Customer service departments don’t just exist to address issues after they’ve already happened; they’re meant to be proactive parts of your overall business strategy.
The level of competition in almost every field is so high that customer service has become a key decision making factor for most buyers today. 96% of consumers, for example, stated that customer service is an influential factor in their choice of brands, and 93% are more likely to make repeat purchases with customers who have strong customer service.
According to Salesforce, 88% of high-performing service decision makers are making significant investments in agent training, versus only 57% of decision makers with low-performing service. There are certain customer service skills that are particularly valuable when it comes to driving your business forward, helping you to attract and retain clients both immediately and long-term while improving your overall brand reputation. So let’s take a close look at the five most important skills you need your staff to develop.
Imagine that you’re calling the customer support line of your credit card company, frustrated beyond belief because your purchase of an online Lowes gift certificate was flagged as suspicious and your account was locked. You need that credit card, which you’ve just opened to buy all your new furniture for your first house, but now it’s temporarily frozen.
Do you want someone on the other end of the line who is cold, clinical, and maybe apologizes but only keeps repeating company policies back to you? Of course not. This is a stress-inducing, blood-pressure-raising incident that could bring on a breakdown even for people who aren’t in the middle of buying a home or moving, so the only thing that might make you feel better is someone who genuinely apologizes, expresses that they’re stressed for you, and conveys that they have a quick solution.
Empathy is such a crucial skill for strong customer service agents, that it’s one that can impact your business’ success moving forward. It allows your team members to really connect with your customers and is a core component in how your clients view your brand.
2. Personalized Problem Solving
Let’s go back to the example above. Do you want to just be told “Sorry, that’s policy, good luck,” or do you want the agent you’re working with to actually try to find you a solution that works for you?
Personalized problem solving is an insanely valuable skill set that all good customer service agents should have if you want to drive your business forward. They’ll be able to deliver true customer service excellence in a way no other competitor can, because you’ve given them the training and the ability to reasonably take matters into their own hands.
In order to enable your team to deliver personalized problem solving, give them guidelines they can work within to help their customers, and while you can offer suggestions for how to handle specific circumstances, let them know when they can go off-script.
3. Active Listening
Plenty of people listen half-heartedly, thinking about what they’ll say next instead of really concentrating to what the other person is saying.
Active listening, on the other hand, is all about paying careful attention to what the other person is saying and letting them know that you’re doing so. It’s no surprise that this is a huge skill your customer service team should possess if you want them to be a standout part of your business.
Active listening will not only increase the likelihood that they retain what the customers are saying, but also that the customer will feel heard and understood.
A few ways to practice active listening over the phone include:
- Not interrupting the caller
- Asking clarifying questions at the appropriate time to show that you’re listening and want to understand
- Offering short “I see” and “ok” statements to show that you are engaged in the conversation
- Summarizing the client’s main points to ensure you’re on the same page and show that you were paying attention
4. Knowledge of Your Customers
When your customers call your customer support numbers, they don’t want to have to do a ton of explaining or state the same thing over and over to different agents. Instead, they want you to have a basic idea of who they are, their past purchases, and their past experiences with you. If this is the fourth time they’ve called you because you’ve frozen their account, they expect that you’ll have some of this history down in your notes somewhere.
Understand your customers as a whole. In general, who are they and what motivates them? What are their pain points and what solution does your company’s product or service offer them? Someone who is using your online portal because they’re stressed and overwhelmed for time, for example, is going to be frustrated beyond belief if they have to keep calling because there was a glitch that caused them to lose half an hour of work.
Your customer service team – and any agencies that you hire to take on calls, like PATLive – should have access to your CRM (customer relationship management) software, allowing them to quickly get up to speed on the individual customer at the start of each call.
5. Knowledge of Your Product
You don’t just need knowledge of your customers in order to deliver great customer service; you also need to know a great deal about your product or service. Plenty of people will call customer service with questions, concerns, or complaints. If the representative isn’t familiar with company policies, available services, or how to use or care for different products, they won’t be able to best serve the client they’re working with.
Imagine, for example, you’re running a bakery. Someone calls to ask about your cupcakes, and they want to know if they’re certified as gluten-free because they’re allergic. Your customer service rep says, “Yes, they’re definitely gluten-free”, but in reality, they’re only made without gluten ingredients but are prepared in an area with a high likelihood of cross-contamination. They can’t be certified gluten-free because of this, and a customer service rep who hasn’t been trained to know the difference could cause someone to become very sick, which could lead to a legal liability.
Make sure your staff and any answering service agency working for you have a deep dive in knowledge about your products, service, and brand. This will go a long way.
Great customer service can be a powerful differentiator that helps your business stand out, even in the face of fierce competition. In order to deliver great customer service, however, your team needs to be more than just friendly; they need to come equipped with an effective and versatile skill set allowing them to best serve your clients across the board.
When it comes to customer service, we pride ourselves on training and nurturing these soft skills. In a note from our CEO, Austin Davidson, during Customer Service Week 2019, he noted, “As we all know, answering the call is about a lot more than just ‘being on the phone’. It’s about being on point – being friendly, professional, and engaging with every single caller. That’s hard to do… But day in and day out, what I see, is a team of agents doing an amazing job.”
Ensure that your customer support staff is fully trained in each of these five key skills and you’ll start to see the benefits of a proactive customer service process in no time at all.