.

4. Emotional intelligence

A great account manager knows how to deal with everyone, but is particularly good at dealing with frustrated people. Instead of taking things personally, they intuitively understand where the other person is coming from and know they need to prioritize that empathy and communicate quickly.

Think about it: how many times has a potential complaint made you feel better just because the other person involved made you feel heard right away?

When a support representative can show genuine empathy for a frustrated customer, even when repeating the problem at hand, they can help both to placate (the customer feels heard) and to actively please (the customer feels confirmed in their frustration).

5. Clear communication skills

Their customer support team is at the forefront of troubleshooting for the product itself, serving as something of a two-pronged megaphone.

On the one hand, they are the voice of your company to your customers. This means they must have a working understanding of how to break down complex concepts into easily digestible and easy-to-understand terms.

On the other hand, they represent the needs and thoughts of customers towards your company. For example, it is inappropriate for the customer to receive a lengthy explanation of the pros and cons of fixing a specific bug.

The ability to communicate clearly when working with clients is a key skill, as misunderstandings can lead to disappointment and frustration. The best customer service representatives know how to keep their communication with customers simple and without leaving doubts.

6. Writing skills

Good writing means getting as close to reality as words allow. Without exaggerating one iota of exaggeration, being a good writer is the most overlooked but most necessary skill to look for when it comes to hiring account managers.

Unlike face-to-face (or even voice-to-voice) interactions, writing requires a unique ability to convey nuance. The way a sentence is worded can make the difference between sounding like a jerk ("You need to unsubscribe first") or sounding like you care ("Unsubscribing should help solve this problem quickly!").

Good writers also tend to use complete sentences and correct grammar, traits that subtly indicate the security and trustworthiness of their organization.

Even if your business primarily offers phone support, typing skills are important. Not only do they allow your team to create consistent internal documentation, but they also identify a person who thinks and communicates clearly.

7. Creativity and ingenuity

Solving the problem is good, but finding clever and fun ways to go the extra mile—and really wanting to—is even better.

It takes panache to infuse a typical customer service exchange with unforgettable warmth and personality, and finding a customer service rep who possesses that natural zeal will take your customer service out of "good enough" territory and straight into " all your... tell your friends." about it". Country.

Basecamp's Chase Clemons recommends the following:

"You want someone who you don't have to give a lot of rules and regulations to. You want someone who will talk to a customer and understand, 'Your boss is really yelling at him today. This person is having a very bad day. Did you know? I'll send you some flowers to brighten things up." That's not really something to teach. You obviously have to go the extra mile.”

8. Persuasion

Support teams often receive messages from people who aren't looking for support—they're considering buying your company's product.

In situations like this, it helps to have a team of people with some persuasion skills so they can convince interested prospects that your product is right for them (if it really is).

It's not about making a selling point in every email, it's about not letting potential customers get away with it because you couldn't convey a convincing message that your company's product is worth buying.

9. Ability to use positive language

Effective customer service means being able to make subtle changes to your conversation patterns. This can really go a long way in creating satisfied customers.

Language is a crucial part of persuasion, and people (especially customers) create a perception about you and your business based on the language you use.

For example, suppose a customer contacts your team interested in a specific product, but that product is backordered until next month.

Answering questions with positive language can have a big impact on how the customer hears the answer:

  • No positive language:“I can't get you this product until next month; is on hold and is currently unavailable.”

  • With positive language:“This product will be available next month. I can place the order for you immediately and ship it as soon as it arrives at our warehouse.”

The first example isn't negative per se, but the tone it conveys feels abrupt and impersonal and could be misunderstood by customers, especially with email support when thePerception of written language can be negatively distorted.

By contrast, the second example says the same thing (article not available), but focuses on when and how to solve the problem rather than on the negative.

10. Product Knowledge

The best customer service professionals have an in-depth understanding of how your company's products work. Because without knowing their product inside out, they don't know how to help customers when they have problems.

For example, all new Help Scout employees receive customer service training during their first week or two on the job; it is a critical component of our employee onboarding process.

According to Help Scout's Elyse Roach, "This strong product foundation not only ensures you have the best tricks up your sleeve to help customers navigate even the most complex situations, but also helps you understand their experiences, so may he become your strongest advocate.”

Mitigating gaps in product knowledge

Team members need time to develop their knowledge of the product. And if you have a very complex product, it can take years for your team members to learn all the details. However, the right customer support tool can help you fill these product knowledge gaps.

for example withboy scout help, can:

  • Create a database ofsaved answersthat support professionals can use to answer frequently asked questions about how to use your product.

  • Find your help articles andinclude links to them in answerswithout ever leaving the conversation view.

  • Settingautomated workflowsadding usefulinternal notesto conversations with instructions on how to respond.

  • Browse all previously submitted responsesby keyword, tag, and more to see if someone else on the team has already answered the question.

Ya sea que use Help Scout oone of your alternatives, be sure to explore the features available to help your teams deliver exceptional customer service.

11. Acting Skills

Sometimes your team meets people you can never make happy.

Situations that you have no control over (eg, a customer having a terrible day) sometimes infiltrate your team's regular support routine.

Any great customer service representative needs basic acting skills to maintain their usual cheery personality despite dealing with people who are downright cranky.

12. Time management skills

On the one hand, it is good to be patient and spend a little more time with customers to understand their problems and needs. On the other hand, the time you can spend with each client is limited, so your team must take care of getting what clients want efficiently.

The best customer service representatives are quick to identify when they can't help a customer so they can quickly put that customer in touch with someone else.canAid.

