Customer Service

21 great customer service skills and how to develop them.

Ufuoma Uvomata
July 19, 2023

Why did the customer service agent go to therapy? Because they had too many unresolved issues! 

Jokes aside, providing great customer service can be pretty simple when you understand the rules. “Rule 1: The customer is always right. Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, re-read Rule 1.” – Stew Leonard

Since that rule never changes, it means to continuously provide excellent service, you need to keep learning and improving your skills. The right skills will help you think on your feet and gently nudge customers in the right direction when they are wrong need guidance. 

Whether you're working in a customer service department as a customer service agent, or looking to improve customer service strategy in your business, this guide will help you develop the 21 skills needed to delight customers and increase customer satisfaction.

21 skills every customer service team should have.

1. Active listening.

Active listening is the art of lending an ear without letting your mind wander off to thoughts of smoky jollof rice or the movie you just watched. While it may seem as simple as nodding and pretending to care, listening actively requires some skill. 

Practical steps for developing your listening skills.

  • Put down your phone: You cannot be fully present in a conversation if you are constantly checking your phone or computer. Put down your gadgets and give your undivided attention to the customer.
  • Maintain eye contact: As you engage in a conversation, maintain eye contact with the customer. Find a balance between attentive eye contact and not making your customer feel like they're under surveillance.
  • Avoid interrupting: Let the customer finish speaking before you respond. This shows that you respect their opinion and are willing to listen. 
  • Ask questions: Clarify any doubts you have by asking questions that show you are interested in their story. This also helps to avoid any misunderstandings. Use phrases like, "If I understand correctly, you're saying..." to show that you're on the same page.
  • Listen between the lines: Pay attention to the emotions and tone behind the customer's words. Are they frustrated, confused, or secretly plotting to take over the world? Okay, maybe not the last one, but you get the point. 
  • Practice makes perfect (Or close enough): The more you practice active listening, the better you will become at it. Take every customer interaction as an opportunity to improve your skills. Even if you accidentally tune out for a moment, don't beat yourself up. Apologize if needed, and get back to listening with renewed focus. 

2. Effective verbal communication.

Effective verbal communication has the power to charm customers, resolve issues, and leave a lasting impression.

Practical steps for developing clear communication skills.

  • Use positive language: Craft your sentences with positive language that brings joy to the ears of your customers. Instead of saying, "Sorry, we can't do that," say, "Certainly, let me find an alternative solution for you." 
  • Be clear and concise: Deliver your message concisely. Use simple language and speak clearly to ensure that your customers understand what you’re saying. 
  • Follow company guidelines: Follow your company’s guidelines on how to communicate with customers to ensure that you provide consistent and high-quality service.
  • Use storytelling: Use storytelling to paint vivid pictures with your words that captivate your customers.
  • Be flexible in your language: Adapt your language to match the customer's level of understanding and preferences. There’s no need to showcase your vast vocabulary or fluency in different languages.
  • Practice: Practice is the key to developing effective verbal communication skills. Look for opportunities to improve your skills by interacting with customers regularly. 

3. Written communication.

Whether you're responding to customer emails, crafting witty social media posts, or drafting informative self-service articles, your written communication skills help provide a positive customer experience.

Practical steps for developing written communication skills.

  • Sharpen your grammar and spelling: A misplaced comma or typo can make even the friendliest response seem unprofessional. Brush up on your grammar and spelling to ensure your written communications are error-free.
  • Keep it short and to the point: Nobody likes reading long paragraphs, especially when they're angry. Use bullet points or numbered lists to make information more digestible. 
  • Proofread: Before hitting that "send" button, take a moment to proofread your message. It's amazing how a fresh pair of eyes can catch those sneaky typos or awkwardly worded sentences.
  • Personalize your responses: Tailor your replies to each customer's specific needs or concerns. Use Simpu’s personalization features to make it easy to address them by name and refer to any previous interactions.
  • Use emojis: Emojis help you convey your emotions and make your messages more engaging. Make sure not to overdo it, so you don’t come across as unprofessional.
  • Use good templates: Writing the same message over and over again is boring and time-consuming. Use templates to ensure consistency within your customer service team and streamline your customer support process.

