Great customer service is crucial to the success of any business. It not only wins you new clients but excellent customer service also encourages customer loyalty meaning that you will keep the old. Both classes will also be all too happy to refer your business to others.
How then, do you provide stellar customer service that will set your business apart in the competitive market? Here are 21customer service skills that every employee and not just the customer care reps should have in order to ensure delivery of great service every time
1. Patience Always
Most encounters with customers will all but drive you crazy; which is why you need to practice patience even in the most frustrating of situations. One may feel very entitled that they want their issue resolved as a number 1 priority. Another may come at you speaking angrily and incoherently yet expecting you to act on their issue. Yet another may take up your time, listening to different product descriptions without any intention to buy.
In any of these situations, you could easily lose your cool and rightly so. To practice patience, it helps to remember that any attack is not personal and that you are only but a representative of the company. Having a positive internal monologue to keep the negativity away and you will remain calm.
2. Clear Communication
Speak to every client clearly. Do not be vague or ambiguous in your interaction. Say exactly what you mean in very clear and precise terms.
Not being clear can leave room for misinterpretation which can damage a client’s impression of your business, discouraging return business.
To remove all doubt from the minds of both employee and client, you should learn to ask questions as the attending employee. Ask for as much detail as will be necessary to best serve the client’s needs and do not beat around the bush.
3. Using Positive Language
Part of excellent customer service is not in just saying the right thing, but also in saying it right. Make it a practice to use positive statements in every interaction with your customers. Instead of flat out saying “No, you cannot get that particular product at this time because it’s on back-order” a more positive way of saying the very same thing would be something like” I could make a special order for the same, and it will get to you in a few days as its unfortunately out of stock at the moment”
Customers pick on the positive language and appreciate it. Negative language however comes off as rude and dismissive. Focus on what you can actually do for the customers instead of what you cannot.
4. Use Active Voice
How you speak to your customers is a crucial area with just as crucial influences on customer attitude and behavior. If you are looking to get a customer to act, then nudge them in that direction with action words. “Buy this product today and you can enjoy a great discount” This will definitely do more in closing sales than simply just outlining all the product features,
A word of caution, however, is that you do not want to seem too pushy or come off as someone who is ordering around. Choose your words wisely. Be firm, yet very courteous.
5. Active Listening
Active listening, in the words of Stephen R covey, is listening with understanding and not just with the intention to reply. Sounds very profound, right? And profound it is indeed.
Listen attentively to what the customer is saying as that will help you get right to the heart of their issue. Inattentive listening can be also sure put-off for many clients as it can rightly be interpreted as a show of disinterest.
To improve your attentive listening skills, learn to shift your entire focus to the customer and issue at hand as you mentally block out any distractions. You can also use a pen and pad to put down crucial points that need addressing.
6. Product knowledge
It is not enough to know that a particular product is available. Every employee should have knowledge of product features and the value or benefits that come with using the product.
I would not feel very confident buying from a business whose employees cannot even highlight the value that buying the product would bring me. Without an understanding of the product features, it’s also right to assume that even troubleshooting in case of a problem would take needlessly much longer.
To improve product knowledge, a business owner can organize informative workshops and trainings for all employees. These workshops can also include role-playing where some employees play the part of the customer and the others have to make a selling presentation.
7. Be Personal
Always strive to establish a connection with clients. People do not want to deal with impersonal and near robotic representatives of a business. Be conversational. This does not mean you should give your customers your life history; that would be very unprofessional.
Start by introducing yourself by name. Ask the customer their name and refer to them by that name throughout your interaction. Something seemingly so simple can be a milestone in building a rapport. Being attentive and detail-oriented also plays a great role into making every interaction as personal as it can possibly be.
8. Reading Customers
A bit of behavioral psychology goes a long way in providing excellent customer service. As a social person, every employee should be able to pick up on and read some subtle signs that will serve as an indicator of a customer’s personality and reveal their moods and possible trigger elements.
With this information, you can go about making every interaction as personal and specific for each customer. People have different dispositions and reading a customer right will help you make their experience personalized and positive.
9. Anticipating and Addressing Needs and Objections
Building a personal relationship will help you anticipate customer needs. Recommend a product that you feel will be a good fit for a particular customer. This initiative adds for great customer service, as the client feel appreciated. That is not to say that they will just take your word for it. Customers will ask questions and raise legitimate concerns that you must always be ready to address satisfactorily.
