It is vital for any company, regardless of type or size, to understand that keeping their customers happy is imperative to their future success. Even the smallest mistakes that can happen during the day-to-day hustle and bustle of dealing with customers could result in them taking their business elsewhere. Therefore, great customer service must remain at the forefront of everything you do.
Research conducted since 2015 has shown:
- 66% of customers switch company if they encounter poor customer service
- 76% of consumers say that they view company customer service as a test of how they are valued as a customer
- 58% of people will never come back to the company again if they receive poor customer service
- 58% of customers are happy to pay more for companies who provide excellent customer service
We have compiled six vital customer service skills which we think are imperative to retaining happy customers within your business.
- Develop your patience
Patience is essential when dealing with customers. Most people who require customer service will often be irritated, confused or upset and may take this frustration out on you, they may not understand or agree with the solution they are given, or will want their problem ‘resolved yesterday’ and try to hurry you.
Remember that great customer service will always be better for customers than fast customer service, so a bit of patience goes a long way to fully understand their issue and resolve it in its entirety.
However, patience is something that is learned rather than something we are born with – it often takes a conscious effort and practise makes perfect.
The most important thing to remember is that you are the face of the business to that specific customer, so you have to remain composed and keep your cool, not letting any negativity from customers influence the way that you handle the situation.
Here are our top tips for developing your ability to be more patient in challenging situations:
- Identify how you’re feeling. Before you can channel patience, you have to understand your opposing forces, whether that’s anger, blame, frustration, etc. Negative emotions could stem from thoughts such as ‘this person is so unreasonable and rude’. Once these emotions have been recognised, it makes it easier for you to move past them. It is also important to make a note of things that are said that really irritate you so that you are more mindful of keeping your cool when these things are said in future conversations.
- Change your attitude. Instead of feeling anger or offence at the frustrated customer, understand that the situation is uncomfortable but recognise and believe that you can resolve it, to keep things in perspective. Also, change your self-talk; by changing your internal dialogue to become more positive, it can change how you feel and act towards customers – e.g. changing ‘I’m going to lose it and I just want to leave this conversation’ to ‘this isn’t personal – the customer is just incredibly frustrated and I would be too if I were in their shoes. I want to make this right’.
- Be attentive and go the extra mile
Because of the competitive market, customers are bombarded with offers and deals at every turn. Therefore, it is of vital importance that you ensure that the customer is happy, so they choose to return to your business.
An example of doing everything in your power to keep the customer happy is when you are unable to handle a customer’s problem and need to transfer them to another department. Instead of giving them a number to call and having them explain their issue again and again, ensure that someone is awaiting the call in that department and that they know who is calling and why and then transfer their call.
Here are our top tips to help you go the extra mile with customers:
- Know your customer. Great customer interactions begin with you understanding your customer’s wants and needs. When customers feel understood, they feel valued and important and will return to your business.
- Remain consistent. Regardless of the customer, the interaction or the negativity you receive, your customer interactions should remain the same. This leaves your customers knowing exactly what to expect each time they come to you with an issue, and that it will be a positive experience. The best way to do this is to build consistent processes into the business, measuring these through periodic call monitoring and observation.
- Get feedback. By always asking for and acting on feedback from customers, it demonstrates to them that you value their input and will have a positive impact on future conversations as well as the wider business.
- Clear communication and active listening
Being a good listener is one of the most important parts of being an effective communicator. People who practice lazy or absentminded listening will only retain 50% of what is said in a conversation. This makes active listening one of the most important customer service skills because to deliver great customer service, you have to have a deep understanding of what the customer issue is, why they are experiencing it and what you’re going to do to resolve this issue. If you don’t listen, you can’t expect your customer to take the time to listen to you.
As well as actively listening to the customer, you also need to be able to confidently and clearly communicate with them both verbally and in written communications. In a customer service environment, you could be providing customer support through email, social media, or even by ‘live chat’ means, so writing clearly is of vital importance.
