Thanks, in large part, to the ever-advancing march of technology, customer expectations of service quality are shifting. And, while quality customer service has always been important, what defines it has changed in recent years.
Two of the biggest expectations which now inform customer perceptions of quality are speed and efficiency. In evidence of this, customers are no longer satisfied to wait on hold indefinitely for their place in line. Instead, they expect to be given an estimate of how long the hold will be. Or better yet, they can often schedule a call-back from a representative, when it’s their turn.
Many of these new expectations must be managed through the use of technology. However, while new technologies are important, they’ll never replace certain basic principles of customer service.
Here is a list of eight basic customer service skills that are still central in today’s business world.
1. Effective Verbal Communication
When interacting with dissatisfied customers, the ability to communicate effectively is vital. Failure to communicate well simply makes the situation worse.
Sometimes a customer’s problem can’t be solved with a quick fix. When this happens, your customer needs to understand why that is, and what steps you’re going to take to find a solution. If you can’t give them a satisfactory explanation, then your dissatisfied customer will have a new problem to be dissatisfied with – inefficient service.
Aside from the necessity of communicating well with customers, effective internal dialogue with the technical crew is also crucial. Good internal communication results in faster problem resolution, and improved customer satisfaction.
2. Effective Written Communication
Many customer interactions still happen via written communications – particularly email. But being an effective email writer can be harder than it seems. It’s an entirely different skillset from verbal communication. With written communication, you must be both concise and thorough at the same time, while maintaining a professional tone. And you must write correctly, without grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. Such careless mistakes can further frustrate customers who are already unhappy.
Here are a few tips to improve your writing. First, slow down. Think carefully about what you want to say to the customer before you start writing. Try reading it aloud to see if it sounds natural. You should always use a spellchecker before sending. Additionally, you can copy/paste your work into the Hemmingway app to have it instantly grammar-checked and style-critiqued.
3. The Ability to Be Patient
Dealing with dissatisfied, and sometimes angry customers is a cost of doing business in most industries. When it happens, your patience is a vital tool to salvaging the relationship and resolving the problem. You must always listen first, without judgment, even when your customer seems unreasonable or unfair. Remember, service is all about the customer. Next, you have to encourage the customer with a positive message. Don’t just tell them, but convince them, that you’re on their side and you’re going to resolve their problem.
Even when the customer is irate, it is vital that you remain calm and patient. One reason for this is that your own emotions can cloud your judgment and cause you to make further errors. And that will only make the customer’s problem worse!
4. The Ability to Be Empathic
In virtually every situation where a customer service representative communicates with a customer, empathy is an important key. Good customer service isn’t just about understanding the customer’s problem. It’s about understanding why that problem is important to the customer. And, if you can understand that, the solution may instinctively follow.
Often, however, the solution won’t come so easily. In these situations, empathy can help yet again. Your customers can generally sense your genuine concern for their problems, and that attitude can help them to remain calm while you keep working for a solution.
5. The Ability to Be Perceptive
Of course, it’s easy to listen to complaints and compliments to perceive the source of problems and find solutions. But for every customer that gives you feedback, there are many others who do not. Often, it is necessary to ‘read between the lines,’ in order to uncover their opinions of your products or services. The way you react to customers’ needs and feelings – either spoken or inferred – will affect the way your customers perceive your brand. So, getting it right is important!
In the age of social media, it’s not uncommon for dissatisfied customers to come at you publicly. And negative posts are negative publicity. And it’s only natural to want to defend yourself when it happens. But reacting on social media can backfire. Usually, the best solution is to publicly express empathy with your customers’ complaint, and invite them to communicate via private messaging. Remember that your reactions in a public forum can draw in more comments from other outsiders. Consequently, you can quickly find yourself outnumbered and in a deeper hole than you started out in.
7. The Ability to Take Responsibility
Customer service, at its heart, is all about taking responsibility on behalf of the business. And that principle applies, even if somebody else caused the problem. Remember that, from your customer’s point of view, you are the company. So, if you fail to own your business’s errors, it will look like your company is evading. Conversely, if you do take responsibility, your customer will feel that your company cares. Once you have established the issue of responsibility or blame, it goes away. It then becomes much easier to work on resolving the problem together.
8. The Ability to Listen Actively
Effective customer service is built on a foundation of understanding your customers’ needs. And you can’t understand their needs if you can’t listen actively.
Listening actively isn’t just about the auditory process. It’s not just what you hear. It’s an interactive form of communication, all its own. It starts with the customer’s narrative, presented without interruptions. But active listening is ultimately about comprehension on the listener’s part. That means you will need to repeat back key details from time to time, and ask questions to clarify and fill gaps in your understanding.
Active listening has two positive effects. First, it allows the customer service representative to more efficiently tackle the real problem due to better comprehension. But it also makes the customer feel appreciated, which improves the customer relationship.
In conclusion, effective customer service representatives are a valuable part of a successful business. But to be successful in customer service, you’ll need to adopt the basic skillset. Of course, customer service is much more of an artform than a science. And communication, in its many forms, is central to quality customer service.
If you’re a business owner, looking for skilled customer service personnel to support your business, click here to see how Virtual Done Well can help!