Customer Service: 14 Key Skills for 2021 and Beyond Illustration

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Customer Service

The Ultimate Guide To Customer Service: 14 Key Skills for Customer Service in 2021 and Beyond

Summary:

What is customer service illustration

What is customer service?

Customer service is the support you provide customers before, during, and after purchasing a product or service from you. It involves direct interaction between a potential or existing customer and a representative from your company. 

Providing great customer service is key to customer retention and business growth. By creating an easy and enjoyable experience for your customers, you ensure that they are satisfied and more likely to make repeat purchases.

While customer service brings to mind telephone support agents, it has become much broader in scope in today’s world. Customer service representatives answer questions through phone, email, webchat, text message, social media messaging, and even in person. 

Automated self-service systems are becoming increasingly common, allowing customers to resolve simple issues they may experience independently. This has the added benefit of being available 24 hours a day without waiting for a customer service agent. However, most businesses still have the option to speak with a human being for more advanced problems.

Customer service is more than just providing solutions to customer issues. Many businesses create personalized definitions for customer service that align with their philosophy and values. It is important to determine what type of customer support you want to provide and develop an action plan to make it successful.

Why customer service is important for your business Illustration

Why is customer service important for your business?

Having great customer service is crucial for competing in today’s business world. While customers used to base their decisions on price or product quality, nowadays the overall customer experience is often the deciding factor.

Providing an outstanding customer experience requires a great customer support team that can resolve customer problems and anticipate issues that may arise in the future. When you encourage your agents to go above and beyond for your customers, you will create valuable customer interactions that help you stand out from the competition. 

Customer service has a direct effect on your brand’s reputation

Today’s consumers are immersed in the world of mobile devices and social media. Instant gratification has never been easier, and expectations for customer service have increased accordingly. 

In fact, 82% of CEOs agree that customer expectations have risen compared to three years ago. Not only that, but customers can easily share negative reviews of their experience online. These reviews are broadcasted to a large audience and can quickly damage your company’s reputation.

To avoid this from happening, you must have strong customer support from the moment a new product or service goes live. This ensures that you can resolve issues quickly through a variety of communication channels. If you establish good customer service practices early, you will reap the benefits when customers associate this with your brand.

Companies cannot afford to put their customers through negative experiences. Studies have shown that 86% of customers will take their business elsewhere if they have even one bad interaction. To prevent this from happening, you must treat every interaction as an opportunity to provide value to the customer. Support agents can do this by engaging new customers, retaining loyal ones, and providing best advice by cross-selling or up-selling.

Customer service impacts your bottom line

It is well known that retaining existing customers is less expensive than acquiring new ones. In fact, estimates show that finding new customers can cost 6 to 7 times more than retaining your current base.

So how do you create loyal customers that return to your brand again and again? By making great customer service a priority for your company, customers will feel like they can trust you with their business. If you can attract and maintain repeat customers, you avoid customer churn and protect your bottom line.

According to a report from the U.S. Small Business Association, 68% of customers quit doing business with a company due to dissatisfaction with how they were treated. Providing a customer with an intuitive and engaging experience ensures that they leave the interaction satisfied and continue to generate revenue for your company.

Customer service is essential to the product experience

The line between products and services is beginning to blur, with the customer experience becoming a component of the product or service itself. 

For example, Uber is much more than a smartphone app or a rideshare service. The entire experience of requesting a ride, the friendly conversation with the driver, and the automatic payment are all essential to how customers view the brand.

However, this phenomenon is not exclusive to big tech companies. Even small businesses can build the customer experience directly into their products. A good way to start is to embed support articles for common issues into your app or company website. 

Integrating customer support directly into your product will help keep you competitive in the future landscape of customer service. Many app developers create ways for customers to log support tickets directly within their apps, resulting in a seamless customer experience that reduces wait times and dissatisfied customers.

As customer service becomes increasingly integrated with the product experience, it’s important to take every opportunity to keep customers engaged and satisfied in fresh and intriguing ways.

Customers spend more when they receive exceptional customer service

Integrating the customer experience into your company’s products is more than just a trend. By improving customer service at every step of the customer’s journey, they will not only love your brand but increase your revenue as well.

A study conducted by SalesForce found that 86% of today’s consumers would spend more money on a brand that offers a superior customer experience. A common approach businesses take is to offer a premium tier for their service. This could include more functionality, priority support, or early access to new features.

For example, popular email marketing software MailChimp offers free accounts with support for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. Their premium tiers begin at $10 per month and include support for more subscribers and additional features. Once customers become familiar with their intuitive interface and great customer support, they are more likely to pay more to take advantage of additional features and scale their businesses.

Studies show that American companies miss out on over $62 billion a year due to poor customer service. Now is the time to improve your customer service strategy and tap into this unmet demand. 

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What is good customer service Illustration

What is good customer service?

To provide good customer service, you need to focus on two important factors. First, you have to ensure that customers feel they are being treated right. Once you’ve achieved this, you need to go a step above by exceeding your customers’ expectations.

Meeting expectations will only get you so far, resulting in neutral experiences that are not strong enough to create loyalty. Instead, you need to go the extra mile to stand out from the competition. Here are the 4 key principles of good customer service to help get you started.

