Customers First: 5 Customer Service Skills Every Employee Must Have

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Instead of hiring some people with soft skills for customer service, treat everyone like a customer service rep at the very start.

I once worked with a VP of Sales who would throw fits whenever customers would ask him about the product.

Even the simplest questions would force him to grab a customer service rep or solution engineer who could help.

You are probably wondering how he even had a job to begin with? Well, the short answer is that he did not have a job for long. After a long sales career spanning more than 20 years, he was fired.

Ultimately, he could not adapt to the changing nature of today's customer.

Technology continues to put more and more information into the hands of customers. And for many of us that means that each day your target buyer gets a little smarter, and a little bit more curious about your product.

At some point in your career, every one of us will interact with a customer. So instead of hiring some folks with soft skills for customer service, treat everyone like a customer service rep in the beginning.

Related Article: 10 Customer Service Books Every Business Owner Should Read

Companies like Google are famous for their onboarding process. Everyone, regardless of the role they were hired for, starts out on the phones doing customer service.

In the end their mastery of the product is celebrated like a badge of honor. And Google has continued to make this type of skill development a priority, even as they have scaled to become one of the most profitable technology companies in the world.

Why do they do this? It's because they know that every employee needs a core set of skills that allows them to understand, empathize and respond to customer complaints.

So, if you want to have a growing organization serving happy customers, I suggest you start with looking at the skills that are necessary across the entire company.

Here are five customer service skills that every employee should have:

1. Empathy for the Customer

Empathy is a soft skill that every single employee should have. That's because it allows you to feel a customer's pain. And if you have a great product, I can promise you that it does a good job at reducing some type of customer pain.

From sales, to marketing, and even finance, every team member across the organization will better understand the problem you are solving for your customers. Ultimately, this is why your company exists, to solve problems.

2. Understanding of the Product

It's not enough to be able to talk about the product at a high-level anymore. You need a deep understanding of it.

That's because situations will occur that require a working knowledge of the product. And if there is only a select few who actually know how the product works, it will limit the speed and pace of innovation.

There are several ways to ensure that your organization has an intimate knowledge of the product you sell. It starts by making sure that every employee has an opportunity to experience the product as a customer would.

If you have a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) product, this might mean opening a trial installation specifically for employees.

If your product is something tangible like clothing or jewelry, offer substantial discounts for employees so they can easily purchase items for their own use. There is no replacement for hands-on experience.

Related Article: Find Your Biggest Customer Service Opportunities in These 3 Places

3. Ability to Verbally Communicate

Verbal communication is not just vital for customer service reps, it's important for everyone at every level. Yet in today's world of text messaging, chat apps, and emails, companies forget to focus on presentation skills and the ability to articulate facts clearly.

Encourage internal presentations and offer employees a chance to openly share their ideas on a regular basis. Make continuing education in this area readily available and even free, if you can afford it.

4. Critical Thinking Skills

Have you ever asked someone to help you solve a tough problem, only to have them wait around for you to find the answer?

For many customers this is how calling your company feels to them. Critical thinking skills allow everyone in your organization to approach work with a problem solving mentality. Rather than employees looking at obstacles, they will look at them as opportunities.

5. Attention to Detail

There is nothing more important than being able to catch small details that make a huge difference.

It's why Steve Jobs said, “Details matter, it's worth waiting to get it right.” Customer service reps live and die by the details provided to them by their customers. This same approach and attention to the little things will benefit everyone.

At the end of the day everyone at your company should be focused on your customers. They should understand how to speak their language, feel their pain, and communicate a solution.

So, rather than have a customer service team, have a customer service organization. It will pay dividends in new sales, ongoing retention, as well as corporate culture.

Related Article: Customer Service Crimes: This Is Why Your Business Is Failing

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