5 min read

10 key customer service skills and how to improve them

10 key customer service skills and how to improve them
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Nervous about your new role in customer service? Wondering what makes a good customer service agent?  

Fear not, we’ve got you! 🤗 

This blog will guide you through essential customer service skills and how to develop them. With practical advice straight from our own experts at Enreach, you’ll build confidence quickly.  

And for those with years of experience, there’s always something new to learn! 

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The importance of excellent customer service 

Imagine you're at your favourite coffee shop, where the barista not only remembers your name but also your order. How does that make you feel? Valued, recognised, and likely to return, right?  

This simple yet powerful connection is what good customer service is all about—turning routine interactions into memorable experiences that drive customer loyalty, brand reputation and overall business success.  

Statistics underscore this point: A whopping 96% of customers deepen their loyalty after positive interactions with service teams, and 94% are more likely to make repeat purchases. It's clear that excellent service goes beyond problem-solving; it's a key component of successful business strategies. 

Jeanne Bliss, a visionary in customer experience, advocates the concept of "memory creation." She argues that the true essence of customer service lies not just in answering queries but in creating moments that customers carry with them long after the conversation ends. Bliss encourages us to view ourselves as "memory makers," professionals who don’t just perform tasks but create lasting impressions through genuine human connections. 

Common fears for new agents: how to cope 

Stepping into the world of customer service can be daunting.  

It's completely normal to feel a bit overwhelmed at first. You might worry about not knowing exactly what to say when a customer complaint catches you off guard. Or perhaps the thought of dealing with angry customers makes your stomach turn. (Don’t worry, below we'll share expert tips from our own customer service team on how to handle these exact situations.)  

Meeting your employer's performance expectations and mastering new customer service tools can also seem like challenging tasks. 

We understand these fears and we're here to help! Let’s guide you through the most important skills and transform these initial anxieties into competence. 

10 key skills every customer service agent should master 

What does it really mean to be a good customer service agent? These are the characteristics and skills that you should work on developing:  

  1. Active listening: It helps you really understand what the customer needs, making them feel heard and cared for. You can show you're listening by asking questions to clear up any confusion, letting them finish their thoughts without interrupting and paraphrasing what they said to confirm. For example, "So what you’re saying is that your device stopped working after the update, correct?"
  2. Problem-solving: Efficiently resolving issues can be your superpower. For example, if a customer faces an unusual or complex issue without an obvious solution, you would need to dig deeper. This involves gathering detailed information, consulting with colleagues or supervisors, researching potential solutions, and considering creative workarounds.
  3. Empathy: Show empathy by acknowledging your customer’s emotions and responding with care and emotional intelligence. For example, you could say, "I completely understand why that would be frustrating," which reassures them that their feelings are valid and taken seriously.
  4. Patience: Patience is all about managing interactions calmly, even when they go slower than expected or become challenging. Improve this skill by taking deep breaths and not rushing customers through their stories. This helps them feel valued and respected, no matter how long it takes.
  5. Positive attitude: Maintaining a positive demeanour can transform customer interactions. Practice positivity by always starting conversations with a cheerful greeting and a smile (even if they can't see it, your tone will show it). This sets a friendly tone and can diffuse negative situations.
  6. Attention to detail: Paying attention to the small things can make a big difference in customer service. Show this by remembering customer preferences or previous issues they’ve mentioned. This demonstrates that you care about their experience as an individual, which enhances their satisfaction.
  7. Adaptability: Being adaptable means adjusting quickly to new information, changes in procedures, or shifts in customer mood. Strengthen this skill by staying open to learning and not being set in your ways. This flexibility will help you handle any situation with ease.
  8. Conflict resolution: Effective conflict resolution involves de-escalating tense situations with calmness and respect. Develop this by always listening first, validating the customer's feelings, and then carefully proposing solutions. For example, saying "Let’s see how we can fix this together," can turn a conflict into a collaborative effort for resolution.
  9. Product knowledge: A deep understanding of the products or services you support is crucial. Enhance this skill by regularly reviewing product updates and participating in training sessions. Being well-informed allows you to provide accurate and helpful responses, boosting customer trust.
  10. Tech proficiency: As technology rapidly reshapes customer service, mastering tools and software is crucial. By knowing these tools in your sleep, you can focus more on the customer rather than fumbling with technology. Enhance your skills by exploring new features during quieter moments and keeping up with the latest updates to stay sharp and efficient. 