4 principles of customer service Illustration

4 Key Principles of good customer service

Personalized

Great customer experiences need to be tailored to every customer that you interact with. While chatbots are rapidly changing how customer service is handled worldwide, they are not yet at the level where they can replace a human touch. 

For customers to feel like they are being treated right, you have to let them know that you aren’t a machine and that they matter to you. By personalizing interactions for each customer, you let them know that you care about them and the problems they are experiencing. 

Another way to personalize the support experience is through written communication. Allow your agents to add personality to their emails, messages, and phone calls. Customers will enjoy communicating with your brand as they do a friend or family member, strengthening their connection to the brand and encouraging loyalty.

It’s time to stop thinking of customer service as a cost and more like an investment in your business’s future. Personalization provides an opportunity to win over customers, both new and existing, so they continue purchasing your products well into the future.

Knowledgeable

Customers will not be satisfied with your customer service if they feel your agents lack knowledge of the company and its products. This is where trust can fall apart very quickly, making it one of the most important factors in the customer experience.

Customers must also have faith that agents can solve any issue they experience. If they feel that the support they’re receiving is incompetent, they will become frustrated and take their business elsewhere.

Ensure that your customer support team is as knowledgeable about the company’s products and services as possible. Knowledgeable agents will sound confident when interacting with customers and be more likely to navigate any issues that arise.

The most effective way to ensure your support team is knowledgeable is by making training a priority in your organization. All employees should go through a product boot camp, lasting at least one week, to make sure they know your products inside and out. It is also important to conduct training sessions before a new product release to ensure everyone is up to speed.

If an agent is ever unsure of how to troubleshoot a problem, they should assure the customer that they will contact the right person and get back to them with an answer. This ensures you maintain an honest and open dialogue with your customers, increasing trust and earning their respect.

Convenient

Customers lead busy lives and want to get in touch with your company through their personal channel of choice. Often this is on a mobile-friendly platform like webchat, email, or SMS, which allows them to reach customer service while on the go.

Make sure you are providing customer support through the channels that are most popular with your customers. That way, customers can conveniently reach out when they need to contact your support team.

Customers don’t want to wait on hold or in a support queue to get help. Providing multiple channels of communication reduces wait times and allows your agents to resolve issues promptly and effectively. 

When customers can rely on you for convenient and efficient service, they are more likely to develop a long-term relationship with your brand. However, it’s important to note that your agents should resolve each issue completely. While efficiency is important, support should be thorough to prevent potential customer frustration.

Proactive

Customers would rather be kept in the loop than left in the dark. This is why companies should be proactive when reaching out to their customers. If you wait until a potential issue arises, customers may feel that you don’t care about upsetting them.

For example, if you know your website will experience downtime due to maintenance, you should send an email to your customer base beforehand so they are not caught off guard. While they might not be happy about the situation, they will appreciate that you took the time to let them know in advance.

Also, if you notice that many customers are experiencing the same issue with a product or service, you should be proactive in alerting other departments that can fix it. On the other hand, it would be that your support articles are confusing or missing information.

Ensuring that frequent problems are resolved promptly and your website’s FAQs are easy to understand can significantly reduce interactions for repeat issues. This will reduce your wait times and increase customer satisfaction.

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The most important customer service skills Illustration

The most important customer service skills

Customer service professionals require a certain skill set in order to be successful. They must be courteous and have excellent listening skills. They must also be able to remain calm in situations where customers are frustrated or upset. 

Here is a list of the most important customer service skills to look for and encourage in your work environment.

Empathy

We are mentioning empathy first as it may be the most critical skill for a support agent to have. Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s feelings without them being communicated explicitly. While some may argue that empathy is more of a personality trait than a skill, it is something that can be learned and improved upon with practice.

Even if you can’t tell the customer what they want to hear, agents must make it clear that they care, are concerned, and understand their frustration. This can go a long way when building trust and can lead to better customer outcomes.

If you test applicants for customer service aptitude, there are few qualities more critical to the role than empathy. When customers feel heard and understood, they are much more likely to develop a long-term relationship with your brand.

Communication skills

Your support team is the first line of contact with your customers. They represent the voice of your company and how customers come to view your brand. 

Agents must be able to simplify technical jargon into plain language that every customer can easily understand. Confusing explanations and complex concepts are sure to turn off customers looking for clear and concise guidelines for their issues.

Effective customer service professionals can describe all potential solutions without overwhelming customers with unnecessary information. For example, if the customer is experiencing an issue related to a software bug, they are spared the technical details of why the bug is occurring and given actionable information on moving forward with a solution.

When miscommunication occurs, customers may inadvertently make the situation worse, meaning more frustration and dissatisfaction. Agents must communicate clearly during the first contact to avoid disappointing their customers.

Time management skills

Time is a critical factor in the world of customer service. While it’s important to take the time to understand what customers are experiencing, there is only so much time that agents can dedicate to each customer.

The key here is efficiency, taking as little time as possible to acknowledge and rectify whatever issue the customer is experiencing. Also, agents must quickly realize when they can’t resolve an issue and transfer the customer to a department that can. 

