20 Customer Service Skills You Must Cultivate

20 Customer Service Skills You Must Cultivate

customer service and marketing alignment
Miruna Mitranescu

As the business world experiments with new ways to connect with their clients and customers, the need for easy to install call center technology becomes critical. Honing customer service skills to meet the demands of customers and respond in real time to volume is crucial to the success of your business.

However, finding the right call center technology is just the beginning. Customers have high expectations, and often companies fall short in meeting the service demands of today’s customer.

There is a need for more than just help with a purchase; people want to feel a connection to your business. Buying for any reason, business or personal, is emotional. And part of helping your customers make that emotional purchase involves integrating customer service skills that focus on the creation of a long-term relationship with your buyer.

Customer service skills that make a difference

Here are 20 customer service skills that will not only win your customers’ loyalty, but also make them a part of your sales team. When your buyer feels a connection with your business, they are more likely to share their love on social media. This alone makes them a valuable partner.

Know the Customer by Name

People love to hear the sound of their own name, so why not use it? Using Sir or Madam is antiquated and outdated. If you really want to build a connection with your customers refer to them by name in a way that is warm and friendly. When you address your buyers by name, it makes them more likely to work with you when they call with a problem.

Hear What the They are Saying

Nothing is more irritating than launching into an explanation, only to be met with “how can I help you today”? One of the best skills you can train is the ability to listen and document what is said at the very beginning of the call. When your agents respond with a confirmation of what the customer said, they will appreciate it.

As suggested by Myra Golden you should listen without interrupting for the first six seconds of the call. The important part here is the listening. Connection begins when people feel that they have been heard, so taking the time to listen is what sets the tone for the rest of the call.

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Tone is Everything

Nordstrom’s has a policy, they hire the smile and train the skill because they know personality is critical in a retail environment. But often call centers look for experience over demeanor. And while it may take longer to onboard and train someone who doesn’t come with years of experience, it can be worth the effort.

Tone is the most important component of a call. If you have someone who is efficient in system use and has the lowest talk time in the company, it means nothing if they are distant and abrupt when they speak to the customer. Getting lost in numbers and data can sometimes cloud the focus on the customer experience. A focus on hiring pleasant people is a safe bet that will pay off big in the long run.

The Deadly Effects of Silence

People don’t like to be on hold, so whether it’s dead air or hold time, it is bad for business. Talking and typing is an art, one that you need to incorporate into your training program today. Creating activities designed to turn your employees into multi-tasking machines will lower call times and result in happier customers. It is the perfect marriage of connection and time management, so if you aren’t doing it today, start now.

A Little Small Talk Goes a Long Way

One of the best tools for building an authentic connection with the customer is small talk. While customers don’t want to spend 40 minutes listening to your agent talk about themselves, a little sharing can be a good thing. If the customer mentions they are traveling or they have children, responding with a few personal details that relate to their comments can make the customer feel like you are someone they know.

Fix What Went Wrong the First Time

This may sound obvious, but it is something that is often a pain point for customers. If you tell the caller that an item is being reshipped, or you are issuing a refund, it needs to be done. Even if the call is perfect and the customer leaves happy, they won’t call back happy when they realize their request wasn’t processed.

Be Memorable

You want your employees to create something that leaves a lasting memory for the right reasons. Making an impression on the customer can some effort but when they are telling everyone they know how great you are, and sharing on social media it will be worth it.

Tone, small talk and a genuine regard for the customer’s needs can help you create positive memories that will keep the customer coming back again and again.

Know your Customer

We live in a complicated world, and with so many options available for customers, knowing more about their patterns and habits can give you a leg up on the competition. Taking time to research your customer, or sending surveys that ask them about themselves can provide you with valuable data that can allow you to appeal to the people who buy from you on an emotional level.

Create an Experience

Creating the customer experience is easy to say, but can be challenging when it comes to following through. Think about how you want to be treated and what someone could do that would elevate your experience to a higher level. Experience is something tangible, and above the above and beyond. Making your customer feel like they are getting something that no one else can get will make them feel special, and that will make them loyal.

So empower the people who talk to them to do be able to do more than just the little things, and create an unexpected WOW moment that creates an experience they want to share.