Every single day, you will find yourself dealing with people of different temperaments. Some condescending and some very rude. Being able to provide excellent customer service sometimes means putting away your personal feelings and emotions about a situation and smiling your way through the most unbearable of situations.
Manage your emotions and let self-control reign even as you maintain a neutral tone of voice through these difficult encounters.
11. Persuasion Skills
Impulse buying is a reality. Your persuasion skills will drive these sales. Coupled with product knowledge, you should be able to create an interest so great in a product that customers feel they just have to go away with the product.
Persuasion skills are what will get a customer to buy an alternative product if the one they had in mind is not in stock. Mastering persuasion will help you bring a customer from a place of just sheer interest to a point where they are convinced that having the product is a must for them.
12. Flexibility and Creativity
A part of great customer service is actually putting in the effort to ensure that you meet the customer’s need. Oftentimes, this may mean going the extra mile and being a little creative and flexible in your approach of a particular situation.
Ask for some extra help from other employees for the benefit of the customer. Bend some rules if need be, but always ensuring that you operate within company set guidelines and work ethic. Every customer will appreciate the extra effort put in.
13. Time management Skills
Be time- conscious in every interaction with your clients. You should however be careful not to rush and make mistakes as that would no doubt dent your great customer service record. It’s not about how fast you can be, but just how efficient you are.
A great customer skill as far as time management goes is knowing when to bring in some help when you find yourself in a situation that you cannot handle by yourself. Be honest with the customer and let them know that bringing in an extra mind and set of hands will help with finding a solution faster.
14. Empathize Always
Do not be too removed from the needs and pain points of your customers. Be sensitive to their issues and every so often try to put yourself in their situation. It’s also not enough to feel it, express it in your conversation. A simple “I know how frustrating this may be for you, so…..” can go a long way in calming even the most distraught of customers.
It should also not be a play at pleasing the customers. Be genuine and sincere in your concern.
15. Organizational skills
Do you maintain a neat filing system for your customer records? As an employee, can you easily retrieve information that is crucial to addressing a customer’s particular situation? If a customer has to wait for 30 minutes just for you to move around across different desks to get information to be able to assist him/her, you can blame no one else if you get at least one bad review.
Organizational skills will save you both time, by ensuring there is a great flow of work at all times.
16. Sharp Memory
Going hand in hand with your organizational skills should be a great memory. Learn to organize and compartmentalize your memory. As a loyal client who has been a regular for many years, I would feel quite slighted if I had to come in and have to give my details all over again such as my name. For new employees, that would be an entirely different matter altogether.
Always be personal in your interactions and take a genuine interest in your clients. The most important details will surely remain in your memory if you are genuine.
17. Problem Solving Skills
Are you the ever-clueless employee who always has to call someone else to deal with situations? You should always seek to equip yourself with some basic troubleshooting skills for the products you are selling. Similarly, you should have at your fingertips all the standard protocols and guidelines for handling different scenarios with clients. I would appreciate dealing with an employee that can think fast on their feet as that would definitely save us both some precious time.
18. Transparency and Taking Responsibility
Mistakes are a part of everyday life, including business. Do not be afraid to admit when a mistake happens. This admission should be accompanied by a sincere apology and where possible, a compensation of sorts for any inconveniences.
I personally strongly dislike employees who will try their damnest to play the blame game even when it’s very apparent that the mistake is from their end. I would much rather someone who acknowledges their mistake so that we can work at finding a way forward without wasting too much time pointing fingers.
19. Closing Skills
How do you end your interactions with customers? Do you take the time to ensure that all their concerns have been addressed or do you go with a crass dismissal that shows you are all too happy to end the conversation?
“I hope I have been of help, feel free to ask any questions” , That’s definitely one way to cap off what I consider a great customer service exchange.
Are you content with the skills that you have? Do you actively look and apply resources that will improve your competencies? Customer needs are ever changing and you should always make an effort to keep yourself updated on how to best deal with each of them. Being always willing to learn and improve yourself will catapult you to a place where you offer great customer service at all times.
21. Follow up
Do your interactions with customers come to a cold end the moment they walk out of your premises? Great customer care means taking an interest in your clients. Post-transaction follow ups are a great way to communicate this interest. An email just to see whether all is well with the products purchased as well as polite email notifications of deals and offers you may be having are great options.
Great customer service is at the heart of every successful business and these 21 skills can help every employee in meeting the business’ objective of having a competitive edge when it comes to customer service and care.