What are Good Customer Service Skills? The Modern Rules of Support

What are good customer service skills? This is a bit of a loaded question, and in some circles, a bit of a polarizing one. Over the past 50 years, so many CRM techniques and philosophies have come and gone, and come to be at odds with one another.  Technology seems to be the largest stimulus for this turmoil, too.

Whenever a new technology, especially in the communications field, becomes practical, it is always shoehorned somehow into CRM with hopes it will make it faster, more dynamic and convenient. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, as anyone who has spent hours on the phone navigating endless menus or on hold will attest to.

So, what are good customer service skills? What’s entailed in providing efficient, positive service for customers that puts them at ease when they are stressed, and resolves their problems in a way that it reinforces their positive view of your company beyond what it was before their problem or question arose? Well, let’s take a look at some general aspects of CRM that lend to this. Of course, minor differences and circumstances come into play depending on demographic, company and service/product in question, so we’re going to have to generalize quite a bit here, lest we be here all day.

Speed does matter. When a customer encounters a problem, or has a burning question, they will want to have it answered or resolved as soon as humanly possible. They don’t want to be on hold for a long time, or call the customer service help line only to discover the office is closed. Especially when it comes to services customers use at any hour of the day or night, someone needs to be available 24/7 to handle their problem. ISPs, communications services and utility companies especially need to bear this in mind, as when one of these services malfunctions in some way, customers need it back immediately, not the following day. In some cases, this can even be life threatening otherwise.

Speed and reduction of frustration can also be helped by the reduction of complexity with how a customer contacts your CRM people to begin with. Lengthy, complex phone menus that require spoken phrases or long series of numbers dialed never ends well. Customers are already upset and frustrated, and this just adds to it. If they have problems in the future, they may be reluctant to contact your customer service again, remembering what a pain it was last time. This can ultimately cost your company significant amounts of business as customers write your service off after solving a problem only once.

If you’re not using phones, but rather help desks or similar online frameworks, the same thing applies. Speed and low complexity are key. It is best to avoid logins and accounts for help desks in the same way it is best to avoid complex phone trees, to avoid frustrating customers into being unwilling to fix a problem, and resorting to simply discontinuing a service that isn’t crucial.

Companies often try to save money by reducing their available CRM staff, resulting in customers being on hold or waiting long periods of time for their problem to be heard via help desks as well. It’s understandable that CRM has overhead, but it should be priority number one for a company to provide the best customer service they possibly can, and this means that a customer should never wait more than ten minutes on hold or online to be addressed by a representative. It may cost more to provide enough staff to accomplish this, but the positive feedback from customers, continuing and increased business et cetera will more than pay for this in the long run. Companies tend to be depressingly short sighted about this for some reason.

Being relatable is also important for customer service professionals. Retaining professional demeanor while being informal and … human with customers is always important as well. Sounding rehearsed or insincere will always upset a customer and make them feel not-valued in the long run. When dealing with them, agreeing passively with their possibly angry outbursts or anecdotes as they try to process their frustration is very helpful to getting a positive experience in the long run as unavoidable problems or questions are dealt with.

Ultimately, good customer service skills are all about being expedient, simple and in making the customer feel valued and empathized with on some organic level, above all else. Reliability, efficiency and genuine sympathy are the keys.

The next time you’re asked “what are good customer service skills?” by a colleague, these are the things that you should convey above all else.

 

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Stefanie Amini
is Specialist in Customer Success and chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for Customer Service Experts. Follow her @StefWalkMe