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What Customer Service Skills Are Most Valuable? Vasudha Deming

At Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems we're fre­quently asked which skills are most valu­able for cus­tomer ser­vice — and most essen­tial to include in a cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing ses­sion. The hon­est answer is this: Skills are of sec­ondary importance.

I know that sounds some­what counter-intuitive, but here's why it's true …  The most impor­tant aspect of pro­vid­ing good cus­tomer ser­vice is atti­tude.  Atti­tude per­vades every part of the cus­tomer ser­vice inter­ac­tion and is the foun­da­tion upon which all the skills are built.

CSBanner What Customer Service Skills Are Most Valuable?

Adopt a Cus­tomer Ser­vice Attitude

Con­sider this: A cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive says the right things and trans­acts the busi­ness with effi­ciency but also with an air of indif­fer­ence (or worse).  Are you sat­is­fied? No! Like every­one else, you expect to be treated with cour­tesy and respect.

On the other hand, if a cus­tomer ser­vice provider shows a sin­cere will­ing­ness to serve and makes an earnest attempt to get it right but misses a few of the key skills, are you sat­is­fied? In most cases, yes.

Cus­tomer ser­vice — whether that means sell­ing shoes or fix­ing phones — is an intrin­si­cally reward­ing pro­fes­sion. The peo­ple who under­stand this fact are the ones who excel and who help to dis­tin­guish their com­pany from its competitors.

Over the years, I've heard count­less clients say that when hir­ing employ­ees they value a candidate's service-oriented atti­tude far more than tech­ni­cal skills or even product/industry knowl­edge. This is because they have learned from expe­ri­ence that the skills and the pro­ce­dures can be taught; atti­tude has to come from within.

I could go on and on about the impor­tance of atti­tude, but since I included "cus­tomer ser­vice skills" in the title of this post, I would feel remiss if I didn't iden­tify what I feel to be some key skills in cus­tomer ser­vice. After all, a good atti­tude may be essen­tial, but it can't stand alone.

There are about 20 key skills fea­tured in Get­ting to the Heart of Cus­tomer Ser­viceTM . Fol­low­ing are my picks for three of the skills that tend to dis­tin­guish stel­lar cus­tomer ser­vice providers from their more ordi­nary peers.

#1 Pos­i­tive language

Pos­i­tive lan­guage is the art of using words and phrases to cre­ate a pos­i­tive image in the customer's mind-with an empha­sis on what can be done, not on what can­not.  Using pos­i­tive lan­guage shows a will­ing­ness to serve and a com­mit­ment to build­ing cus­tomer loy­alty. It's espe­cially impor­tant to use pos­i­tive lan­guage when say­ing no or deliv­er­ing bad news to a customer.

Fol­low­ing are two exam­ples of a cus­tomer ser­vice provider con­vey­ing the same mes­sage with and with­out pos­i­tive language.

Exam­ple 1

With­out pos­i­tive lan­guage: "You have to take the sys­tem offline before I can make the repair."

With pos­i­tive lan­guage: "In order to make the repair, I need to tem­porar­ily take the sys­tem offline. This pre­vents per­ma­nent loss of stored data."

Exam­ple 2

With­out pos­i­tive lan­guage: "I can't get you that prod­uct until April; it's backordered."

With pos­i­tive lan­guage: "That prod­uct will be avail­able in April. I can place the order for you now and make sure the prod­uct is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse."

#2 Lis­ten­ing

Cus­tomers need to feel that they've been heard and under­stood, and that doesn't hap­pen with­out good lis­ten­ing on the part of the cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive. I'm not sure I've ever con­sulted in a cus­tomer ser­vice envi­ron­ment in which I didn't rec­og­nize poor lis­ten­ing as a strong con­tribut­ing fac­tor to poor per­for­mance (and by exten­sion, poor service).

Fol­low­ing are three keys to good lis­ten­ing in any cus­tomer ser­vice situation.

  1. Focus.  (This is the hard­est part!)
  2. Lis­ten for key facts and key feel­ings.
  3. Take notes. (Nobody has as good a mem­ory as he or she wants to believe.)

#3 Con­firm­ing satisfaction

Another key skill in cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion is con­firm­ing sat­is­fac­tion before end­ing the trans­ac­tion. This skill demon­strates to the cus­tomer three impor­tant things:

  • That you care about get­ting it right
  • That you're will­ing to keep going until you get it right
  • That the cus­tomer is the one who deter­mines what "right" is.

Con­firm­ing sat­is­fac­tion also accom­plishes a smooth, sub­tle shift in "own­er­ship" of the issue. When the cus­tomer says in his or her own words, "Yes, I'm sat­is­fied," the trans­ac­tion is com­plete and successful—in the customer's mind as well as in yours.

