20 Customer Service Skills Operators Need to Succeed in All Support Channels

August 11th, 2016 | Carla Jerez | Customer Service | Blog Home
20 Customer Service Skills Operators Need to Succeed in All Support Channels

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 operator with the right skills can handle multiple channels like a champion.

The following list will provide you with 20 skills that customer service operators 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 operators 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 operators in everyday support situations.

  1. Flexibility

    “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
    – Winston Churchill

    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.

    Take Action: According to Science Daily, games like Cut the Rope can help you develop your mental fitness and flexibility.
  2. Priority Management

    “If you have more than three priorities, then you have none.”
    – Jim Collins

    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.

    Take Action: Write down the different tasks you do throughout the day, and review them at the end of the week. What do you do the most often? Those tasks are currently your main priorities. If necessary, adjust your tasks in the future to reflect priorities you would like to establish.
  3. Patience

    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.

    Take Action: Next time your patience is wearing thin, take a deep breath. Wait for the customer to speak his mind, and then restate his request for clarity and carefully explain his options.
  4. Negotiation Skills

    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 operators 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:

    • Gain common ground. Make it clear to the customer that his goal is your goal—after all, it is your mission to find a resolution to his problem.
    • Understand the customer’s experience. Every individual has a unique experience that contributes to the way he sees the world. Where is your customer from? How old is he? Have customer service representatives disappointed him in the past?
    • Provide alternative solutions. Let the customer know that even if you can’t give him exactly what he requests, he still has authority in the matter. Let him choose from multiple solutions, or if he’s not satisfied with his options, build one with him.
    Take Action: Enroll in a sales course like HubSpot’s Free Sales Training to learn tactics that can serve you outside of a traditional sales environment.
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  5. Multi-Tasking Skills

    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 operator can get by without.

    Take Action: Read our post on multi-tasking and start practicing today.
  6. Concentration

    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 operator, you need to commit yourself to each set of tasks you have for the day without distraction.

    Take Action: Eliminate distractions: Applications like Self-Control and Focus Booster come as highly recommended focus tools to block out distracting sites.
  7. Ability to Remain Calm

    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 operator, you need to know how to keep cool and manage your emotions. In the long-term, staying calm will pay off.

    Take Action: If you find yourself getting frustrated too often, try taking up regular de-stress rituals like evening walks or meditation. Try writing morning pages like Tim Ferriss—it’s a calming activity that can also help you gain perspective on your life.
  8. Product Knowledge

    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.

    Take Action: If you feel like you aren’t up-to-date on your company’s latest offerings, ask for samples or a trial account. Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in your company’s products.
  9. Knowledge of Company Infrastructure

    Product knowledge is only one part of the equation—all operators 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.

    Take Action: If you don’t know exactly what each department handles, admit it. It’s okay to ask supervisors for resources about the company to help you grow.
  10. Read Between the Lines

    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.”

    Take Action: Each person has a unique way of conveying messages, so the key is to notice patterns that develop with each individual customer. To learn more about the subject, read these tips from an FBI agent.
  11. Goal-Oriented

    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 operator with hard goals, you’ll help move your whole company forward.

    Take Action: Start writing down your goals. According to research conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews, those who write down their goals are up to 33% more likely to achieve them.
  12. Eloquent Communicators

    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 operators 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.

    Take Action: Having trouble saying exactly what you mean? Read a classic writing text like On Writing Well by William Zinsser.
  13. Resourcefulness

    Being a resourceful operator means you have the ability to take a dissatisfied and angry customer, and turn him into a lifelong, loyal fan. A resourceful operator sees potential where others see disaster.

    Take Action: Try to solve this classic Candle Problem. If you haven’t figured it out, read about the solution and challenge yourself to reconsider the functions of your support resources.
  14. Team-Focused

    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.

    Take Action: Invite your co-workers to observe your chat transcripts and give you advice. What are they doing that helps them see results? How can you help them improve their customer service skills?
  15. Leadership

    Every operator is a leader. Even if they aren’t a supervisor, manager, or director, an operator’s role is to serve as a guiding light for customers who need a bit of extra (or a lot of) help.

    Take Action: Enroll in this free leadership course, Leadership Skills in Business, by global e-learning provider, Alison.
  16. Optimism

    “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
    – Thomas Edison

    Some challenges seem absolutely impossible: a customer has an unreasonable request, or the operator is faced with too many overlapping tasks. Other times, an operator has made a mistake that has deeply upset a customer.

    A great operator believes when others don’t see a shred of hope—this kind of optimism will carry you through to the point of resolution.

    Take Action: Create a document of your favorite inspirational quotes. Every time you’re feeling down, you can draw from this resource to decorate your workspace or desktop with positive messages.
  17. Grit

    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.

    Take Action: Duckworth believes there is a connection between grit and the “growth mindset”. Read Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success to change your thinking habits and become more determined.
  18. Curiosity

    A great operator wants to know the next step. How can you make the customer experience even greater? How can you help your fellow operators? 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.

    Take Action: Challenge yourself to read customer service materials that can nurture your curiosity and improve your skillset.
  19. Honesty

    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.

    Take Action: Challenge yourself to avoid indirect or evasive language. Avoid passive language, sentences with more than two clauses, double negatives, over-explaining.
  20. Politeness

    Even though operators 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.”

    Take Action: Make some room for small talk, and never forget to say please and thank you. To take politeness to the next level, take some time to read our blog post on building positive customer service phrases.

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 operator?

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About 

Carla Jerez is a senior content writer at Comm100. She has a degree in Creative Writing from Florida State University and has years' experience writing for the SaaS industry. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, traveling, or playing around on Photoshop. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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