We’ve all had one of those aggravating run-ins with an unhelpful or unfriendly salesperson. Customer service seems to be a fading notion nowadays, but it’s more critical than ever in an age where technology is filling many business roles. People still value a good personal experience, and if you can provide that outstanding customer service, you’ll retain more loyal customers than you thought possible.
Customer service is an art however, and one that must be learned and then exercised. Here are a few service skills that are essential to an outstanding customer experience, along with some tips on how to achieve and implement them.
Communication is number one on the list for a reason. Many customer service breakdowns occur in this area, so it needs to be a heavy focus for all businesses.
Customers want to be assured that their needs are understood, and that representatives are able and willing to solve problems for them. Communicate well first by listening. You may have had other customers bring the same gripe to you a thousand times already today; that’s ok. Listen anyways. Your clients are individuals, and need to feel that you are ready to personally address their need – regardless of how tedious or redundant it may be.
Secondly, learn to effectively communicate both verbally and in writing. This encompasses basic skills like vocabulary and grammar, but it also requires more abstract skills like choosing words well. Especially in sensitive situations, clients will be tuned in to your verbiage along with your tone and mannerisms. Converse with customers in an empathetic, friendly, and professional manner, respecting their needs and answering questions. This alone will help bridge the communication gap and lower the tension in difficult situations.
Though many people bristle at the term, persuasion isn’t about being pushy or underhanded. It’s about influencing others to see your point of view. That’s truly all you’re doing when you’re selling to a customer.
Persuasion is a subtle skill. If a client feels they’re being manipulated, you lose all credibility. The goal is not to manipulate, but to impress on the customer that you have their best interests at heart and that your ultimate goal is to assist them. When a customer feels confident of these things, they will trust your opinion and you will be able to sell to them not through coercion, but through gentle persuasion.
In the customer service side of a business, there are always a plethora of little details to keep track of, from impending phone calls to adjusting paperwork. In order to be effective, customer service reps must have a good handle on organization.
Nothing gets done if tasks are not prioritized and lined up in an efficient manner, so practice organization by creating lists, taking notes on conversations, and utilizing apps and other technology to keep you on track. Use call report templates to remind you of who you’ve spoken to and where you are in the sales process. If you appear scattered or disorganized in a phone call, this speaks not just of you, but of your business as a whole.
For people who excel at planning in advance, this next skill can be tough. Flexibility is a key component in the art of customer service, as without fail you will encounter unusual situations that do not fit your past experiences. Sometimes you have to restructure your day around an unanticipated problem, or find a creative solution to a customer complaint. Know when to bend your own rules or daily schedule to accommodate customer needs, and be flexible enough to find reasonable and fair compromises when necessary.
This point may seem obvious, but unfortunately it can often be understated. In order for customers to trust you, they need to be assured that you know your product and your industry as a whole. Become an expert on your product – know all of its characteristics along with how they measure up to your competitors. You should be able to speak as an experienced member of your field, but in language that your customers can easily understand.
With these customer service skills, you’ll find yourself in a good position to relate better to your customers and set yourself apart as a leader in your industry.