4. Empathy.

Empathy is like a superpower that allows you to step into your customer's shoes, understand their feelings, and respond with compassion. It involves listening attentively, acknowledging their concerns, and showing genuine understanding.

Practical Steps for developing empathy.

  • Put yourself in their shoes: Imagine how you would feel if you were in the same position. This will help you understand their emotions and frustrations.
  • Practice emotional awareness: Recognize common emotions in customers, such as frustration, happiness, or sadness, and respond accordingly. Also, be aware of your own emotions because they can influence your ability to empathize with others. 
  • Show genuine interest: Make a genuine connection with your customers. Show interest in their concerns, ask about their day, and use personalized service techniques.

5. Emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions as well as understand and respond to the emotions of others. For customer service agents, It involves being aware of your own emotions, empathizing with customers, and responding with care and understanding.

Practical steps for developing emotional intelligence.

  • Keep calm and carry on: Stay calm and composed, even in the face of challenging situations. Take deep breaths, count to ten (or a hundred if needed), and respond with grace.
  • Practice emotional agility: Emotional agility is the art of adapting to different customer emotions like a chameleon changing colors. Be flexible in your responses, adjusting your tone and approach based on the customer's needs.
  • Stay curious and open-minded: Stay curious about your customers, their needs, and their perspectives. Be open-minded, ready to learn, and adapt as you gain new insights.

6. Patience.

It's easy to become frustrated when dealing with difficult customer issues, but patience is key to keeping customers happy and resolving their problems. 

Practical steps for developing patience as a customer service rep. 

  • Take a deep breath: When you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a moment to breathe deeply. This can help you calm down and clear your mind, so you can approach the situation with a fresh perspective.
  • Visualize a calm oasis: When dealing with challenging clients, picture yourself in a serene setting, perhaps on a beach. Using this mental imagery can help you maintain your composure.
  • Take breaks when you need them: If you're feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, take a break. This can help you clear your head and come back to the situation with a fresh perspective. 

7. Adaptability.

Adaptability is the ability to adjust to different situations and handle unexpected challenges. It means switching styles and approaches, ensuring you're always one step ahead of customer needs

In modern customer service, this skill is essential for providing omnichannel customer service that delivers great service to customers no matter how they choose to reach out.

Practical steps for developing adaptability.

  • Understand different types of customer service: There are many types of customer service, including customer calls, email, social media, live chat, and more. Understanding the different channels and how to use customer service software for each one is important for delivering great service to customers.
  • Learn from customer insights: Customer insights can provide valuable information about customer concerns and preferences. Use these insights to improve service teams and deliver better customer experiences.
  • Embrace the unexpected: In customer service, surprises are common. Embrace the unexpected and adapt your approach accordingly. 

8. Problem-solving.

As a customer service professional, one of the most important skills you can develop is problem-solving. When you are able to quickly and effectively solve customer problems, you can create an excellent customer service experience, retain existing customers, and contribute to your company's success.

Practical steps for developing problem-solving skills.

  • Understand the problem: Before you can solve a problem, you need to understand what the problem is. Take the time to listen to your customer's issue and ask questions to clarify the problem. Make sure you fully understand the customer's situation before you try to offer a solution.
  • Be proactive: Great customer service is not just about solving problems as they arise; it's also about anticipating and preventing problems before they occur. Take the time to review your company guidelines and procedures so that you can proactively address potential customer issues.
  • Collaborate with your team: Make sure you collaborate with your customer service team and support agents to share knowledge and ideas for solving customer issues.
  • Offer self-service options: Some customers prefer to solve issues on their own. Offer self-service options, such as online FAQs or knowledge bases, to allow customers to find answers to their questions quickly and easily. 

9. Troubleshooting.

Existing customers are more likely to continue using your services and receive marketing communications if they have had a positive customer experience.

Troubleshooting can greatly improve the customer service experience and customer satisfaction. It is the ability to quickly and accurately diagnose and solve customer queries, questions, or complaints.

Practical steps for developing troubleshooting skills.

