Customer service skills—every business needs them, but not every customer service professional has them.
That’s a shame, because in this day and age, customer service skills are more important than ever.
In 2020, customer service is the key differentiator for any business, regardless of size or industry. If you don’t have the skills to provide excellent customer experiences, you’re not only losing out on sales, but hurting your organization’s customer satisfaction and retention rates.It’s simple: today’s customers expect friendly, responsive, personalized service. And if they can’t get it from you, they’ll go to one of your competitors.
Fortunately, this is one area where any company or company representative can shine. With a little dedication and practice, anyone can improve their customer service skills. Here are 7 tips you can start using today:
1. Great customer service begins with understanding your customer.
The keyword for developing customer service skills is empathy. Empathy allows you to create a genuine connection with your customers. It empowers you to serve with a palpable sense of enthusiasm and dedication—an audible smile that’s infectious.
What does empathy look like? It looks a lot like the Golden Rule: treat others how you want to be treated. It means putting yourself in a customer’s shoes:
- understanding where they’re coming from
- being sensitive to their worries and desires
- finding common ground
- establishing a rapport
It’s about listening with an open heart and an open mind, and always giving the customer the benefit of the doubt.
Consider a customer’s mindset when they’re dialing the phone, visiting your location, or sending a message via your website. They may feel trepidatious, even defensive. People with great customer service skills don’t pretend these feelings don’t exist, but rather find ways to relate to and overcome them.
Think about your own experiences. Have you ever had to wait on hold forever? Or stand in line for what felt like hours, ultimately feeling twice as impatient about your issue as when you arrived? Probably. You can draw on this awareness to relate to your customer’s frustration and better position yourself as their advocate.
A solid understanding of your company’s offerings also helps you better empathize with customers’ needs. You can better speak their language—and ultimately problem-solve—at a deeper level. That’s the power of empathy—it drives business results (more sales, more leads) while at the same time creating meaningful connections (memorable calls, fun conversations). At Ruby, we’ve built our business with this as our number one guiding principle.
2. To deepen your customer service skills, continually expand your toolbox.
Great customer service professionals never stop learning. They continue practicing their listening skills, frequently add new conversation starters to their repertoires, and regularly develop strategies for turning tough calls around.
To keep your skills fresh and your energy creative, you need to make time to learn.
- Spend a weekend at a professional development class or seminar.
- Watch a video online.
- Read a book or an article. (We have some excellent recommendations for you.)
There are hundreds of resources on customer service topics that can open you up to new ways of doing things. Many of those resources are totally free. YouTube, Udemy, Lynda, or your local library are just a few places to start.
Before you begin your customer service skills development journey, ask yourself:
- In what areas of my work or role would I like to grow?
- What are situations that challenge me or expose my opportunities for growth?
Take 15 minutes or so to write down your thoughts—list your goals, fears, questions, and so on. Once you’re clear on your objectives, the perfect resources are practically guaranteed to jump in your lap. You may find a book about active listening, for instance, or a video offering tips for dealing with angry customers.
What’s nice about continual learning is that it keeps your customer service passion ignited while improving your performance. At the same time as you’re finding fresh ways to surprise, delight, and support your customers, you’re keeping your mind active with insights you can use beyond the context of work—for instance, at your next dinner date or cocktail party.
3. The best customer service skills are found outside the office—and outside your comfort zone.
Humans are creatures of habit. But while routine is comfortable, it often blocks one’s creativity and critical thinking ability.
To truly transform your customer service skills, you need to expose yourself to new sights, sounds, people, places, ideas, beliefs, and sources of inspiration.
Start by thinking about your work environment—which is a major component of your mood and mindset. A small change to your surroundings can make a big impact.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Change up the scenery during your workday—rearrange or reposition your workstation.
- Enjoy lunch away from your desk.
- Take a walk outside.
- Check out a midday yoga class.
Trying new things in your personal life can also yield transformative results in your customer service work. When we expand beyond our routines, we’re challenged to get over fears, drop bad habits, let go of limiting beliefs, and tap into our potential. By rediscovering your abilities, you bring a fuller self into your customer service skills.
Consider: When was the last time you did something for the first time?
Challenge yourself with a new experience over the next month. It can be anything—an improv or dance class, rehabbing a vintage guitar, getting artistic with a pottery project, cooking an unfamiliar recipe. Living on the edge of your comfort zone helps you to think on your feet in the often unpredictable world of customer service.
Plus, new experiences are usually fun experiences—and they definitely make you a better conversationalist. However your adventure goes, you’ll certainly have a story to tell.
4. Discover tools and skills to keep your cool during customer conversations.
Customer service professionals are expected to remain calm and collected in every interaction.
This is tough if you’re not in the flow—if you’re having a bad day or an off week. But even on the best of days, it’s challenging to be that rock for every customer who needs your support—to stay positive when your work consists of dealing with person after person, problem after problem.
How can a customer service professional retain a positive, responsive mindset?
One solution is to find tools that help you stay calm and manage difficult emotions. Examples of these tools include…
- breath exercises
- five-minute meditation practices
- quick bursts of exercise, such as a brisk jaunt up and down the stairs
- relaxation apps and games
Find the thing or things that work for you. Make sure they’re specific—“meditation” doesn’t work unless you’re well-trained in doing it, so find a particular video, app, or audio series. Whatever tools you use, practice them—daily—until they become a habit. It may surprise you how these rituals support your customer service skills, helping you regain your calm and re-energize your workday.
5. Find a customer service mentor and expand your network.
A mentor can be a game-changer in terms of opening you up to new ideas and possibilities for customer service skills. Every successful customer service professional has someone in their life they’ve looked up to and modeled themselves after.
If you don’t have a mentor, now’s the time to find one. Look for someone with experience that differs from your own. Maybe they’ve achieved certain goals you aspire to, or you admire their communication skills.
Then, invite them to coffee. You’d be surprised how many people want to help you when you’re open to asking them.
Networking is also a powerful way to elevate your customer service skills. When you engage in a community—a community within your profession or in another industry or interest group—you gain new insights and knowledge, as well as a more holistic view of the world.
6. Remember the “why” behind your customer service career.
Customer service agents who are good at what they do are propelled by a purpose—a purpose larger than making money, closing deals, or getting through 100 phone calls in a day. They’re fuelled by the pursuit of a big idea like connection, or justice, or innovation, or sustainability. For some organizations, such as healthcare providers, the prevailing mission is to literally save people’s lives. It’s why people pick up the phone.
A good practice for clarity about your relationship with work is to ask yourself:
“What’s my ‘why’?”
What motivates you to do the work that you do?
What drives you to get out of bed every morning?
What are you bringing to the world?
What’s your superpower?
If you’re drawn to customer service because you enjoy connecting with people and making their lives better, try keeping a happiness journal, or gratitude journal. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of journaling, which range from emotional and psychological benefits (boosting memory, improving self-confidence) to physical benefits such as better sleep and accelerated healing. Really.
Journaling or another form of reflection can help you clarify your perspective on customer service. Once you move away from thinking of customer service as a chore or a transaction, you’ll tap into that place within you that innately desires positivity and meaningful purpose. Stay tuned in to that vibe, and happy and satisfied customers will be drawn to you.
Of course, not everyone can or should pursue customer service for a living. You may be better cut out for other things, such as—I don’t know—running your business. That doesn’t mean your customers need to be stuck with lackluster experiences. Ruby’s on-demand phone and chat specialists are ready to empower your business with exceptional customer service.