9 Must-Have Skills for Customer Success in 2021 (& How to Master Them)

Bill Macintosh
Bill Macintosh



Before the internet, customer care was all about in-person and over-the-phone experiences. If someone had a question or needed help from a business, they only had the option of calling its phone line or traveling to its stores to get real-time support.


Today, organizations are embracing the digital world and connecting with customers on new platforms like email, social media, live chat, video, and more. As a result, customer service has changed and people expect faster and more efficient customer support than ever before.

For example, customers are now told how long they’ll wait on hold and when they can expect to be connected with a service rep. They can also request to be called back when a rep is available, creating a more convenient, frictionless customer experience. These features will become a standard in customer support as more businesses continue to leverage them for customer success.

But, customer success isn’t solely driven by the technology that your team uses. While your success team may have the best technology and tools available, it’s all for not if they don’t have the skills needed to provide excellent customer service.

In this post, we’ll list out some of the most important skills to possess as a customer success rep and what your team can do to master them.

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Customer Success Skills

1. Communication

Communication skills are crucial when interacting with unhappy customers. When communication breaks down, it usually ends with frustration and disappointment — typically for the customer.

For instance, let’s say a customer success manager can’t solve a customer’s problem but doesn’t explain to the customer why. In this case, the customer won’t just be unsatisfied because their issue wasn’t resolved, but they’ll also be angry that their success manager didn’t explain why their problem couldn’t be fixed. Without that explanation, the customer will — rightfully — expect the worst.

Additionally, great customer success managers not only understand their customers’ problems but can also articulate them to the internal teams that troubleshoot them. Once the issue is resolved, customer success teams act as the liaison between the company and the customer and explain what the company did in a way that the customer will easily understand.

2. Reading and Writing

While you don’t need to be a published writer to work in customer success, you do need to have basic reading and writing skills. Your speech and writing should be free of grammatical errors and you should approach customers using an assuring, professional tone. This will make your service interactions more delightful and it will enhance the flow of communication.

Some customers will get irritated if you make grammatical errors, write incoherent sentences, or misspell words. In these cases, it’s important to slow down and think diligently about what you’re writing or saying to the customer. If you have time, write out what you’re going to say in advance and practice saying it out loud so you can edit any confusing or irrelevant parts. If you’re sending an email or responding to an SMS message, double-check your writing for grammatical errors using a spell-check tool like Grammarly or Microsoft Office.

3. Patience

Some people will get upset or angry when your customer success team can’t meet their needs. No matter how hard it may be, you always need to be patient with your customers when you’re supporting them. Listen to their feedback while remaining composed and offer a solution that will calm them down. Assure the customer that you have their back and that everything will be okay. A customer always wants to hear a positive message, whether you think they’re feedback is fair or not.

Another reason why you should avoid getting upset is that you're likely to make more mistakes when angry. It’s better to stay calm, composed, and confident that you’ll come to a resolution. You can even ask the customer what they think you should do to help reduce their frustration and align with their needs.

4. Empathy

Empathy is relevant in nearly every customer-facing role. If you want to provide excellent customer service, you need to not only recognize the customer’s problem but understand why the problem is significant in the first place. This helps you learn more about the customer’s needs and what they expect from you during the service interaction.

There will be times where you don’t have an immediate solution. In these cases, the best thing you can do is be empathetic and try to align yourself with the customer’s concerns. Even though you don’t have an answer for them, they’ll still appreciate your genuine interest in their problem. Most customers know that you’re not a wizard that can solve their problem with a simple wave of a magic wand. However, they’ll still expect you to be courteous and considerate when you can’t provide an immediate solution to their problem.

5. Perceptive

Customer experience coach, Dan Gingiss, says,

"If you want to know what your customers think of your product or service, just ask them." - Dan Gingiss

While you’ll usually get feedback from your vocal and outgoing customers, you may end up neglecting ones that don't speak up. Even though they may not respond to every survey or review your brand online, their opinions matter, too.

How you respond to feedback will also influence the customer’s perception of your brand. "Most people are more than willing to share their feedback," says Gingiss, "just be ready to take the constructive criticism with the compliments, and remember that people who complain do so because they care."

6. Self-Control

Social media lets businesses engage customers anytime and anywhere. But social media is a two-way street, and people now have the power to voice their feedback, criticism, and opinions directly on your social media pages. When customers are disappointed with their brand experience, social media is an excellent outlet to voice their frustration.

When customers do speak negatively, this where you need to exercise self-control and know how to respond to their messages. It can be tempting to want to defend your brand since you’re communicating on a public forum, but keep in mind that the people watching aren’t just passive bystanders, either. They can join the conversation whenever they want, creating uneven odds for your support reps since they have to engage with more than one person.

Instead, a more effective approach is encouraging the customer to message you directly either on the social media platform or through your ticketing system. If you can’t provide an immediate solution, then you’ll want to shift the conversation to a communication medium that’s ideal for troubleshooting. Some social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, have in-app features like live chat where customers can communicate with brands in a one-on-one setting. They’re free for businesses to use and they don’t force the customer to switch platforms when getting help from your success team.

7. Responsible

As a customer service employee, your first troubleshooting step should always be to take responsibility for the issue at hand. Even if you didn’t cause the problem, you’re representing the company in the interaction, so you have to take onus of the customer experience — whether it’s positive or negative. Most of the time the customer service rep is not the reason why the customer is unhappy, but it’s always the service rep’s responsibility to rectify the issue regardless of what it is or who caused it.

When you take responsibility for the situation, you're showing the customer that you have their best interest at heart. It becomes easier to work on the problem collaboratively since blame can now be put aside and you and the customer can focus on troubleshooting the issue instead.

Additionally, you should try to handle customer requests without escalations or transferring the task to someone else. When you meet the customer’s needs in a single interaction, they gain confidence in your success team and remain loyal to your business.

8. Active Listening

Customer care revolves around your customers’ needs. After all, you can't solve their problems if you don’t understand what they want or what their goals are. If you want to understand customer needs, then you should actively listen to your customers.

Active listening isn’t just plugging in a headset and cranking up the volume when you’re talking on the phone. It's about getting an in-depth understanding of the customer’s message by paying close attention to what they’re saying and repeating back key details when you respond. When you do this, customers not only know that you understand their issue, but they also appreciate not having to repeat or correct information.

You'll also want to pay close attention to their body language and non-verbal cues as well. According to Jeremy Wien, a former portfolio manager at a US-based hedge fund, learning how to read customers was an important skill in his job. He explains,

"In customer support, you want to be able to read [customers] to understand what it'll take to make them happy." - Jeremy Wien

9. Time Management

A customer success manager is always moving from one activity to another. It could be chatting with customers, answering phone calls, replying to emails, or responding to social media comments. Whatever it is, customer success usually consists of a busy workday.

No one can handle all of these tasks without the ability to manage time properly. To be successful, you need to plan your day effectively and create a schedule that allows you to complete each task on time. Good time management improves your success team’s productivity, which helps you keep pace with customer demand and increases the overall growth of your business.

For more tips, learn how to build a customer success team.

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