  • Understand the customer's problem: To save the day, you must first understand the problem at hand. Think of yourself as a detective searching for clues to crack the case. Remember, every customer interaction is an opportunity to unravel a unique challenge.
  • Break down the issue: Complex problems can be easier to solve when you break them into smaller, manageable parts. By dividing and conquering, you can tackle each piece systematically, unraveling the mystery one step at a time.
  • Use unexpected solutions: While Troubleshooting is about resolving issues, going the extra mile can leave a lasting impression. Whenever possible, surprise and delight customers with unexpected solutions or small gestures.

10. Product knowledge.

Product knowledge refers to your understanding of the products or services your company offers. This includes features, benefits, pricing, and any other information that would be useful to a customer.

As a customer service representative, you need to know your products inside and out so you can provide accurate and helpful information to customers.

Practical steps for developing product knowledge.

  • Comprehensive training programs: Implement structured training programs that cover all aspects of the products or services offered. This training should be an ongoing process, ensuring that everyone is updated on new product releases and features.
  • Hands-on experience: Encourage every customer service representative to gain hands-on experience with the products. Provide access to sample products or demo accounts that allow exploration and use of the offerings directly.
  • Product documentation and resources: Create a centralized repository of product documentation, including user guides, FAQs, and troubleshooting tips. This resource center will serve as a quick reference guide.
  • Shadowing and mentoring: Pair new or less experienced customer service agents with seasoned support team members for shadowing and mentoring. This practice allows knowledge transfer and provides opportunities to learn from more experienced colleagues.
  • Collaboration with other departments: Encourage collaboration between your customer service team and other departments like sales and product development. This interdepartmental collaboration fosters a holistic understanding of the product.

11. Time management.

Time management is a crucial skill for customer service agents aiming to deliver great customer service consistently.

In a fast-paced environment where your support team handles numerous issues daily, effective time management ensures prompt issue resolution, improves the customer experience, and contributes to customer retention.

Time management skills can also help you balance your workload, reduce stress, and improve job satisfaction.

Happy customers are more likely to stay loyal to your brand. By providing excellent customer service through effective time management, you can boost customer retention rates.

Practical steps for developing time management skills.

  • Set clear goals and prioritize tasks: Start each day by setting clear goals and prioritizing tasks based on urgency and importance. Use task management tools or techniques such as the Eisenhower Matrix for effective prioritization.
  • Avoid multitasking: While multitasking might seem like a time-saving approach, it often leads to reduced productivity and errors. Focus on one task at a time to ensure quality and efficiency.
  • Implement time blocking: Time blocking involves scheduling specific blocks of time for different tasks or types of customer contacts. Dedicate uninterrupted time to handle emails, calls, and self-service requests, improving focus and productivity.
  • Utilize technology and automation: Leverage customer service tools and technology to streamline processes and automate repetitive tasks, such as canned responses for frequently asked questions. This allows you to respond swiftly to customer inquiries.
  • Establish response time guidelines: Set response time guidelines for different types of customer contacts. This ensures that you address customer inquiries promptly, even during peak periods.

12. Efficiency.

Efficiency is one of the skills that makes customer service important. It involves the ability to handle issues quickly and effectively, ensuring that customers are satisfied with the level of service they receive.

Being efficient allows your support team to resolve issues promptly and deliver good customer service, which results in happy customers.

It allows you to allocate resources effectively, ensuring that the right level of customer support is available when and where it is needed.

Practical Steps for developing efficiency.

  • Invest in training and development: Provide comprehensive training for your customer service team, covering not only product knowledge but also effective communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Streamline processes: Review and optimize your customer service processes regularly. Identify any bottlenecks or inefficiencies and streamline the workflow to improve response times and issue resolution.
  • Use technology wisely: Leverage customer service tools and software to automate repetitive tasks, manage customer inquiries, and track performance metrics. Simpu can help you significantly improve efficiency.
  • Monitor and analyze performance metrics: Use Simpu to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) such as first response time, resolution time, and customer satisfaction scores. Analyze the data to track your team's performance and identify areas for improvement.

13. Conflict resolution.

Conflict resolution involves resolving disputes between customers and the business. It is the art of addressing customer complaints, concerns, or dissatisfaction in a way that leaves the customer feeling heard, valued, and satisfied.

Conflicts are inevitable, but how they are managed can make all the difference in providing good customer service.

Practical steps for developing conflict resolution skills.

