The CX Express: A 5-Minute Journey To Better Customer Experiences -
Great customer service forms the backbone of any successful business. But achieving it isn’t easy. It demands certain skills. The top two?
Patience and empathy.
But that’s just the start. There’s a whole skillset your employees need to ensure the best possible customer experience.
Customer Satisfaction is Important
Ask yourself, is great customer service a priority for your business?
It should be.
“ 45% of customers are willing to pay more for better customer service. ”
So, what’s the secret?
It all starts with an understanding of your 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 customers.
Customer service skills can be divided into two categories: Soft customer service skills and hard customer service skills.
Hard customer service skills can be fairly easily trained. Soft customer service skills on the other hand are much more difficult to train as they rely on personal psychological attributes that characterize how people interact with others.
As they are difficult to train, look out for soft customer service skills during the recruitment process, and design your interviews specifically to identify them.
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:
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.
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:
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!
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 pay full attention. 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.
Live chat can be a good middle ground by providing real-time human interactions while making it easier to keep track of information. The stats don’t lie. According to one study, companies using live chat see a 20% increase in conversions, compared to companies that don’t.
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 positivity can be conveyed in the tone of voice and 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 positivty 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.
Problem solving is at the very heart of what it is to be a customer service agent. When customers get in touch, they often don’t fully understand what the problem they are facing is.
The onus is very much on the agent to solve any issues 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.
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.
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.
Sometimes customer service gets inquiries from potential customers who are considering purchasing 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.
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.
Voice calls may have moved beyond traditional phones and into internet based software, but phone manner remains an extremely important soft customer service skill.
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.
In fact, the age-old advice still works:
Smile as you greet a customer on the phone. It sets the tone for a friendly exchange. Beware though, 'smiling' at any angry customer could be taken the wrong way.
An average person speaks up to 150 words per minute. Match this speed. Try to meet your customers’ tone appropriately. Don’t match an angry customer with an angry tone, but do maintain a clear voice to make sure you are heard.
Good listeners make great speakers. Let your customers finish before even trying to offer a solution. Be clear you understand them. It shows you are listening.
Once a customer has vented, they will calm down. Now they are more receptive. Time to acknowledge their problem and make sure they feel heard.
Repeat back what the customer has told you. Be supportive. Demonstrate that you understand the problem.
Integrating live chat software on your website can revolutionize your business, but, it still needs top-notch written skills to get the most out of it.
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.
Although hard customer service skills can be trained, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. They still form a vital part of an agent being able to perform well in their job.
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.
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. Live chat, video call and voice call, perhaps analytics as well, all of these could be base on different software.
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.
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 tactfully as part and parcel of their customer interactions.
Emotions can easily run high in customer service interactions. Customers may feel understandably upset or even angry and unfortunately this can spillover to become an unpleasant encounter that leaves nerves frazzled and a bitter taste in the mouth.
The ability to let that go and get on with the day is a vital customer service skill. Without that emotional resilience it can be difficult for agents to face up to customers for the rest of the day with the right attitude and may even affect their personal life.
In fact, resilience training is becoming increasingly common as businesses realize the need to help agents manage their emotions and bounce back, as well as keep them motivated.
Here's a customer service skills example in action showing how to handle a client whose problem cannot be resolved:
Agent: Hi Marcin, thanks for telling us about your situation.
I understand it’s frustrating to lose a feature you’ve come to rely on. Although it isn’t something we intend to replace, I can share with you the reasons why we made the change, and how it can potentially benefit you in the long run.
Marcin: The feature was already helping me; why can’t I have it back?
Agent: I would be asking the same questions in your situation Marcin. The short answer is, it was a complex feature to maintain and wasn’t used by many customers. A lot of resources were going on something that wasn’t making our product better for the majority of our customers.
We had to drop the feature to reallocate resources to other areas. You’ll see the improvements in your account very soon.
Marcin: But that doesn’t solve my problem.
Agent: Yes, Marcin.
That’s true it doesn’t solve your issue immediately. However, our other customers have found <alternative> to be a good alternative for that functionality. If you’d like to share more detail on how you were using it, I’d be happy to give you my best advice.
Here, effective use of empathy and product knowledge are used to satisfy a frustrated client. Clear and concise language gets across the information while showcasing the customer-centric approach of your organization.
In the face of a complicated situation, an agent generally has three possible responses:
The second is clearly better than the first. The extra time doesn’t matter too much as the customer is assured of a result. The third is best of all, as the wait time is clear. Of course, it may take longer, in which case they should check back after 2 minutes, even if it’s just to say it will take longer.
Businesses no longer compete on price, but on the quality of experience, they deliver. Customer service has a massive bearing on your market share. Remember, customers are ready to pay more for better customer service, so it makes perfect sense to invest in customer-centric technologies such as live chat and intelligent chatbots. Combine these technologies with engaging customer interactions by giving staff the proper training and you’re well on your way to a successful strategy.
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