Win the Moment

Be better than anyone else at creating a bond with your customers. Building an emotional connection is the first step you should take to win in the moment. You only have a limited time to create a moment that is memorable. Winning means that you are providing an experience that can not be found anywhere else, and that you follow through on all commitments. It is those above and beyond moments that you share with your customers that create a memory they will want to share.

Hire the Customer

Okay, so maybe not literally, but your customers are a great marketing tool. When you create an experience that exceeds their expectations they will talk and share. Build a service model that rewards your agents by wowing your customers and you can put together a new branch of your marketing team. Customer Evangelist are real; they will post, tweet and chat about their good experience, just be good to them and they will be great for your business.

Make it Easy to Be a Customer

With so much information being thrown at us from every corner, making a transaction, or a refund an easy process for your customers can be an easy win. Review your current processes and find ways to streamline some of the most complicated ones. If you can, give more authority to your front line employees, this can reduce call times and make it easy on the customer. The easier you are to work with the stronger your customer base will become.

Build Customer Confidence

Don’t let your money walk out the door because your clients aren’t sure if you are the right company for them. Every contact you have is an opportunity to remind people that you are the right choice for them. Point out what you do better than anyone else, and reinforce that your customer has made a smart choice.

Create Touchpoints

How many times have you looked at your phone while reading this article? It’s okay, we all do it. But understanding that we all do it means we have to find a solution to keep the customer focused on you. In a distracted world, touchpoints allow you to make sure the customer knows you are there, and keeps them engaged.

Take the Customer on a Journey

People want to buy things, so if upselling is part of your customer service program you need to know how to take the buyer on a voyage. Walk them through the benefits of the item you want to upsell in a way that lets them see themselves owning and enjoying it. Build a story that makes them understand why they need it, and why they can’t live without it.

Provide Ongoing Training

Training should be a constant in a call center environment. By creating boot camp style reviews for agents in need, or upskill opportunities for those doing well you can ensure that you win the moment every time. Training allows you to reinforce behaviors and provide support to agents that may be underperforming.

Instruction should be a part of every employee’s plan regardless of level. If you want your customer service to be superior, investing in training is a smart idea. Scheduling regular training classes and gathering feedback can also provide valuable insight into what needs to be evaluated.

Get to Know ZMOT

The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) refers to what customers consider before making a purchase. It is the literal moment that a customer has a question about a product or service and searches online. ZMOT comes into the customer service arena when someone contacts you to ask a question or place an order. When these customers reach you they want to buy, so make it easy for them to complete the purchase process.

Keep in Touch with Your Customers

Direct mail is nice, but following up on an order wth a phone call is personal. People expect more; they want to feel important. One of the best ways that you can make your customer feel prioritized is to do the unexpected. Instead of your most current flyer, consider a card with a personalized message for high purchase volume customers.

Starbucks is a great example. I buy a lot from them, and occasionally I get a gift or coffee. It has made me a loyal customer, not because of the gifts, but because of the thoughtfulness behind it.

Respect the Customer’s Time

Provide options that make it quick and easy for the customer to make a purchase or resolve a service issue. People don’t want to spend their afternoon on the phone, so train your agents to manage the simple contacts in a shorter period. Both your customers and your handle time will be happy when you do.

Hire Nice People Who Like People

While this was touched on earlier, it is an important item to note. Train the skill, hire the will. Will is something you cannot train, genuine concern about the needs others is something you cannot force. When you are recruiting, you have to take into account that relatable, thoughtful, kind and courteous should trump resume.

Someone with a history of moving from one support job to another may not have the right temperament for a frontline agent.

Hire the smile and you will have happier employees and customers. All of these ideas are tools to create loyal, dedicated customers Evangelists. Nevertheless, it is important to start the process with someone who is dedicated to your business and your customers.

Our industry is constantly changing. With ever more people chatting with faceless agents online, the way we engage with our customers becomes paramount. Knowing the needs of the customer is just the beginning. Every aspect of your service should be tailored to provide an experience that is beyond exceptional. By focusing on the consumer, you build a service model that makes them feel important, valued, and cared for. And you won’t just win the day, you win the month, the year and even the decade. Your customers want to feel a connection to you and your business; it’s up to you to give it to them.

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