  • Offer solutions, not excuses: Your customer support team should focus on finding solutions rather than making excuses. Customers appreciate proactive efforts to resolve issues.
  • Apologize sincerely: When the company is at fault, apologize sincerely and take ownership of the problem. A genuine apology can go a long way toward diffusing conflicts.
  • Set clear guidelines: Establish clear guidelines for addressing various types of conflicts. Having a structured approach helps each customer service rep navigate challenging situations more confidently.
  • Follow up: After resolving a conflict, encourage your team to follow up with the customer to ensure their satisfaction. This demonstrates the company's commitment to excellent customer service.

14. Positive attitude.

A positive attitude creates a welcoming and enjoyable customer experience, even in challenging situations. It can turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one by making customers feel valued and appreciated.

Customers don’t just remember what was resolved but also how they felt during the process. When they sense genuine warmth and friendliness, they are more likely to be satisfied with the service they receive.

Practical steps for developing a positive attitude.

  • Show appreciation: Encourage support agents to acknowledge customers' concerns genuinely and express appreciation for their business. Simple gestures like saying "thank you" can go a long way.
  • Embrace positive language: Encourage the use of positive language and words that convey a helpful and optimistic tone. Avoid negative or defensive language.
  • Mindfulness and stress management: Teach your team techniques for managing stress and staying mindful during interactions with customers. A composed mindset contributes to a positive attitude.
  • Encourage self-care: Advocate for self-care and work-life balance within your customer service team. A well-rested and energized team is more likely to maintain a positive attitude.

15. Professionalism.

Professionalism is a cornerstone of delivering good customer service. It not only reflects positively on your brand but also builds trust and loyalty with customers.

A professional demeanor instills confidence in customers. They have peace of mind knowing that competent and dependable people are taking care of their worries.

Practical steps for developing professionalism in customer service.

Now that we recognize the significance of professionalism in customer service, let's explore practical steps to develop this skill within your customer service team:

  • Comprehensive training: Provide thorough training to your customer service team, covering essential customer service skills, communication techniques, and best practices. Investing in training sets the foundation for professionalism.
  • Consistency in service: Encourage consistency in service delivery, regardless of the communication channel. A uniform customer experience reflects professionalism.
  • Timely responses: Promptly respond to customer inquiries and resolve issues in a timely manner. Quick and efficient service is a hallmark of professionalism.

16. Multilingual skills.

Multilingual customer service helps businesses provide good customer service. When customers can communicate in their preferred language, they are more likely to feel understood and valued.

Multilingual customer service is also important for businesses that want to expand internationally. By speaking the language of your target market, you can better understand your customers’ needs and preferences.

Practical steps for developing multilingual skills.

  • Identify language needs: Analyze your customer base to determine which languages are most commonly spoken or required. Focus on training your team in the languages that will have the most significant impact.
  • Multilingual hiring: When expanding your support teams, prioritize hiring candidates with multilingual skills. Language diversity within your team can be a significant advantage.
  • Use language learning resources: Leverage language learning resources such as language apps, online courses, and language exchange programs. These resources can help improve your language skills.
  • Language support tools: Utilize language support tools such as translation software or multilingual customer service platforms to help you during interactions.
  • Multicultural exposure: Engage with multicultural communities or spend time in countries where the target languages are spoken. Immersion can significantly enhance your language skills.

17. Cross-cultural skills.

Customers expect a personalized customer experience, regardless of their cultural background. 

Understanding and respecting diverse cultural norms and practices enables you to build meaningful connections with customers from around the world. Cultural sensitivity builds trust and rapport with customers. It shows that you respect their cultural differences and are willing to accommodate their unique needs.

Practical steps to developing cross-cultural skills in customer service.

  • Understand cultural differences: Cultural differences can affect customer interactions. Familiarize yourself with different cultures to avoid misunderstandings and demonstrate sensitivity to each customer's background.
  • Cultural training: Provide comprehensive cultural training to your team members. Offer workshops that cover common cultural practices, values, and communication styles of your customer base.
  • Cultural sensitivity guide: Create a cultural sensitivity guide or resource that includes tips for interacting with customers from different cultures. This reference tool can help you navigate challenging situations.