Vasudha leads the Per­for­mance Solu­tions Team at Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, reg­u­larly work­ing with lead­ing com­pa­nies to improve per­for­mance of their customer-facing ser­vice, sup­port, and sales teams. She is a lead devel­oper of Impact's suite of train­ing courses and has authored four books, includ­ing the pop­u­lar Big Book of Cus­tomer Ser­vice Train­ing Games, all pub­lished by McGraw-Hill.
5 What Customer Service Skills Are Most Valuable?
Vasudha Deming
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  • http://www.impactlearning.com/blog/customer-service-support/2010/06/helpis-anyone-listening/ Help…Is Any­one Lis­ten­ing? | Cus­tomer Ser­vice Blog | Impact Learn­ing Systems

    […] So what do you think….are you a good lis­tener? If you answered “yes”, that is good news. If you answered “no”, don’t worry, because good lis­ten­ing skills can be learned. […]

  • Christian_palaran

    yes!, though you get the sat­is­fac­tion of the guest. Guest would also refer her/his sat­is­fac­tion, the way the staff mak­ing a business.

  • Christian_palaran

    i'll just add.… am what are the pos­si­ble learn­ings refer­ing to the skills of the student/ trainees they can get, regard­ing to the effec­tive way of han­dling cus­tomers. Of what the trainer thought them..

  • http://onederfulpictures.com/your-questions-about-award-shows-june-2011-2/ Your Ques­tions About Award Shows June 2011 | Miami Video Pro­duc­tion | Inter­net Mar­ket­ing | Oned­er­ful Pictures

    […] = '';} } please proof read my resume?Top Ten Cus­tomer Ser­vice Skills for Library StaffWhat Cus­tomer Ser­vice Skills Are Most Valu­able? #SGM {width:100%; height:300px;} #SGM .infoWin­dow {line-height:13px; font-size:10px;} #SGM input […]

  • http://www.w1office.com/telephone-answering-service phone answer­ing services

    For me, the eager­ness of the rep­re­sen­ta­tive to help the cus­tomer is very impor­tant. Using all nec­es­sary ways to pro­vide excel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice is one key to impose cus­tomer satisfaction.

  • Crs Copy­writ­ing

    I woold also wish to expres my sat­is­fac­tiom wit your blogs. You sir under­stand waht is miss­ing in the pros­ess and the out­come of good servise practicum. Very fine writ­ing and look­ingg for­ward too more.

  • http://michaelpbuono.com/?p=99 The gift of you: the key to good cus­tomer ser­vice « Michael P. Buono — Empower Youth. Empower Us All.

    […] […]

  • Guest

    I am a col­lege stu­dent doing a research project on cus­tomer ser­vice for Home Depot. If users on this blog can please take this BRIEF sur­vey for me it would be of great help. The link is below. Thank you.

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dDRXMVBTTVhqc3FuR1Fodld5dHI3Vnc6MQ#gid=0 

  • Bethmarie0611

    I have been a cus­tomer ser­vice rep for 14yrs. Ive worked in call cen­ters doing insur­ance claims, col­lec­tions for hos­pi­tals and credit card com­pa­nies, cus­tomer care in the cell phone indus­try, track­ing pack­ages, worked in retail, and worked in the food indus­try. I have heard and seen it all, i have worked with the eas­i­est and nicest peo­ple to the most hate­ful peo­ple around and i have taken in alot. I am the type of per­son that can walk up and talk to a com­plete stranger, I have real­ized in my pro­fes­sion that you have to inter­act with each per­son dif­fer­ently and read­ing this is so on point. 

  • guest

    hi i am work­ing in a liqour store.my eng­lish lan­guage is not so good. so i want to get some sug­ges­tion about what i can talk with my cus­tomer that gives good cus­tomer ser­vice like some friendly talk. 

  • guest2

    I think your eager­ness to pro­vide good cus­tomer ser­vice is already a step in the right direc­tion. If you feel as though your Eng­lish lan­guage is not good at the moment, I sug­gest work­ing on what you can imme­di­ately apply-your body lan­guage; a friendly smile when a cus­tomer enters or passes you buy and gen­er­ally feel­ing + appear­ing con­fi­dent and at ease is a plus.
    In terms of what to say, a friendly “Hello” or “Good morn­ing” and just ask­ing the cus­tomer “how are you doing today?” is all that’s needed-a lit­tle small talk. If they want to engage into a fur­ther con­ver­sa­tion they will but make sure that you let them carry on rather than forc­ing them to speak. Hope that helps!

  • http://accountmanagementskills.com/ Jenny

    First of all I agree entirely with your point on atti­tude. The most suc­cess­ful cus­tomer ser­vice peo­ple I know have very pos­i­tive 'can do' atti­tudes and you won't find them using any­thing but pos­i­tive language.

    I also like the fact you've high­lighted 'lis­ten­ing' as one of your top 3 core cus­tomer ser­vice skills as this is often over­looked. Peo­ple in gen­eral are poor lis­ten­ers, it's a strug­gle for many to actively lis­ten with­out butting in.  

    But in any cus­tomer ser­vice role it's impor­tant to ask the cus­tomer great ques­tions and keep the focus on actively lis­ten­ing and respond­ing to what the cus­tomer has just said. Fail­ure to do this leads to 'hear­ing' rather than 'lis­ten­ing' and dam­ages rapport.






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