Customer Service

13 Important Customer Service Skills Every Employee Needs

August 30, 2021
12:00 am

No matter what type of company you are, you should be on the lookout for potential employees that contain essential customer service skills. 

These skills are necessary for every member of your customer service team in order to improve customer satisfaction.

But that’s just the start. There’s a whole skill set your employees need to ensure the best possible customer experience.

Customer service skills can be divided into two categories: soft skills and hard skills.

What’s the difference between soft skills and hard skills?

Soft skills in customer service refers to personality traits that are difficult to train and not specific to any job. Hard skills are easily able to train and are specific to job duties, tasks, and responsibilities.

Look out for soft customer service skills during the recruitment process, and design your interviews specifically to identify them. Some examples of soft skills are:

  • Problem solving
  • Leadership
  • Multitasking
  • Verbal or written communication
  • Collaboration
  • Interpersonal

Hard skills in customer service are the technical aspects employees can develop through school, training, or experience. Most employers identify them through hands-on training or interviews. Some examples of hard skills include:

  • Product or tech knowledge
  • Software
  • Marketing
  • Finance

Customer service professionals should combine both hard and soft skills to provide great customer service and experience.

Now, let’s dive into the list.

13 top customer service skills every employee needs

It all starts through interactions with customers; knowing what they want from you and how best to give it to them. Certain customer service skills can help your staff achieve this by connecting with them.

Customer service skills list:

  1. Patience
  2. Empathy
  3. Active listening
  4. Positive attitude
  5. Problem solving
  6. Multitasking
  7. Persuasion skills
  8. Upselling ability
  9. Verbal communication
  10. Written communication
  11. Product knowledge
  12. Tech knowledge
  13. Obtaining feedback
Customer service skills list infographic

1. Patience

Patience is a key customer service skill. Without it, the staff can’t take the time to fully understand a customer’s situation.

During the interview process, to check that the candidate has it, you might want to ask questions like:

  • Tell me about a time at work where you were frustrated, but stay calm and deal with the situation.
  • Tell me about something you have worked on that took longer than expected. What were the sticking points and how did you get past them?

This gives you real-life examples of candidate behavior. If they answer well, it’s a good bet they’ll show patience when it matters. On the other hand, if a candidate struggles to answer, perhaps they’re not the right fit for you. 

2. Empathy

Seeing things from the customer’s perspective is core to customer service success. Sadly, understanding and compassion are continually undervalued customer service skills. 

Empathetic customer service agents are highly rated though. No wonder. Putting themselves in the customer’s shoes means issues are better understood. Hire staff that can really show this side of themselves.

Encourage them to set the tone for positive interactions by telling customers:

  • I appreciate your patience.
  • I’d feel the same way in your position.
  • I agree that’s frustrating.
  • Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
  • I can imagine how you feel.

Affirming statements like these demonstrate genuine care on the part of employees. Customers appreciate it. Don’t forget though, your agents still need exceptional product knowledge to actually solve the issues!

3. Active listening

According to one study, the average human attention span has reduced from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds. It’s just so easy for customer service agents to miss important details unless they show good listening skills. 

And it matters… Research indicates that up to 33% of customers feel frustrated if they have to repeat themselves multiple times to customer service representatives. 

Failing to listen properly can lead to miscommunication and false assumptions. Customers will get frustrated. Some companies prefer emails to avoid this problem, but emails lack the human touch and are devoid of verbal or emotional cues. The exact tone remains ambiguous, so confusion is always a possibility. 

4. Positive attitude

An agent’s attitude has a big impact. It helps get the customer onside and instills confidence that the issue is going to be dealt with effectively. 

This attitude can be conveyed in the tone of voice and positive language that an agent uses. Focusing on what an agent can do for a customer rather than what they can’t is a great way to make sure this positivity comes across.

A positive attitude also impacts the agent themselves as it gives them the self-belief they need to perform their job well and feel assured that everything will turn out ok in the end. 