18. Teamwork.

Teamwork means working together with your colleagues to provide exceptional customer service. It's about leveraging each team member's strengths to achieve common goals. Customers appreciate a seamless experience when they interact with your customer service team. Collaboration ensures consistent service delivery and a unified brand image.

Practical steps for developing teamwork.

  • Set roles and responsibilities: Define clear roles and responsibilities for each team member. This clarity avoids confusion and streamlines workflow.
  • Encourage cross-training: Provide opportunities for cross-training within the team. This enables team members to understand each other's tasks, fostering empathy and support.
  • Regular team meetings: Schedule regular team meetings to discuss challenges, successes, and strategies. Team meetings promote unity and a sense of collective purpose.
  • Establish team goals: Set clear team goals aligned with your customer service objectives. Working toward shared goals creates a unified vision.
  • Team-building activities: Organize team-building activities outside of work to build camaraderie and strengthen relationships among team members.

19. Collaboration.

Collaboration helps customer support teams work together and provide a seamless experience. It is a unified effort to achieve common goals

A collaborative team can share responsibilities and support each other, ensuring that customer inquiries are addressed promptly and effectively.

With omnichannel customer service, where customers can communicate with businesses through various channels like email, phone, chat, and social media, collaboration is even more critical.

It ensures that every team member is up-to-date on customer interactions and that customers receive consistent service across all channels.

Practical steps for developing collaboration.

  • Promote a collaborative culture: Foster a culture of collaboration and open communication within your team. Encourage team members to share ideas and support each other.
  • Develop trust: Trust is the foundation of collaboration. Be reliable, accountable, and transparent in your work. Be honest and admit mistakes because it helps build trust and respect.
  • Use collaboration tools: Use a collaboration tool like SImpu to facilitate seamless teamwork, especially if you have remote team members.
  • Resolve conflicts professionally: Conflict is natural in any team setting. Teach your team how to handle conflicts professionally and seek resolutions that benefit the team and customers.

20. Resilience.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and challenges. Resilience is crucial in customer service because it allows you to handle difficult situations with ease.

Whether it's dealing with an upset customer or handling a high volume of calls, resilience can help you stay calm under pressure.

Practical steps for developing resilience.

  • Training and workshops: Provide resilience training and workshops to equip your team with the tools and mindset to handle challenging situations effectively.
  • Cultivate a supportive environment: Foster a supportive team culture where everyone feels comfortable seeking help or guidance from colleagues or supervisors when facing difficulties.
  • Set realistic expectations: Establish realistic performance expectations and workloads for your team to avoid burnout and maintain resilience.

21. Continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement is a commitment to evolving and getting better over time. The goal is to identify areas of the customer experience that need improvement and implement changes that will enhance the customer experience.

Continuous improvement can help identify areas of inefficiency and waste in a business process, which can lead to cost savings and increased profits.

Practical steps for developing continuous improvement.

  • Invest in training and development: Provide ongoing training and development opportunities to equip your team with the latest skills and best practices.
  • Embrace technology: Stay updated with the latest customer service technologies and tools. Embracing innovative solutions can improve efficiency and service quality.
  • Regular performance evaluations: Conduct regular performance evaluations to assess individual and team progress. Use evaluations as opportunities for improvement discussions.
  • Encourage experimentation: Encourage your team to experiment with new approaches and solutions. Embracing experimentation allows for creative problem-solving.
  • Benchmark best practices: Research and benchmark best practices from top-performing customer service teams. Learn from industry leaders and adapt their successful strategies.

Before you get into customer service, you should ask yourself these questions

  • What does customer service mean to you?
  • What does great customer service mean to you?
  • Am I have emphatic?

Armed with these 21 key customer service skills, you're now ready to rock the world of customer support. From active listening to problem-solving, you've got the skills to turn any customer interaction into a memorable experience.

So, embrace your inner service hero and let your passion for excellence shine through. With each smile you create, you'll be making a positive impact on your customers and your business.

Remember, customer service is a journey of continuous improvement. Keep practicing, learning, and growing, and you'll encourage business growth and reach new heights in your career.

Read: 4 strategies to reduce customer service response time.

Ufuoma Uvomata

Content Writer
Ufuoma is a writer who creates website copy, SEO articles, scripts, blog posts, and short stories for companies in several industries. If you meet her, ask about her plants.

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