13. Ability to read clients

It is important that your team understand some basic principles of behavioral psychology in order to read the current emotional states of clients. As Emily Triplett Lentz writes:

"I rarely use a smiley face in a support email when the client's signature says 'PhD,' for example. It's not that academics lack a sense of humor, it's just:)You are unlikely to be taken seriously by someone who has spent five years deconstructing the utopian overtones of 19th century autobiographical novels.

The best support professionals know how to watch and listen for subtle cues about current mood, patience level, personality, etc. of a customer, which greatly contributes to positive customer interactions.

14. Unbreakable

There are many metaphors for this personality type – “stay calm”, “stay calm under pressure”, etc. – but they all represent the same thing: the ability to remain calm and even influence others when the going gets tough. . hectic.

The best customer service representatives know they can't let a grumpy customer make them lose their temper. In fact, his job is to be the "rock" for clients who believe that the world is collapsing due to their current problems.

15. Goal-oriented approach

Many customer service professionals have shown that giving employees unlimited opportunities to "wow" customers doesn't always yield the benefits that many companies expect. This is because employees are left without direction, and business objectives and customer satisfaction can go hand in hand without resulting in poor service.

Relying on frameworks like the Net Promoter Score can help companies create policies for their employees that give them a lot of freedom to treat customers on a case-by-case basis, but also prioritized solutions and shared solutions that leave problems behind.

16. Ability to deal with surprises

Sometimes clients will throw curveballs at your team. You make a request that is not in your company's policies or you respond in a way that no one could have expected.

In such situations, it's good to have a team of people who can think on their feet. Even better, look for people who will take the initiative to create guidelines that anyone in these situations can use in the future.

17. hardness

Call it what you will, but a great work ethic and a willingness to do what needs to be done (and not cut corners) is a key skill when providing the kind of service people (positively) talk about.

The most memorable customer service stories out there, many of which had a tremendous impact on the company, were written by a lone employee who refused to simply follow the standard process when it came to helping someone.

18. Blocking ability

Being able to close with a customer as a customer service representative means being able to end the conversation with the customer's satisfaction confirmed (or as close as possible) and with the customer feeling that everything has been (or will be) taken care of. ).

The last thing customers want is a reboot before all their issues are resolved. So make sure your team knows that you are taking the time to reassure customers that any issues they had are fully resolved.

19. Empathy

Perhaps empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is more of a character trait than a skill. But sinceEmpathy can be learned and improved, I would be remiss not to include it here.

In fact, if your company is evaluating job applicants on their customer service aptitude, you don't need to look for a more important skill than empathy.

This is because even if you can't tell the customer exactly what they want to hear, a dose of attention, concern, and understanding is enough. A support agent's ability to empathize with a customer and articulate a message that steers things toward a better outcome can often make all the difference.

20. A methodical approach

In customer service, haste is wasteful. Hiring conscientious and detail-oriented employees will go a long way in meeting the needs of your customers.

First, they will make sure to get to the heart of a problem before giving an answer. There is nothing worse than trying a "fix" only to completely fail to resolve the actual problem.

Second, they will review. A carefully written answer can lose much of its problem-solving luster if it's riddled with typos.

Three, and this is perhaps the most important, which means they will be doing regular follow-up. There's nothing more impressive than getting a message from a customer service representative saying, "Hi! Remember the bug you found and I said we were looking into it? Well we fixed it." That's a loyal customer for life who just won.

One important side note: The best employees are able to maintain their methodical grace under regular fire.

Because the support team often takes on the hard work of cleaning up other people's problems, it's especially important that they understand how not to internalize the urgency—and potential anger—of frustrated customers. Instead, they know how to keep a cool head and a steady, guiding hand.

21. Willingness to learn

While this is probably the most general ability on this list, it's also one of the most important. After all, a willingness to learn is the foundation for developing skills as a customer service professional.

Your team members must be willing to learn your product inside and out, willing to learn how to communicate better (and when to communicate poorly), willing to learn when it's okay to follow a process and when it's more appropriate to make a decision. your own adventure.

Those who aren't looking to improve what they do, whether it's building products, marketing companies, or helping customers, are left behind by people who are willing to invest in their own skills.

Learn more about HelpScout:

What if someone on your team lacks these skills?

What if you manage a team of support professionals who are unwilling to improve your customer service? What if they lack the above skills and don't seem interested in developing them? Help Scout's Mathew Patterson has a solution:

Often the root cause of what could be perceived as a lack of skills or an unwillingness to learn is the result of a work environment (current or former) that is not rewarded for going above and beyond to provide excellent service.

Try to give your team some clear guidelines for their expectations and some examples of what great customer service looks like at your company, while making sure to celebrate those small victories when you see people start to develop those skills to use.

Once your team realizes that their efforts are being recognized and rewarded, employees will be more engaged and you'll have a clearer idea of ​​whether or not there really are people on your team who have real skill gaps that you need to work with. in.

The evolution of customer service

Andwrote Seth GodinCustomer service means different things to different organizations, but things will not end well for companies that view customer service as simply a "race to the bottom."

Gary Vaynerchuk echoes this view.The economy thanks, where he outlines the evidence that there is profit and growth for any business that openly communicates with its customers so that they feel valued and valued.

Bottom Line: Good customer service is a growth center, not a cost center. It really is that easy.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Duane Harber

Last Updated: 03/17/2023

Views: 5345

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Duane Harber

Birthday: 1999-10-17

Address: Apt. 404 9899 Magnolia Roads, Port Royceville, ID 78186

Phone: +186911129794335

Job: Human Hospitality Planner

Hobby: Listening to music, Orienteering, Knapping, Dance, Mountain biking, Fishing, Pottery

Introduction: My name is Duane Harber, I am a modern, clever, handsome, fair, agreeable, inexpensive, beautiful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.