Product knowledge

All customer service professionals require a thorough knowledge of your company’s products and how they work. If they don’t know every in and out of your products, they will be ill-equipped to resolve issues when they arise.

Comprehensive training is necessary to ensure your reps develop a solid foundation of product knowledge. This will help your agents navigate customers through any complicated issue that may arise.

While building a foundation is important, training should occur at regular intervals, especially during product launches or updates. Notifying agents in advance gives them an understanding of how it will affect the customer experience when it goes live.

Problem-solving skills

It is common for customers to incorrectly self-diagnose their problems. Agents have to use their problem-solving skills to reproduce the issue and troubleshoot the best way to come to a solution. They need to determine what went wrong and exactly what the customer needs, regardless of the information given.

For example, if a customer states that the company website won’t let them reset their password, they ultimately want to be able to log into their account. An effective interaction would involve recognizing this end goal and going the extra mile to reset their login details manually. Agents should also educate the customer on how to reset their own password in the future.

Customers often don’t realize the solution to their problem is even an option. The top customer service professionals quickly recognize these blind spots and educate customers in a polite and friendly manner.

Patience

Customers who reach out to support agents for assistance are often confused and frustrated. Customer service reps who listen to customers and patiently handle their issues will help alleviate these frustrations.

If your agents are closing out interactions as quickly as possible, customers will feel like they are being rushed and that your company does not care about them. Customers will appreciate patient agents who treat them with respect, resulting in stronger connections with your brand.

Goal-oriented

Giving your employees goals to work towards has been shown to increase both customer satisfaction and revenue. While it may be tempting to give agents free rein to impress customers however they see fit, it is more effective to set goals and work towards a purpose to achieve results.

Metrics like the Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) are an effective way to set workplace goals. They still provide reps with the freedom to navigate interactions how they see fit while developing “go-to” solutions to common problems.

Tenacity & resiliency

If you want your customers to talk positively about your customer experience, your agents must have a great work ethic and be willing to put in the effort to resolve customer issues. This means not taking shortcuts and deviating from the standard process when required.

Some of the most successful customer service stories involve a single agent refusing to stick to the script when faced with a unique problem. While the standard process is there for a reason, agents should deviate from the norm when necessary and handle customer frustrations with a positive attitude.

Authenticity

Customer service has a history of using formal language when interacting with customers. While people may have preferred this in the past, today’s customers feel more comfortable when agents are casual and approachable.

If your company’s customer service techniques are on the formal side, you should encourage your employees to be themselves with customers. This involves using less formal language and relaxing the need to read scripts verbatim. However, word-for-word scripts should still be required when it comes to privacy, security, and safety.

Allowing your agents to be more authentic while remaining courteous and respectful will add warmth and personality to your interactions. Building this rapport with your customers is important for establishing long-term loyalty with your brand.

Adaptability

Strong adaptability skills are not only important for customer service professionals but strong leaders in general. Not only is every customer different, but individual customers may change depending on their mood or situation.

Effective customer support agents can recognize a customer’s emotions and adapt accordingly. Adaptability is important for gaining control of a situation while making the customer feel heard and supported. 

While common problems may have go-to solutions, sometimes different solutions work better for different types of customers. For example, one customer may prefer the convenience of changing account settings on a mobile device, while another may feel more comfortable doing so from a PC.

Desire to learn

Not only must your team be willing to learn your products from front to back, but they need to be willing to learn from feedback and make the changes necessary to improve. It’s also important to learn when it’s appropriate to follow procedure and when to improvise. Agents can learn from experience as well as from one-on-one discussions with a manager or team leader.

Agents that take the time to improve their craft and invest in their skills should be rewarded over those who merely show up and do what’s expected. Those willing to go the extra mile will determine the future success of your organization.

Closing ability

While the idea of closing is usually related to sales, it is essential for any successful customer interaction. Confirming agreement ensures that customers feel their issues have been taken care of or will be in the near future.

Agents should make it a habit to close every interaction by confirming customer satisfaction. Ending things before all issues have been addressed will lead to frustration and wasted time for both the customer and your company.

Ability to use positive language

Positive language is crucial when interacting with customers. Without it, their perception of the agent and your company can change very quickly.

Customer service professionals must be trained from the beginning to use positive language when responding to customer questions. Here is an example that highlights its importance:

Without positive language: “I can’t get you an appointment for that day. All of the time slots have already been booked.”

With positive language: “The soonest available appointment is for Thursday at 2 pm. I can secure that time for you right now and make sure you receive a confirmation email.”

While the first example isn’t necessarily negative, it focuses on what the agent can’t do instead of what they can do. The second example states the same thing but focuses on the positive, affecting how the customer hears the answer.

Creativity & resourcefulness

While solving customer problems should be their main goal, customer service reps should go the extra mile in fun and clever ways to take their conversations to the next level. This makes their interactions more personable and memorable, increasing the likelihood that customers will return to your brand.

Hiring creative and enthusiastic agents that people love talking to will help you stand out from the competition. Your customers will go out of their way to tell their friends about the great experiences they’ve had.

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