Impact Learning Systems


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.

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.
Vasudha Deming
View all posts by Vasudha Deming
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  • 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..

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  • 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.

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  • 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. 

  • 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 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!

  • 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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