Almost everyone can recall a delightful interaction with a customer service rep.
You can remember it because it was personalized, detailed, and satisfied every need you had from the business at that time. The rep made you feel like the center of the universe and that anything you needed was available upon request.
Speaking from experience, that's not easy to do. It's hard to make people trust that you're committed to their needs and it requires a special set of skills to build rapport with customers immediately after meeting them. Not every service rep can do it, which is why some experiences are more memorable than others.
In this post, let's review some skills that you should look for in your customer service reps.
Excellent Customer Service Skills
While there are many more to consider, below are some of the top skills that excellent customer service reps possess.
We've all heard the cliché, "Patience is a virtue." In customer service, patience is a requirement.
Customer service reps tend to be product experts. They know your product or service inside and out and can answer nearly any question you throw at them.
But, when you have this expertise, reps may get impatient with new customers who are familiarizing themselves with your company, especially when they're tasked with meeting a daily quota of tickets. The best service reps can calm this frustration and create a delightful interaction even when an easy case is going slower than expected.
2. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to read and react to other people's emotions. As you can imagine, this is critical in customer service because reps must interact with customers in various emotional states. Some customers will be happy to work with them while others will be frustrated from the moment they pick up the phone. And, those emotions can change at any moment during the call.
Excellent customer service reps can interpret how customers will react to their responses. They'll anticipate questions or follow-up statements and provide thoughtful responses that address customer's needs. When customers start an interaction upset or frustrated, emotionally intelligent reps can salvage the experience and leave the customer feeling satisfied with your company.
3. Active Listening
It's hard to be a good customer service rep if you don't listen to your customers. And, if you want to take it one step further, active listening is a skill that can separate good service reps from excellent ones.
Active listening is a communication approach that places focus on the customer's responses. The rep pays less attention to what they're going to say and more on what the customer is saying at the moment. When they feel they have a firm understanding of the customer's problem, they repeat it back to them to make sure both parties are clear on every issue. This way, there's no miscommunication and customers don't have to repeat their problems.
While service reps are usually product masters, not every problem is easy and straightforward, especially if your product is complex or technical, like in a SaaS industry.
For this reason, service reps need to be tenacious and determined. They can't be let down by failure and have to be committed to the customer's goals. The best reps find ways to accomplish tasks no matter how difficult or tedious the solution may be.
When you spend day after day answering questions, you're going to get a few curveballs every now and then. These are atypical questions that may or may not have anything to do with your product or service. Nonetheless, customer service reps are great problem solvers, even if the issue has nothing to do with your company.
One business that has earned this problem-solving reputation is Zappos. Its CEO called the support team at two in the morning to order a pizza. While Zappos is a clothing retailer, he was confident his support team could find a solution to his problem. Sure enough, his reps found a list of pizza restaurants in his area that were open for delivery. Regardless of the question, the Zappos support team was faced with a problem and found a solution.
Sometimes, these curveball cases don't have a simple solution. Reps need to be creative to find an answer that solves the customer's problem while still meeting your business goals. This is a lot easier said than done and only the best service reps can consistently deliver this skill.
7. Product Knowledge
Your reps can be as friendly and empathetic as possible, but this isn't very useful if they can't solve the customer's problem. So, possessing expert-level knowledge of your products and services is imperative to the customer service role.
If customers have a question about a product or feature, they expect your rep to answer, no matter how obscure it may be. The best reps can not only answer these questions but can explain them in a way that makes sense to someone who's not even a customer.
One of the most common customer needs is time. Customers don't want to waste time troubleshooting your product especially when they expected it to work the first time.
Excellent customer service reps are punctual and provide solutions in a timely manner. At the beginning of an interaction, they establish a timeline for when the customer can expect a resolution and, more importantly, they follow through on their promise in the end. If there's an unexpected roadblock delaying a resolution, these reps reset expectations to ensure customers are properly informed about their case.
It's one thing to solve a problem, but teaching a solution requires another level of customer service skill. If reps explain how they fixed an issue, they can prevent problems from happening in the future.
This yields two benefits. First, customers are happy they don't have to reach out to your support team to correct something that they already contacted you about. And, second, by providing customers with troubleshooting steps, you'll reduce incoming cases toward your team's ticket queue.
Customer service cases are never identical. Even if it's a common problem with a recorded solution, the customer's experience can vary dramatically depending on the case's background. For example, if a customer has an urgent deadline they may act impatient with your agent. If the problem takes time to resolve, this will create friction during the service interaction.
If a service case isn't going as planned, customer service reps need to be adaptive to maintain a delightful interaction. Sometimes protocol needs to be overlooked to ensure a customer's needs are met and great service reps recognize that your company's processes should never inconvenience your customers.
A rep can have all the technical skills in the world, but they'll still fall short in delighting customers if they can't connect with them on an emotional level. Empathy is not just a buzzword in customer service. It's a trainable skill that every rep should develop and maintain.
Over time, it's common for service reps to experience burnout from repetitive cases, frustrated customers, and high-ticket volume. But, reps need to remember that their work isn't just problems and metrics. The best service reps value each case individually and will go above and beyond regardless of the situation.
If you want to succeed in customer service, it can't feel like a chore that you have to do. A service rep has to be naturally curious about their company, its customers, and its industry. Without that desire to learn and hound their craft, agents will lose interest over time.
Unfortunately, customer service isn't like a batting average. Getting one out of every three interactions right won't wow your customer base.
Instead, every customer experience needs to be delightful if you want to deliver excellent customer service. Providing high-quality service consistently builds trust with your customers and makes them feel like they can rely on your business.
There'll be some times when customers will stump your service reps. In these instances, reps must remain calm and display a confident demeanor. Doing so signals to the customer that your team is capable of solving their issue. Even if they don't know what step to take next, the last thing you want is a customer wondering if they've hit a dead end.
There are plenty of times when customers will reach out with a problem, but your rep will discover a few more as they troubleshoot the original one. In these cases, an excellent customer service rep would notify the customer about the additional issues and provide solutions for them. This is the basis of proactive customer service which aims to solve problems before customers encounter them.
For more customer service skills, read about customer obsession.
Originally published Nov 21, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated June 09 2021