Think about the last positive memory you had with a support rep. Chances are that rep had some stand-out customer service qualities that made that interaction so special.
For me, it was how human the conversation was. The rep quickly matched my casual attitude and we enjoyed some light-hearted small talk while he set up my account.
Whether it's their speedy response or their friendly and welcoming demeanor, the most successful customer service personnel all share similar characteristics. If you're considering a career in customer service or maybe hiring a team of frontline reps, keep the below customer service qualities in mind.
Customer Service Qualities
Before we dive into this list, it's worth mentioning that different roles within customer service typically lean into a selection of these qualities based on their job description.
For example, the video below highlights a few key qualities that make up great customer service managers.
OK, let's dive into the top 20 customer service qualities that clients are looking for when doing business with you.
Empathy is the baseline for customer service. If you want to find success in this field, you'll need to not only understand how to solve a customer's problem but also why this issue is important to them in the first place.
Doing so helps to create a delightful experience for customers where their roadblocks and goals are prioritized above all else.
When you're troubleshooting a customer's problem, sometimes the solution isn't cut and dry.
In some cases, you'll need to think outside of the box if you want to come up with a solution that benefits both the customer and your business.
The more creative of a problem-solver you are, the easier it is to meet customer needs.
When I worked on HubSpot's customer service team, my manager told us to consider ourselves subject matter experts when it comes to anything HubSpot.
After all, service reps spend every day working with the product and are constantly being quizzed about the company's services.
As a trained rep, you should feel confident in your ability to troubleshoot problems and provide effective solutions. Customers are relying on you to provide answers that they can trust are correct.
If you don't present a solution confidently, the customer might not believe that it's the right answer. And that may lead them into asking to speak to a manager.
This negates the purpose of your frontline support team and adds more friction to the service experience.
No two support cases are exactly alike. Even if customers have the same problem, the context surrounding the issue will be different.
One customer may be in a hurry and needs updates as soon as they're available, while the other customer may be more flexible and would rather you reach out when the situation is completely resolved.
More than half of consumers (54%) say they expect all experiences to be personalized.
While empathy deals with your ability to understand emotions, compassion is how you express sympathy for other people's problems.
Even though you may understand why a customer is upset, you may also think they're overreacting or that their issue isn't something that you're required to help with.
Compassionate service reps see the value of all support inquiries and are eager to assist people whenever and wherever possible — even if that means working outside their scope of support.
When it comes to providing support over phone, email, or live chat, customers don't always see the work going on behind the scenes.
While they may think the interaction is going smoothly, you may be searching frantically through your internal resources to find an effective solution for their problem.
Even when the customer has been waiting angrily on hold for 10 minutes, the best service reps keep a level head and focus on what they need to do to complete the task at hand.
We all know speed is important when it comes to customer service. But, as the chart outlines below, it's actually the most important factor influencing the customer experience.
Customers want fast solutions, but they also understand that service reps are human, too. If you need more time to solve a problem, that's fine. Just make sure to reach out to the customer at the exact time that you promise to update them.
Don't keep them waiting or wondering if you've forgotten about them. It's better to be on time with your response and let the customer know that you're still troubleshooting than it is to leave them completely in the dark.
Data is extremely important when managing a customer service team because it shows you how consistent your reps are.
For example, if you monitor individual call center metrics, you'll know which reps are performing well and which ones are falling short of customer expectations.
You'll know who your most successful reps are because they'll be ones that can consistently provide excellent service to your customer base.
When you're communicating with another person — even if it's text-based like live chat or email — you need to generate some type of human connection.
It doesn't matter if you're introverted or not the best at small talk. Opening up to customers will help them feel more comfortable with the situation and make you more likable.
The more you can make the customer feel like you're on the same team, the better their experience will be.
While the service rep should be a subject matter expert, that's not always the case for the customer. Part of customer service is fielding common questions from new users and being able to explain those solutions in a variety of ways.
The same explanation won't always make sense to every customer, so you'll need to be patient and come up with different ways to teach people how to use your product and services.
It's good to be naturally curious if you're working in customer service. You should want to know all about your customers' issues and even what's going on outside their call with your support team.
