There are so many different customer service support channels these days that it can be hard to know where to focus your efforts. Luckily, an agent with the right skills can handle multiple channels like a champion.
The following list will provide you with 20 skills that customer service agents need to strengthen support across channels. While many of the following skills are considered “soft skills”, like optimism and honesty, they are still skills we believe all agents can actively work towards—for that reason, we’ve provided you with action steps that can put you on the right path.
Whether you’re looking to increase your customer service game or make a new hire, this list will serve to guide agents in everyday support situations.
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Customer demands can change from one minute to the next, leaving you blindsided and scrambling for solutions. For this reason, it’s imperative to remain open-minded to all the things that come your way, and adapt in order to provide excellent support.
Organizing your priorities will reveal what tools and information are most effective for you. A fancy planner or productivity application doesn’t help you if you aren’t sure what tasks and ideas are worth organizing in the first place.
As our 2016 Live Chat Benchmark shows, good service isn’t always the fastest. Sometimes taking your time can make a huge difference in terms of quality—it gives you time to identify true customer needs and pain points.
Being patient isn’t about being slow: it’s about taking your time to work through your customer’s issue attentively.
According to Herb Cohen, the author of You Can Negotiate Anything, negotiation is “A field of knowledge and endeavor that focuses on gaining the favor of people from whom we want things.”
Even for agents that have nothing to do with sales, the ability to negotiate means that in moments of potential conflict, you can satisfy the customer without compromising company needs.
In order to negotiate with customers, you should:
The ability to multi-task is crucial, especially if you work between several different channels. The demands to keep up with different customer requests, as well as attend to other responsibilities, means that multi-tasking is a key skill no agent can get by without.
It’s easy to be distracted when you have to multi-task. But while you are working on an individual task, you need to give your all to it. According successful photographer and speaker Richard St. John in his Ted-Ed video, the ability to focus and concentrate is what has made such people as Bill Gates, Larry Page, and Quincy Jones so successful. As a customer service agent, you need to commit yourself to each set of tasks you have for the day without distraction.
Some customers don’t type in complete sentences; others have terrible cell phone reception. In some cases it’s hard to service customers because they are being rude or demanding. It can be easy to get frustrated when you start to lose control.
As a great customer service agent, you need to know how to keep cool and manage your emotions. In the long-term, staying calm will pay off.
You need to know your company’s products inside out. An in-depth knowledge of every feature, manufacturing detail, and selling point well help customers navigate purchases or potential difficulties.
Product knowledge is only one part of the equation—all agents should also possess a detailed knowledge of company culture. If you know how your company allocates responsibilities, you can navigate and resolve issues with more grace. You will know how and where to find solutions, whom to talk to, and where to transfer customers to—ultimately reducing customer pain points.
People don’t always say what they mean, so you need this skill to interpret each customer’s true needs. If you have this skill, then you can tell what customers mean by their tone, whether they’re frustrated, implying something different, or asking an indirect question.
For example, a customer might say: “That’s a shame, because I’ve been with your company for a long time.”
What he’s really saying is: “I think I deserve better treatment than I’m getting.”
If you’re goal-oriented, you’re more likely to commit yourself to your work in order to achieve your goals. Whether you want to increase a hard metric like support volume or just want to make someone’s day brighter, if you’re an agent with hard goals, you’ll help move your whole company forward.
Customer service across every channel requires clear and graceful communication. Because of this you should truly have way with words—and we don’t mean that you have to write poetry. The best agents know how to express themselves concisely, whether that is through a written message or over the phone. An enthusiasm for communication will make you that much better at achieving customer satisfaction.
Being a resourceful agent means you have the ability to take a dissatisfied and angry customer, and turn him into a lifelong, loyal fan. A resourceful agent sees potential where others see disaster.
Your entire job is fixed around providing help for customers. But do you provide help to your co-workers? And do you ask for help when you need it? You should be able to rely on your team, and your team should be able to rely on you.
Every agent is a leader. Even if they aren’t a supervisor, manager, or director, an agent’s role is to serve as a guiding light for customers who need a bit of extra (or a lot of) help.
Some challenges seem absolutely impossible: a customer has an unreasonable request, or the agent is faced with too many overlapping tasks. Other times, an agent has made a mistake that has deeply upset a customer.
A great agent believes when others don’t see a shred of hope—this kind of optimism will carry you through to the point of resolution.
Grit, according to psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, is “Passion and perseverance for very long-term goals…Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
If you have grit, then you’re dedicated to finding a solution no matter what. You know that you can get there, and you’re constantly meeting challenges that help you grow. For you, no customer is a lost cause.
A great agent wants to know the next step. How can you make the customer experience even greater? How can you help your fellow agents? In what ways can you contribute to company culture? Your mind is always reeling with questions, and because of this you can see things that other people would never notice. You’ll find hidden techniques and tricks that can serve the whole team.
It’s natural to want to bend the truth to spare someone’s feelings, but customers need honesty in order to make good purchasing decisions. 78% of customers say that competent customer service representatives are responsible for a happy customer experience (Genesys); if a customer learns you have given him false information, he will take that as an obvious sign of incompetence—or worse: deceit.
Similarly, teams need to be on the same page to be able to conduct time-sensitive operations.
Even though agents should be honest, there is no reason for them to be rude. A little politeness goes a long way in making a customer feel valued. In order to be more courteous you don’t have to be long-winded or over-the-top either. You just have to make sure that you’re considerate, without being curt or vague.
For example, there’s a difference between “Okay. I’ll do that.” and “Yes, I’ll check on your account for you. One moment, please.”
We hope our customer service skills list has given you the tools to take your support to the next level. What customer care skills have best served you as an agent?