Customer service is crucial for customer loyalty and for boosting your brand’s reputation. Every interaction with your customers, or potential customers, is an opportunity to make them happy or lose them entirely, so must be taken seriously. Every in-person conversation, every email and every phone call, before, during and after the sales process is important.
Giving customers a positive experience is obviously vital before they buy, but is equally important for past customers. You want them to tell everyone how great you are, rather than putting them off ever buying from you again.
To help you help your customers, we’ve put together a list of the 10 essential skills of great customer service.
1. Make a good first impression
The first few seconds of meeting someone new are the most important. How you look, sound and act are going to create a lasting impression in your customer’s mind, which will affect how they think about you going forwards. So, make sure you introduce yourself well and that you’re immediately friendly and warm to your customers. Make an effort to show you’re interested in what they have to say and aim to build a rapport quickly.
If the customer likes you and feels at ease around you, the rest of the interaction will be much easier. We have more tips on how to do this.
2. Focus on the customer
If you’re talking to a customer – whether in person, over the phone or online – don’t allow yourself to get distracted. If a customer feels they aren’t being listened to and has to keep repeating themselves, or if they aren’t being taken seriously, this will cause damage.
Eliminate any distractions around you when talking to your customers. If you can, plan ahead and pre-empt potential disturbances. Consider taking the customer to a less crowded place or put your phone away if you know it’s going to keep buzzing.
3. Treat every call as if it’s the first call of the day
Our energy, focus and enthusiasm rises and falls over the course of a day. This is perfectly natural and happens to everyone. However, this is never an excuse for poor customer service.
You should treat every conversation with your customers as though it’s the first one of the day. You always want to speak to them with a positive mindset and an upbeat attitude, otherwise you risk sounding bored and fed up. Even though you might be dealing with this customer late on a Friday afternoon at the end of a long week, you should always make the customer feel appreciated and never like a burden on your time.
4. Listen actively
Active listening skills are crucial for customer service. If a customer makes a request, complaint or suggestion, it’s important that you listen properly to know how best to respond. If they’ve made a complaint about something, then you need to respond to that specific issue or your customer will feel ignored.
Small gestures can show you’re listening. Things like nodding along and repeating, or paraphrasing, their points or phrases can be a good way to indicate your genuine interest, giving them a chance to correct you if you’ve misunderstood something.
5. Treat their problems as if they’re your own
When your customers are unhappy and complaining, it indicates something’s gone wrong. Usually, the issue stems from something that happened to the customer (such as not getting a product on time), or a communication error (like not setting the right expectations for your timeframes), but it’s always something to take seriously.
By complaining, customers effectively say they want you to acknowledge and accept that a mistake has taken place. You should immediately apologise and let them know how you’ll fix it. Complaints are a good way to get feedback to improve your service, but only if you recognise them as your problem as well as the customers’.
6. Make the problem and the person important
Complaints can be a way to build customer loyalty. Humans are fallible and occasionally mistakes happen, and most people are reasonable and accept this. Making your customers feel appreciated, while recognising and fixing mistakes, is more important than never making any.
If a customer complains about the quality of your service, let them know what you’re going to do to improve it in the future. You should also do something extra for them, to show you care about their experience. A refund might be the minimum they expect, so by offering them a discount on their next order you can make an upset customer happy and turn them into a loyal supporter.
7. Convey a sense of urgency
A customer who complains wants to feel something’s being done immediately to resolve their issue. Therefore, it’s not going to be enough to say you’ll look into it, or you’ll mention it in the next review.
Even if nothing can realistically be done in the short term, let them see they’re being taken seriously. Consider letting them speak to someone more senior, so that they know their concerns have been listened to by someone with the authority to change things. Or, if it can be fixed quickly, let them see you do it.
8. Let them know you care
No matter how many times we’re told that our call is important, no one likes being number 200 in the queue. The only way customers actually feel important is if your actions back it up.
You might have thousands of customers, but they won’t want to deal with an organisation where it feels like it. Treat everyone as an individual, not another number. Listen to them and respond to their specific issues. They might be the fourth person that day to make the same comment, but they won’t know that, so you should listen and show interest anyway.
9. Make customers feel confident in you
Customer service doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers immediately. However, you should know how to find the information. If a customer asks about their order, they won’t necessarily expect you to know them personally and have all the details to hand. But they will expect you to know the right place to look, or be able to direct them to the right person to talk to.
Great customer service means smoothly guiding the customer’s journey. If a customer phones a helpline, gets transferred to finance, then to HR who transfers them back to the person they first spoke to, you’re going to seem shambolic and they’ll lose confidence in you.
10. Make them happy they called
Contacting customer service can be a notoriously excruciating experience. Increasingly, the quality of their customer service is becoming a key differentiator between organisations. Banks and insurance companies are just as likely to advertise the ease of their service as they are to talk about their interest rates or policy details, because they know that this matters to their customers.
Always give customers an experience that brings them joy at the end. Just like with complaints, they’re calling you for a reason, so do what you can to help them. Asking “Is there anything else I can do for you?” will show a thoroughness and desire to do the best job possible for them.
To learn even more ways to give your customers great service, have a look at our Learning Solutions.