There are certain universal customer service skills that every successful customer support agent must master to win over their customers for life. Without them, you run the risk of mediocrity and customers who stay with you until they find a better option
Customer Service Skills that Matter
When most business publications talk about successful customer support skills, things like “being a people person” tend to take the spotlight.
It’s not that this trait is outright wrong, but it’s so vague and generic that it hardly helps those looking to get involved in support positions within a company. And it certainly doesn’t help owners who are looking to hire people with the right skill sets to take care of their customers.
With that said, let’s get into some specific skills used by successful customer support agents.
If you don’t see this personality trait near the top of a customer service skills list, you should just stop reading.
Not only is patience important to customers, who often reach out when they are confused and frustrated, but it’s also important to the business at large.
In this world of fast food, live chat, and impulse buying, slowing down to ensure that the customer is understood and appreciated can turn an angry customer into a loyal customer.
Successful customer support agents stay patient when customers come to them stumped and frustrated. They take the time to truly figure out what the customer wants. They’d rather provide exceptional service than rush to the next caller!
The ability to really listen to customers is crucial for providing great service.
Not only is it important to pay attention to individual customer interactions (watching the language/tone/attitude/terms that they use to describe their problems), but it’s also important to be mindful of and attentive to the feedback received.
For instance, customers may not be saying it outright, but perhaps there is a pervasive feeling that your software’s dashboard isn’t laid out correctly. Customers may say things like, “I can’t find the search feature,” or, “Where is the _____ function at again?”
What are your customers telling you – even though they might not come right out and say it?
3. Clear Communication Skills
Make sure you’re getting to the problem at hand quickly. Most customers don’t want to hear about how your day is going.
More importantly, you need to be cautious about how some of your communication habits may translate to your customers. It’s best to err on the side of caution whenever you find yourself questioning a situation.
Asking simple questions to verify that you understand the customer’s issues is important to their overall satisfaction. “So, am I to understand that…” or “So, what you’re trying to explain is that…” or “Let me see if I understand you correctly. You never received a bill from us but the money was taken out of your account anyway. Is that right?”
Don’t use high-level words, unless they’re industry-related and relevant and don’t leave nothing to chance.
4. Knowledge of the Product
Successful customer support agents will work to develop a deep knowledge of how your products and/or services work. They may not be able to build your product from scratch, but they should know the ins and outs of your business. Without knowing your product from front-to-back, they won’t know how to help customers when they run into problems.
My sweet daughter Stephanie was in the top 3% of all customer service personnel for Home Depot last year. The company paid her and the other new recruits for six full weeks while they trained her on becoming a successful live chat agent. They taught her about their business, their products, and their services. When they wanted to have her focus on providing support for a different area of their company, they trained her for another four weeks.
You might not be able to pay your agents for four or six weeks of training. But they should know the basics inside and out.
5. Ability to Use “Positive Language”
Improving conversational patterns may sound like fluffy nonsense. But making minor changes can go a long way in creating happy customers. I once stuck a mirror in front of my employee by his phone. Then I drew a smile on a post-it and stuck it to the side of it. His tone and energy improved immeasurably.
Language is a very important part of persuasion. Customers create perceptions about you and your company based off the language that you use. In live chat conversations, Stephanie would often include a smiley face emoticon at the end or during the conversation. She says it really made a difference in the improving the attitude of the customers.
Let’s say a customer contacts you with an interest in a particular product, but that product happens to be back ordered until next month. Small changes that utilize “positive language” can greatly affect how the customer hears your response…
Without positive language: “I can’t get you that product until next month; it is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.”
With positive language: “That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse.”
The first example isn’t negative by any means, but the tone that it conveys feels abrupt and impersonal but could be taken the wrong way. Conversely, the second example is stating the same thing. But instead, focuses on when/how the customer will get to their resolution rather than focusing on the negative.
6. Acting Skills
Sometimes you’re going to come across people that it seems will never be able to appease – no matter what you say or do.
Situations outside of your control (they’ve had a terrible day, or they just like to complain) will sometimes creep into your usual support routine, and you’ll be greeted with customers that seem to want nothing else but to pull you down.
Every successful customer support agent should have basic acting skills that can help them maintain their usual cheery disposition even while dealing with people who may be just plain grumpy regardless of how they are treated.
7. Time Management Skills
Despite many research-backed rants on why you should spend more time with customers, the bottom line is that there is a limit. You need to be able to get your customers what they want in an efficient manner.
This concept should also be applied when realizing that no matter what you do, you’ll never be able to help the customer. If you don’t know the solution to a problem, don’t waste their time. Find someone who can help them. Otherwise, write down their info, go find the answer, and then call them back.
8-15. Read Part Two!
Please click the following link to read the second half of this article. Part Two: 15 Skills of Successful Customer Support Agents
Special thanks to HelpScout.com and Gregory Ciotti for his article on this topic.
Successful Customer Support Agents Utilize Rhino Support.