Ensuring your company has top customer service skills is a crucial element in increasing your company’s profits. A happy customer base should come before the focus is switched to creating flashy marketing campaigns, new sales, and new clients. This is because the key to having a strong customer lifetime value lies in customer retention, not customer acquisition. This can be seen in the Bain & Company report which revealed that a mere 5% improvement in the customer retention rate equated to an additional 25% in company profits. This is in part because happy customers refer others, maintain brand loyalty, and are willing to pay more for the same product. A loyal customer base is also more likely to offer useful product feedback, participate in case studies, and increase online brand engagement, making your overall product and brand even stronger.
To improve the health of your customer base you must have a well-functioning customer service department. After a lead becomes a customer, service agents are oftentimes the most frequent point of contact between the customer and your brand. If a customer has a question, needs help, or has a defect or error with a product they’ll turn to the customer service team. Successful customer service departments function as the foundation to building a healthy, happy customer base.
This is why it is crucial for everyone at a company to be aware of and champion the importance of customer service, and understand what customer service skills your team needs to be rockstar customer service specialists. Below are 7 of the top customer service skills needed to help increase customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and take your company to the next level.
- Positive Language
When helping a distressed customer, phrases like “I can’t” or “I won’t” shouldn’t be in an agent’s vocabulary. These closed-off, negative phrases can frustrate a customer: Neuroscience has shown us that negative words can release stress and anxiety-inducing hormones in the brain.
Instead, it’s important to reframe all those pesky “can’ts”, “won’ts”, and “shouldn’ts” into positive language. Rather than “I can’t help you with that, I don’t handle billing”, one should use language like “Let me find out the answer and get back to you as soon as I can”, or “Let me connect you with Adam, our billing account manager. He’ll be able to answer your questions.”
Reinforcing positive language keeps customers calm and happy. It shows that you’re on their side and helping them find solutions rather than setting up roadblocks in their way.
- Clear Communication Skills
Your customer service team functions as an extension of your online knowledge base and other technical documentation. Because of this, agents must have clear communication skills when helping customers through all channels: whether via phone, email, or chatbot.
Clear communication skills entail:
- Proper grammar: When helping customers through email or a chatbot, proper grammar and punctuation increase clarity and help your brand maintain professionalism.
- Ability to walk through instructions: Quality customer service agents know how to take instructions and break them down into manageable bite-sized tasks for customers.
- Maintain brand voice: During each interaction with a customer, an agent represents your company and should maintain your company brand voice. If your brand prioritizes professionalism above all, agents should not include emojis or too many exclamation points in communications. Conversely, if your brand tries to stay engaging and lighthearted, perhaps the opposite is true! Customers should leave every agent interaction better acquainted with your brand voice. To achieve good consistency in writing tone and style, software should provide canned answers or canned responses, i.e. a list of re-usable messages that can be used over and over, thus ensuring efficiency and consistency.
When assisting a customer, the devil’s in the details. Quality agents will maintain a detailed, methodical approach when helping customers. This includes recording information on tickets, documenting problems in detail when sending out bug fixes, and following up with customers. Agents may be helping hundreds of customers in a single week, so attention to detail is critical in ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks. Many tools can be used to help agents have a clear plan of attack for staying organized, from as simple as using a simple online checklist program when onboarding new hires. Over time excellent customer service representatives will know how to stay on top of every detail, no matter how complex the issue at hand.
- Product & Company Knowledge
Top customer service agents should, above all know how the product works. It’s crucial for agents to know their way through the knowledge base backward and forward, familiarize themselves with common bugs, and have personal experience handling the product as well. Strong command of product knowledge will produce more confident customer service agents, and inspire confidence in customers. When agents help customers find solutions quickly, customer trust will increase in your brand.
Perhaps less obvious is the importance of company knowledge. To solve nearly any problem a customer may have an excellent customer service agent should know:
- Who to contact and what to do when a new bug arises?
- When and how to contact the account manager?
- Which circumstances warrant contacting an engineer should be notified, and how to see which engineer built a feature?
Many of these questions may be answered through a defined process, by your CRM software, or your ticketing system, but a 5-star agent will be familiar with internal company processes and structure.
- Problem Solving
While many customer questions may be solved as simply as linking a knowledge base article, some cases are more complex. High-caliber customer service agents know what to do when they don’t know what to do. That is, they’re able to calmly walk through a problem-solving process to work with the customer to discover a solution. This may be troubleshooting with the customer, contacting the engineering team, collecting bug documentation, or any other number of potential solutions. Agents should be able to take vague, puzzling customer requests and think on their feet to find the answers.
As delightful as your customer service team may be when a customer has to contact them it is likely not the highlight of their day. Customers reach out for service support when they’re having problems, frustrated, and seeking solutions. They may become angry or stressed, and reflect that in their communication. A seasoned customer service agent knows the value of empathy: understanding the customer’s frustration, not taking anything personally, and working with them to find a solution.
It’s no one’s favorite thing to contact customer service for help, but an empathetic agent can help the customer walk away feeling validated, listened to, and supported.
If you want to take your customer service department to the next level then it is important to set data-centered goals. Tracking trends like Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), and Customer Churn Rate can transform individual 1-1 interactions with customers into meaningful data.
Data helps the customer service team:
- Understand friction points: What are the product’s most common problems? When do customers most frequently churn? How long does it take a customer to find a solution? Identifying the most common friction points helps you determine where to focus on improvement.
- Track trends and measure success. By setting department goals for NPS or CSAT, agents can quantify their effectiveness in helping customers and set personal goals for success.
Top customer service agents are fluent in these 7 skills, or at least willing to develop them. By providing high-value support to customers, companies can encourage brand loyalty, confidence, and even delight in your product. With the right customer service skills in place, your company can increase profitability through a healthy, happy customer base.