There was a time in business when customer service was only one of the many cogs in the machine. But now, in the digital age, customer care is the name of the game. More than ever before, consumers have the ability to share customer experiences and truly shape the success or failure of a business.
The list of important customer service skills is seemingly endless. There are a few that don’t get the limelight they deserve though, despite being crucial to your customers.
Take a look at these seriously underrated customer service skills that you must learn (and use!) in 2019.
Call it what you want – validity, being trustworthy, staying truthful – authenticity is an absolute key to providing your customers with a great experience. Being authentic, giving your customers authentic support, can manifest itself in many ways. And really, it all starts from within. Customer care means you actually have to care about your customers. If you don’t, well, there are probably other articles you should read before this one.
Foster the authentic customer experience with honesty and transparency. If you made a mistake, own it, apologize, and fix it. Your customer will appreciate your candor and you might even make a personal connection with them along the way. (Hint: Personal connections mean happier customers and repeat business.)
While you're at it, get rid of corporate-speak and canned phrases. Here's an example.
A customer has requested a change on their account. It generally takes 3 days to get it done. Here's how you might respond: "Your request will be processed in 3-5 business days. You'll receive an update at that time."
Whether written or spoken, this type of response seems robotic. No one talks like that in real life.
Instead, try this: "This change usually takes us about three days to complete. I'll send you an email on Wednesday with an update."
See the difference? The second response actually sounds like a human being. It's authentic. You're telling the customer it usually takes three days, but you've left wiggle room in case it takes longer. And you've promised an update on a specific day, so the customer isn't left waiting around wondering what’s happening.
People like using formal corporate-speak because it detaches them from the situation. If they interact with the customer like a robot, they're not really invested. But that’s the worst possible approach! Customer service is about the customer and your customer is a real person. Connect with them in an authentic way, as a fellow human being.
Thinking on your feet is essential for a smooth customer journey. Not every question has a cookie cutter answer, and you can't always find answers in your customer service training guide.
When it comes to quick thinking, some people are better at it than others. But it's a skill anyone can master. Begin by looking at the big picture. When dealing with a customer interaction, don't focus on the single question or complaint being voiced by the customer. Instead, get an idea of the customer's overall story. Take a look at their purchase history, the notes on their account, and any other contact they've made with your company. Use this information to form a comprehensive picture of the customer. You can then use that picture to anticipate the customer's next question or complaint.
Customers want information fast. They want their problems solved immediately and with little effort. The ability to quickly respond to the customer’s needs comes not only from good training, but also the ability to think spontaneously, logically, and creatively.
Empowering customer service personnel is a crucial part of learning this process. A rep that needs to ask permission for every little decision becomes stifled and eventually becomes unable to look ahead, think strategically, and offer solutions in a spontaneous way.
Customer interactions, especially problems or complaints, are really just little projects. And there's a good chance you have several customer "projects” happening simultaneously. Learning how to manage those projects can mean the difference between a happy customer and an unhappy one.
Managing a project is typically divided into five phases. Let’s take a simplified version of those five steps and apply them to a customer service scenario.
- Initiation: In customer service, project initiation happens when the customer contacts your company. This starts the ball rolling. During this phase you learn what the customer needs or what sort of problem they're having.
- Planning: The planning phase involves decision-making. You've learned what the customer needs, now it’s time to plan out how you’ll resolve the issue.
- Execution: Now it's time to take action! In this phase, you take the actual steps needed to fix the customer's issue or solve their problem. This phase may involve other people, as you might need outside help to get the job done.
- Monitoring: The monitoring phase may be extended or very brief. This depends on the situation and the complexity of the customer's issue. The ultimate goal is to be sure the problem gets fixed.
- Closure: In customer service, closing out the "project" means the issue is resolved and you can now update the customer.
In project management, projects may last weeks, months or even years. But when using this methodology in a customer service setting, it might only take a few minutes. Here’s an example of using this technique.
Your customer calls to complain about a broken device (initiation). Upon review of the customer's account, you see they've purchased the replacement plan. You know you can solve the customer's issue by sending them a new device (planning). You explain the solution to the customer and send a replacement request to your warehouse (execution). The next day, you check the customer’s file to be sure the replacement device was shipped (monitoring). You then contact the customer to confirm the new device was shipped out to them (closure).
These steps make it easy to keep track of your customer service interactions, ensuring each situation is resolved, even when you're helping many different customers at once.