You don’t need a PhD in psychology to improve customer service experiences. It might help – maybe – but as a customer service representative, you don’t really need a degree. What you do need is a couple of key skills to really help you close those customers and win them over. We’ve come up with 6 Key Skills to Improve Customer Service Experiences and we’ve really fleshed them out for your benefit, as a result, we’ve split this article into two parts to make it easier to digest.
Part 1 of “6 Key Skills to Improve Customer Service Experiences”
This one will be obvious to those of us who have worked in customer service. Customers are people, just like you and me, and, as we all know, not all people are ‘nice’. I’m sure many of us have encountered customers who have made us want to tear our hair out. I, personally, was tempted more than once to throw coffee into the face of several customers when I managed a cafe. As tempting as it can be to do just that to an especially-frustrating customer, it’s just not conducive to customer loyalty.
Patience is vital to establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship between anyone – customers and staff, staff and staff, staff and management – because it usually comes into play when people are at their limit. When customers reach out, they’re either looking for help – maybe they can’t find the item they’re looking for, or they want to know if it comes in a different size – or they’re frustrated by something and they need to follow up on it. Either way, it’s your job as a customer service representative to make sure their needs and expectations are met. This means sometimes having to put up with obnoxious behaviour.
Remember, sometimes you’re going to come across people that you’ll never be able to make happy. That’s not your fault, there are always external factors in play that are beyond your control – maybe the customer has just had a really bad day and they’re at the end of their rope, or they could just be an unpleasant person. Point is, their bad behaviour is never an excuse for you to behave badly.
This may mean that you have to put on an act – be extra patient, show extra care, be extra attentive – but it’s far better for the longevity of all customer loyalty.
Being patient is also important in case the unexpected surprise rears its head. Panicking or throwing in the towel because something wasn’t supposed to happen that way is the perfect way to show customers that you’re not prepared. Surprises – good and bad – will happen! That’s just life; proving you can keep your cool in the face of a disaster, and take a surprise in stride, is a fantastic way to problem-solve your way to the top of the favourite list.
2. Communication Skills
We’ve harped on about this a lot lately. No surprise really; I think most human-made disasters in the world can be traced back to a miscommunication somewhere down the line. Communication is key to everything – it conveys information, allows people to relate to each other, and, to improve customer service experiences allows for staff to really get to the bottom of what customers are after.
Communication isn’t just verbal, it’s physical as well – a dismissive body attitude can be read just as clearly as a ‘huh?’. Communication is the complete message: how a phrase or question is delivered, the tone, mannerisms, attentiveness. This is often easier said than done. Some of us are naturals at this – we use positive language without trying, have open body language, smile readily, etc. – but for many of us, we need practice. Who here has practised smiling in the mirror? While it may seem silly, it’s really not a bad thing to do: smiling reduces personal stress levels and sets other people at ease as well. It’s the easiest way to connect with others.
Similarly, most of us can string together sentences – especially after having being suitable caffeinated in the mornings! – but have you ever stopped to really listen to what you’re saying? A lot of us think that we’re communicating clearly when the other party really doesn’t get what we’re saying. Clear communication is vital to customer relations – so make sure you know what you’re saying: are you making sense? Does the customer look like they’re following? Are you talking too fast? Using too many technical terms? Keep in mind that a chatterbox might be good at talking, but they’re not necessarily a good communicator.
It’s hard to sell a service or product when you don’t know a lot about it. Getting to know all the products, their benefits and features, is a good way to boost your own confidence as well as your customers’. It’s always awkward if the customer asks a question that you don’t know the answer to – you’re left with one of two options: either admit that you don’t know (brave!) or wing it (not smart!). Customers are like sharks: they can sense your discomfort and it’s a definite turn-off.
Apart from knowing what you’re selling, it’s also important that you’re familiar with company policies and procedures – this can be particularly important if you’re in the financial industry! For example, if a customer walked in with a previously-bought item looking to return it, what is your company’s policy on it? Knowing how your company deals with certain situations, what the internal procedures are, and how to go about handling customers within the system your company has designed is a good way to stay on track and not get bogged down.
In addition, knowing about your company’s policies on things can help protect you from the unpleasable customer!
Well, that’s enough to digest for now, I think. Keep your eyes peeled – next week we’ll cover the remaining 3 Key Skills to Improve Customer Service Experiences!