5 practical tips to improve your customer service skills 

Hit a rough patch in your new role? Don’t hit the panic button yet! 🚨 If quitting seems like your best option, pause and try these five tips to ease through the early challenges.

Role-playing exercises: Step into the drama of customer service without the real-world pressure. Role-playing with colleagues can prep you for the unexpected, helping you navigate tricky customer interactions smoothly. Try acting out scenarios like a customer demanding a refund, a technical issue without an easy fix, or a client needing complex instructions. It’s like rehearsal for the live show of your daily work!  

Feedback sessions: Schedule regular sit-downs with your supervisor where you can go over recent interactions, pinpointing what went right and what could be better. Don't stop there—after handling a tricky customer call, turn to a colleague for a quick debrief. They might spot something you missed or offer a new tactic to try next time. Embrace the feedback as a tool, not a critique. Each piece of advice is a stepping stone to becoming a more adept customer service professional. 

Customer psychology basics: Why do customers react the way they do? Suppose a customer starts a call agitated over a delayed order. If you understand basic principles of human behaviour and the emotional triggers behind their frustration, you can respond more effectively. Start with simple articles or a short online course to slowly build your psychological toolkit. 

Stress management techniques: Keeping your cool under pressure is an art. Develop this by integrating simple stress-relief tactics into your routine. Deep breathing exercises, mindfulness moments, or even quick stretches can recalibrate your mind and body during a hectic day. Practise these techniques regularly to remain poised and calm, even in the stormiest customer service scenarios. 

Continual learning: Subscribe to industry newsletters, participate in workshops, and engage with the latest customer service trends and methods. This proactive approach not only keeps your skills sharp but also ignites your passion for the role, making every workday an opportunity to learn something new. 

How to take care of yourself in challenging customer service situations 

We turned to our own Enreach for Enterprises support team for their top tips on managing stress in tough customer interactions. 😊 Here’s what they shared:  

  1. Talk to your colleagues and your supervisor. By sharing experiences, we can learn from challenging situations together.
  2. Breaks are worth their weight in gold. A little moment to yourself, like getting a coffee, helps you recover and recharge for new challenges.
  3. Laughter is the best medicine! Laughing at work and outside of work helps relieve stress and keep your mind refreshed.
  4. Take time for some self-reflection. Ask yourself why certain interactions trigger emotional responses and consider what you can learn from these moments to better prepare for future encounters.

Slow down. If the client's emotions are running high, slow down the conversation rather than rushing through. This can help de-escalate the situation and lead to more thoughtful and controlled interactions.

Building your confidence step-by-step 

Think about how a child learns to walk. There are no books or videos on how to do it, just daily practice. Mastering customer service is much the same. Each interaction, whether a stumble or a stride, is a chance to build confidence through practice.  

Here are three ways to do this:  

Celebrate the small wins: You successfully resolved your first difficult customer case? Share your achievement with your team or manager. Treat yourself to a small reward like your favourite chocolate bar or beverage. Document your win in a journal or note. Celebrating small successes keeps you motivated and builds confidence over time. 

Seek guidance from a mentor: Luke Skywalker wouldn't be the hero he is without Yoda's guidance. Identify skilled colleagues and learn from them through regular discussions and observation. Their wisdom will help you master your role—don’t forget to show your appreciation, young padawan! 

Reflective practice: Sit down daily or weekly, pen in hand, and reflect on your interactions. Writing in your journal captures insights and lessons, sharpening your skills and highlighting areas for improvement. This simple ritual enhances your service awareness and growth. 

 

Get your hands on our updated guide  

Packed with tips on emotional intelligence. Discover how to not only meet but exceed the expectations of modern customers, all while preserving the enchantment of human interaction. 

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Download your free guide now

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