This shows that you're genuinely interested in customer success and that you care whether or not they achieve their goals.
When you're working with a customer in real-time, you never know what roadblocks are going to suddenly pop up.
One time, I was working remotely with a customer when suddenly I lost power at my home. The call ended abruptly.I had to quickly update the customer via email, grab my cell phone, and call the customer using my phone's "hotspot."
This is just one of many scenarios where service reps need to be flexible and willing to adapt when plans or routines go astray.
Optimism tells customers that their problems are solvable and that you're confident that you can provide a desired resolution.
If you're pessimistic, customers will think that the situation is worse than it is and will believe the experience is negative even when you give them the right answer.
It's important to use vocabulary that shows you're hopeful about the support case.
For example, instead of saying there's a glitch or flaw with a product, say that the product is "behaving unexpectedly" and that you want to look more into this "behavior."
This tells the customer that you think the product isn't broken, but rather needs some minor recalibrating before you can fix it. While it doesn't rule out a major problem, it minimizes your reaction which makes the customer feel more confident in your ability to troubleshoot.
One rule that HubSpot's customer support team really focused on was taking responsibility for your support cases.
When you pick up the phone or assign a support ticket to your queue, you take ownership of that customer and their problem. And as a HubSpot support rep, you're responsible for making sure their experience with the brand is delightful and one-of-a-kind.
As a customer, it's frustrating to be bounced between "specialists" when all you have is one simple question. The best support reps take responsibility for their cases and find solutions — even when questions fall outside their realm of expertise.
Sometimes customer service is less of a sprint and more of a marathon.
Support calls can go on for hours as some customers will be determined to get a solution during their first interaction with your team. In fact, the longest support call recorded was over 10 hours long.
If you're going to be working with customers for this long, you need to be paying attention. A small detail mentioned at the beginning of a call can end up playing a major role in your ability to resolve the case.
Plus, customers don't want to repeat themselves. It's true — and 54% of consumers say they also expect a company to share information so they don't have to say the same things over and over again.
As we mentioned before, customer service reps should be subject matter experts when it comes to anything related to your business.
They should know how to solve common problems and where to look if the solution isn't readily available. They should also know how to explain things in ways that match the customer's expertise.
For example, you wouldn't want to give a highly technical explanation to someone who's learning how to use your product. You'd want to explain it from a fundamental level so that your advice makes sense to a new user.
When you work in customer service, there will be times where you receive honest — sometimes too honest — feedback from customers or your manager.
Whether you agree with the assessment or not, you need to remain professional and accept the feedback provided.
Remember, you're there to support the customer and if they felt they had a poor experience you should care about that opinion. Try to learn what you can do better next time and keep this advice in mind as you work with other customers.
Speaking of honesty, all great support reps are truthful with their customers. Even when telling the truth may risk upsetting a customer or admitting a shortcoming, honesty is an important customer service policy,
Think of it this way: Would you want a rep to tell you that your item has shipped (when it hasn't) and get your hopes up for a delivery date that could never be?
Even if the intent in that scenario was to keep the customer happy, it'd be even more frustrating once they found out the truth.
Mistakes happen, and reps are human. When you're honest with your customers, you build a sense of trust. And when they trust you, they're more likely to stick around.
A little positivity goes a long way. In fact, 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience.
Sometimes, it can feel difficult to stay positive. Especially when you're dealing with a difficult or angry customer. But it's important to remember that it's not personal — it's you and the customer against whatever problem they're facing.
Remember that positive customer service memory I asked you to recall in the beginning of this article? Those are the ones that stick.
When your customer service reps feel empowered to help customers, they're more likely to empower customers to help themselves.
Empowerment, confidence, and knowledge go hand in hand (in hand). Reps who are assured in what they're talking about make customers feel like they're in good hands.
It's easier to give your customers the tools to become experts in your products and services when you feel like an expert yourself.
Customer Service Qualities Are For Everyone
While the above list of qualities are shared by the best of the best customer service reps, it's just as important for business leaders and other departments to embody these too.
After all, just about everyone at your company is going to touch customer service at some point and in some way — even if it's not officially in their job title.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.