The Skills You Need for a
Customer Facing Job

See also: Tips to Improve Customer Service

While it's easy to assume that people are born with an innate charisma that allows them to breeze through customer-facing jobs, the reality is that much of their success boils down to hard work and practice.

That's right: succeeding in customer service isn't only reserved for the extroverted and bubbly types among us. With the right skills and attitude, anyone can make an excellent customer service representative.

If you're considering a career in this field or are already working in a customer-facing role, consider honing the following skills to improve your performance.

1. Active Listening

Active listening is key in any customer service interaction. This means not only hearing what the customer is saying, but also taking the time to truly understand their inquiries.

To do this, customer service representatives must take the time to ask clarifying questions. These questions shouldn't be used to make assumptions or force a conclusion. Rather, they should be designed to help the customer feel heard, while also helping the representative understand the inquiry. Restating the customer's inquiry back to them can be helpful as it shows that everyone is on the same page.

Customer service representatives must also refrain from interrupting the customer mid-sentence and instead allow the customer to maintain their train of thought throughout the conversation. This helps the customer feel like they're actually understood, which can translate into a satisfying experience for them.

2. Empathy

Empathy is closely related to active listening but goes one step further. To be truly empathetic, customer service representatives must know that the customer's emotions are more important than the actual inquiry.

Even if many people don't want to admit it, consumerism is often driven by emotions—often to a much larger degree than rational thought.

As such, when a customer is upset, it's not helpful to immediately jump into "fixing mode." Instead, representatives must validate the customer's feelings by acknowledging that what they're going through is difficult.

By taking the time to empathize with the customer, customer service representatives can help create a human connection that often leads to a more positive interaction overall.

3. Patience

Having a deep understanding of the product or service is important for any customer service representative. However, it's also essential to be patient with customers, even if they're expressing a lack of patience themselves.

It can be easy to get defensive when speaking with an irate customer. After all, they're the ones screaming incessantly at your face or over the phone. However, it's important to remember that the customer is likely upset about something that's out of your control. If you're rudely yelled at, it's important to keep a thick skin and not take the bait.

The best way to diffuse a tense customer service interaction is to remain calm and patient throughout. Expressing impatience will more often than not only worsen the situation. Manage your anger and don't let other people's problems ruin your day.

4. Communication Skills

While it might seem like a no-brainer, having excellent professional communication skills is essential for customer service representatives. This means being able to clearly express oneself both verbally and in writing.

When speaking with customers, customer service representatives must be articulate and easy to understand. Don't flaunt your extensive vocabulary just because you can. Rather, understand the customer's level of knowledge and adjust your language accordingly. If you're speaking with someone who seems to be unclear about the product, avoid using industry jargon that might overwhelm them further.

5. Positive Language

The way customer service representatives speak to customers can often be the difference between a satisfied customer and a frustrated one. It's important to avoid using negative language since it can quickly escalate an interaction.

Instead of responding to a customer's inquiry with "That's not possible," or "That's not how it works," try to rephrase the sentence to something more along the lines of "Let me see what I can do." While you might not always meet the customer's expectations, using positive language allows you to maintain a sense of control over the situation.

6. Flexibility

No customer service interaction is the same, which means representatives must be flexible in their approach. The best way to do this is by being adaptable and resourceful.

For example, if a customer asks you something you don't personally know the answer to, don't immediately tell them you don't know. Instead, try to see if there's a way you can find the answer. This might involve looking up the information yourself or transferring the customer to someone who might know better.

7. Persuasiveness

In some customer service interactions, representatives might need to be persuasive to get the customer to buy a product or sign up for a service. Whether it's to cross-sell or upsell, being persuasive will help customer service representatives close more deals.

Some of the best salespeople are excellent at customer service. This is because they know how to listen to customer needs and desires and then craft a solution that meets those needs. If you're persuasive, you'll be able to do the same and earn customer trust in the process.

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Further Reading from Skills You Need

Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Learn more about emotional intelligence and how to effectively manage personal relationships at home, at work and socially.

Our eBooks are ideal for anyone who wants to learn about or develop their interpersonal skills and are full of easy-to-follow, practical information.


Learning new skills is a never-ending process. Whether you're new in the business or a crafted salesman, there are always new avenues for learning. While many learn best on the job, there's power in observing others do their craft too.

For instance, consider hiring a personal chef, and think about the attributes you would look for in them. This way, you can learn to model the best aspects of their behavior to elevate your customer service skills.

By continuously developing these skills, you'll be able to provide exceptional customer service to anyone you come across, no matter their demographic.