The best way to do this is to avoid jargon, instead opting for language that is more suited to your customer; be concise and brief, avoiding any unnecessary sentences; avoid any negative questions to avoid confusion or judgement; and double check that your customer has all the information they need to either take further action or that the issue has been resolved.
Here are our top tips for developing your active listening skills:
- Receive – Push any arguments, internal dialogue, etc, aside and receive the information without interrupting with your discussion points.
- Reflect – Restate what has been said, use ‘uh huh’, ‘yes’, ‘is that right?’, ‘really?’, ‘okay’, etc. It is an active process, not a silent one.
- Clarify – As you listen, it is important to ask questions when you don’t understand. These are open questions that lead to closed questions. It helps both parties to understand true meaning.
- Summarise – This can often be combined with clarifying. The main purpose of a summary is to recap the major points discussed.
- Be able to handle surprises
Regardless of what company you work for or your role within that company, there will always be things that don’t go to plan.
Customers may run into unexpected problems which aren’t covered by any policy or processes or you’ll be thrown a curveball when a customer doesn’t respond as you expect, leaving you to think creatively to come up with a solution. But what happens when you’re completely stuck and you have no immediate solutions?
Here is our top tip for handling surprises that may be thrown your way:
- Know where to turn. Ensure that you have a manager, senior customer service advisor or even a company CEO who you can turn to for assistance when you encounter a particularly challenging situation. Ensure that this person is easily contactable when you need them as you don’t want to keep the customer waiting for too long.
- Be empathetic
Empathy is understanding and feeling how another person sees something. It is the next step beyond active listening (which is a technique). Empathy is not a technique but a state of understanding. Some of the worst customer service interactions stem from a lack of empathy.
By being empathetic, you can connect with a customer and their feelings, allowing them to feel heard and understood and make you appear more trustworthy. It can also help you to notice things that are unsaid, such as their motivations for contacting you, how they are feeling and what is at stake for them. If you are empathetic towards a customer, it is also likely that they will mirror this empathy back towards you. Even if you cannot resolve their problem, empathy minimises any conflict and allows the interaction to remain positive for the most part.
Here are our top tips for developing your ability to be empathetic with customers, even during negative situations:
- Put yourself in their shoes. In most cases, the customer’s intention isn’t to be rude or unreasonable, but they’re just reacting to the frustration they feel at the situation with the knowledge they currently have. Ensure that you don’t let your negative feelings or attitude cloud the situation – you need to represent the company but also put the customer’s interests at the forefront, which may require negotiation from both sides.
- Validate their feelings. You don’t have to agree with the customer but acknowledge that you can understand why they’re feeling the way they do and that they have a good reason for feeling frustrated.
- Active listening is key. Ensure that you’re listening to what the customer is saying, including their tone of voice or body language. Look for what isn’t being said to ensure they’re happy – their mouth may be saying one thing, but their tone of voice and crossed arms might be saying another.
- What is the best outcome? Ask your customer to define what they are hoping to achieve from the interaction, removing any confusion, and clarify what you believe the end result will be. If there is any difference, try to meet in the middle.
- Willingness to learn from feedback
One of the most important skills on the list is a willingness to learn to grow your customer service skills and improve within your role.
By soliciting feedback from your customers, both positive and negative, you can understand what you’re doing well and what you can do to improve. This feedback could also come from managers or team leaders who may observe you, listen in to your calls or measure your performance over time.
However, there are many ways to improve your customer service skills. One of them is booking one of our Superior Customer Service Skills development programmes. We design Customer Service programmes that are bespoke to your sector and the specific needs of your employees. We provide programmes for business leaders and managers to develop the right customer standards, vision and strategy, but also work with customer-facing employees to provide the practical skills that ensure brilliant execution of your customer experience.
Give us a call today to see what we can do for your business: +44 (0)1437 721 879.