Here's a word to the wise: The customer is in control. Not most of the time, or half the time, but always.
For those in the customer success or customer service industry, this notion should shape every interaction we have with the customer -- both pre- and post-sale. But there's more to it than that -- in fact, there are a handful of critical skills and sentiments that should inform the way we interact with our customers.
Depending on your product or service, these must-have skills may vary a bit -- in some cases, some skills will come in handy more often than others. But if you can master the nine we've outlined below, we can promise you'll be better for it.
9 Customer Service Skills That Are Crucial For a Positive Experience
At its core, having patience means being able to regulate your own thoughts and emotions -- even in times of high stress or delay. And for folks in the customer success industry, patience is a necessary skill.
The challenge here? In a world fueled by technology and instant gratification, patience is becoming a bit of a dying art. Both customers and those serving them are accustomed to expediting nearly everything we do, making quick decisions in the process. But this isn't always the right approach.
Those who take the time to slow down and listen By approaching customer interactions with a relaxed, thoughtful demeanor, you'll find that it's easier to overcome customer obstacles without compromising the quality of service.
In some cases, being process-driven is necessary. But more often than not, too much process can have an adverse effect on your customer conversations. When we put process before people, we lose site of the end goal: helping the customer achieve their desired outcome.
If you want to thrive in a customer success role, learning to embrace flexibility will help you hold your own -- especially when faced with "on-the-ground" situations and decisions. Rather than viewing customer success as a straight and narrow path, consider all of the ways in which you can help a customer, and choose the path that best suits their unique needs.
When a customer reaches out to your company for support or advice, they want you to help them, but they also want to feel heard in the process.
There are really simple ways to prove that you're on their side and committed to helping them -- whether that be celebrating their successes or showing genuine concern when things aren't going to plan. These small considerations can make a world of a difference when it comes to creating a positive experience across the board.
Often times, it helps to consciously remind yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in the customer's shoes. In most cases, this level of mutual understanding can help to put the customer at ease and set the tone for a more productive conversation, despite any frustrations they are experiencing.
At the end of the day, customers are looking for one thing: reliable, efficient service. Bear in mind that this doesn't mean grabbing at the quick-fix approach just to get the job done faster.
Efficiency in customer interactions comes down to determining the most effective systems for helping them arrive at their desired outcome. It requires a careful balance of timeliness and commitment to satisfaction.
One of the best ways to streamline your interactions? Provide prompt, productive service. Taking the time to know your product and/or industry inside and out. Which leads us to our next point ...
5) Product and Industry Knowledge
Deep-seeded product and industry knowledge is perhaps one of the most valuable skills for a customer service or customer success manager to lean into. Gaining and continuously expanding your understanding of the product your servicing affords you the confidence you need to carry out customer interactions with ease and exactness.
A strong personal knowledge base also translates into increased professionalism, enthusiasm, and efficiency. It can function as a competitive advantage and a signal to customers that you're taking their business seriously.
6) Active Listening
Before you help, you need to listen. As the listener, it's your job to gather all of the information you need about a customer's situation to properly uncover and surface a solution.
But active listeners don't only pay close attention to what's being said -- they also tune into what's not being said. Often times, being conscious of both will help you piece together a response that is both informed and on-point.
If you really want to prove that you're hearing them, restate their problem in their own words. This exercise forces you to remain engaged and helps to let the customer know you're really committed to hearing them out.
According to research from McKinsey & Company, consistent delivery is critically important when it comes to a customer's perception of service. The survey notes, "With the number of touch points a customer has with a brand increasing with the proliferation of technologies and channels, the need to create a consistent experience is critically important."
With this idea in mind, you should be thinking about providing a familiar sentiment across every touch point you have with customers -- one that is reflective of your brand's core values and commitment to customer success.
Remember: It's much easier to work on nailing this undeviating experience upfront, as correcting inconsistency issues after the fact can be both costly and time-consuming.
When you're tasked with assisting a customer, whether it is a transactional support issue or a long-term business relationship, their problems with your product or service become your problems. You own the issues and it's your job to solve them in an informed and timely fashion.
This type of responsibility requires a great deal of accountability -- in other words, you need to not only own your actions, but also their implications. Without clear accountability, execution falls flat. And a delay on your response time directly influences a customer's perception of your service quality.
To avoid this, accept responsibility and act accordingly.
In a people-facing role, it's easy to feel discouraged and frustrated when you're regularly being knocked down by difficult interactions. Luckily, it's entirely up to you to determine how you respond.
According to Carol Dweck, you can choose to have one of two mindsets:
A fixed mindset. Operting under the notion that your abilities, talent, and intelligence are fixed traits that cannot be expanded or strengthened.
A growth mindset. Viewing your abilities, talents, and intelligence as traits that you're in control of -- traits that you can develop and improve.
By choosing to adopt a growth mindset, you give yourself permission to persevere through challenges and come out stronger on the other end. If you're looking to build your career is a customer role -- or even if you're looking for a ticket out -- harnessing perseverance is critical.
Originally published Jul 11, 2016 6:30:00 AM, updated September 20 2018