As many as 80% of businesses report that they provide excellent customer service, but only 8% of customers seem to agree. How is such a huge gap in perception possible? Well, many service teams simply don’t have the customer support skills to understand what customers actually want.
An even more startling figure is that U.S. businesses are losing up to $62 billion a year because of poor service. This figure is on the rise as businesses fail to train customer support staff well enough to deal with the increasing demands of their job. There are a few essential customer support skills that every support team needs to develop in to brighten this picture.
The Must-Teach Customer Support Skills
Dissatisfaction with customer service is a core reason behind customers jumping ship and switching to a different product or brand. The good news is that superstar customer support staff can retain clients and boost business growth.
From being master communicators to persuasive product experts, the best customer support reps apply the following skills to keep customers and business owners happy:
1. Communicate: Top quality communication skills
A flair for communication is often one of the first customer support skills that comes to mind. Probably because we’ve all experienced the opposite: a customer support rep that speaks unclearly, struggles to explain product benefits, and expresses no enthusiasm for their job.
Communication skills start with clarity and preventing misunderstandings – for example, reps need to be especially clear about dates, prices, what’s included in billing, and turnaround times. But mastering communication goes beyond clarity. Good communicators are also pleasant to speak to.
Customer support staff should be trained to be cheerful and incorporate their sense of humor while remaining tactful at all times. They should be polite and personable, but also be relatable as real people. These skills can make all the difference when customers are frustrated or disappointed.
2. Understand: Empathy and compassion for customers
Every customer wants their issue resolved. But even more than that, customers want to feel heard and understood. The ability to understand a customer’s pain point is a prized skill in customer service. Even with particularly tricky customers, an excellent customer service rep will be able to imagine themselves in the shoes of their customer and view the situation from their perspective.
This skill can be developed through training activities like scenarios and serious games. For example, a scenario could involve a customer with a complicated, layered problem that the learner must fully understand to choose their next action correctly.
Another way to incorporate empathy into your team’s customer service skills is to value personalized service – even when the product you sell isn’t personal. For example, customer service for products and services like insurance or medical plans can often come across as sterile. The last thing you want is for your customers to feel like “just another number.”
3. Manage: Flawless crisis management skills
“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong” — Donald Porter
In a crisis, customer service reps need to keep their cool, focus on helping the customer and uphold the reputation of the business simultaneously. That’s not a small ask!
Effective crisis management requires a can-do attitude and willingness to problem-solve to get the customer the results that they expect. Reps also need a thick skin — they can’t take it personally when clients are upset or worked up in a crisis.
Finally, it’s important that customer service reps be willing to accept responsibility on behalf of the business even if a problem isn’t directly their fault. This bolsters customers’ trust in the business’s sense of accountability.
4. Convince: Persuasion and negotiation skills
Persuasion skills are perhaps one of the trickiest customer service skills to master. The ability to persuade depends on several other abilities, including the communication and compassion skills covered earlier.
Highly developed negotiation skills are also essential for reps who are trying to persuade customers to trust their judgment about a solution to a problem, or a specific service option. To achieve this reps need to be trained to identify the “deal points” for customers – the points at which customers feel satisfied, without costing the business too much.
When you’re trying to get the customer over to your side, you need to help them feel like they’re not losing out, but gaining through your customer support interactions. Customer service reps who are empowered and trained to offer appropriate incentives for customers to stay with the company after experiencing issues are much more likely to retain customers.
5. Inform: Impressive product knowledge
This might seem obvious, but if a customer reports an issue with a product, they want to speak to someone who actually knows something about that product. Customer service reps should be so confident in their product knowledge that they’re able to teach the customer about the product as they resolve their problem.
Thorough knowledge of any flaws or common misunderstandings of the product or service you offer also prepares your support team to deal with these problems. An inside-out understanding of the benefits and strengths of your product or service supports reps in being able to win over a frustrated customer by emphasizing the positives, too.
6. Take action: Proactivity and diligence
Being proactive and diligent is often overlooked among customer service skills. But some forward-thinking and attention to detail can make the difference between delivering disappointing or truly impressive customer service. That’s probably why the high-tech venture investor of Silicon Valley, William H. Davidow, said that “The longer you wait, the harder it is to produce outstanding customer service.”
Reps need to think about their customer before the customer thinks of them. For example, reps should be encouraged to get in touch with a customer 48 hours after their last interaction to check if they are still experiencing any problems.
Diligence relates to meeting deadlines and delivering on promises. A lack of diligence undermines your trustworthiness and competence in the customer’s eyes. Reps should be trained to process tickets, claims and other paperwork (digital or not) as soon as possible to avoid delaying the solution or forgetting any of the details.
How can you arm your customer support staff?
Without mastering these six vital customer support skills, it’s all too easy for support teams to miss out on opportunities to impress, win over, and retain customers. To develop these core skills, customer support training needs to be fast and engaging. And what’s better than choosing to deliver it online?
Use a powerful LMS that offers a wide range of features, and is easy for both learners and trainers to use. It’s your best bet for succeeding at training busy customer support staff!