5. Problem solving

Problem solving is at the very heart of what it is to be a good customer service agent. When customers get in touch, they often don’t fully understand what the problem they are facing is.

The bonus is very much on the agent solving the problem by diagnosing them, identifying how to address them, and then building a plan of how to go about doing that. 

Approaching problems in this strategic way is a core soft customer service skill, and needed for agents to be effective in their day to day activities.

6. Multitasking

The ability to multitask is crucial for a customer service agent, particularly with all the different technologies they are asked to deal with these days. 

The increasing popularity of live chat, for example, means agents may need to sustain multiple conversations simultaneously. According to one study, companies using live chat see a 20% increase in conversions, compared to companies that don’t.

Even on a more traditional phone call, agents may need to check information in a database or undertake tasks in a software program, all while maintaining an engaging and helpful conversation with the customer at the end of the line.

7. Persuasion skills

Sometimes customer service gets inquiries from potential customers who are considering purchasing a product or service from your company. And although interested, they are not necessarily ready to commit. 

That’s when agents skilled in persuasion come into their own, helping convert interest into a sale. Striking up a rapport and understanding how to meet the potential customer’s needs, as well as conveying that successfully and articulately, are all key to that process.

8. Upselling ability

Dealing with customers’ issues can give agents insight into how a company can better meet their needs. Perhaps the particular problem they are experiencing could be resolved if they had access to a different subscription or product.

Upselling skills ultimately rest on an agent’s ability to understand how they can better help a customer. In the end it’s a win-win. The company gets increased revenue and the customer is happier too.

9. Verbal communication skills

Voice calls may have moved beyond traditional phones and into internet based software, but phone manner remains an extremely important soft customer service skill.

Phone skills

Talking to customers on the phone can be tricky. Messages can easily get muddled without visual cues. Keeping customers relaxed with a positive and cheerful tone helps mitigate against this. 

10. Written communication skills

Strong writing skills keep customers engaged. On the flip side, poor grammar and typos leave your customers with an awful impression of your business. Written language can be tricky though, it’s fraught with the possibility to be misunderstood or come across in a way you didn’t intend.

Having an appreciation for this level of nuance can be the difference between a customer walking away thinking an agent was rude or thinking they were polite and helpful.

Good comprehension is also important as it can be difficult to understand a customer’s tone from written correspondence alone so agents must be tuned into a customer’s intent from the type of language they are using. All without the cues of tonality.

11. Product knowledge

When it comes to understanding and dealing with customer problems, great product knowledge can make all the difference. That’s why it’s such a crucial hard customer service skill.

Product knowledge puts customers at ease and helps build trust. It even makes communication easier too, aiding explanations to customers. The agent also benefits from improved confidence and they feel ready and able to deal with any issues coming their way.

An onboarding process should make sure to equip agents with the knowledge they need, but it’s an ongoing issue too. Make sure to offer regular training so they can keep up with product development.

12. Tech knowledge

The modern customer service agent often has a whole range of different tech at their fingertips and they need to understand how to use it if they are going to do their job effectively.

Even where companies bring all their customer interactions into a single platform that creates a holistic overview of customer activity there is still much to learn in terms of functionality to get the most out of it.

Tech knowledge is a great example of a hard customer service skill.

13. Getting reviews ratings

Social proof is all-important these days so having your agents bring those customer reviews flooding in could help you get ahead of the competition. Teach your agents to request a review rating and give them the tactics of how to do it after their customer interactions.

Displaying ratings or reviews on social media or other online platforms can help boost trust with potential customers.

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The bottom line about customer service skills

Businesses no longer focus on price, but on the quality of experience, they deliver. Customer service has a massive bearing on your market share. 

Keep in mind these important customer service skills when looking for a new member of your support team.

Remember, customers are ready to pay more for better customer service, so it makes perfect sense to invest in it.

Which customer service skill do you look for most when hiring customer service professionals? Why do you focus on the least? Let us know in the comments.


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