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Customer Engagement:
The Skills You Need as a Service Representative

Top Tips for Customer Service

In our connected world, a business is known by its customer service.

Thanks to social media and the internet, we have seen various examples of both the benefits of good customer service, and the consequences of poor customer service.

Customer service can make it or break a business, so good customer service is no longer just optional. Therefore, to achieve exceptional customer service, you need to prepare your warriors (your customer service representatives) to help your business win the game.

You’re serving a customer, not a life sentence.

Learn how to enjoy your work.

Laurie McIntosh

Word-of-mouth recommendations help attract new prospects to your business, and keep them there.

Word-of-mouth recommendations result from good customer service and it’s not difficult to deliver excellent support and service. It’s all about being good with the intention to help. While an organization’s managers should design strategies to foster good customer relations, it is the service agents who are in the front line when dealing with customers. These agents’ skill sets determine their interactions with customers, so let’s look at what skills are needed to keep modern customers happy.

Be the Saviour

Knowledge, Problem Solving and Timeliness

A customer with a problem calls you with high hopes for a speedy resolution. The customer service representative will need ‘agony-aunt’-like qualities to resolve the problem, and this means they need the right resources and knowledge to help the customer in the most appropriate way. Once you’ve heard and understood the issue, acknowledge the problem and respond quickly. Ensure that the customer doesn’t have to wait or contact you again with the same problem.

While it’s good to be quick, this should not be at the cost of a confusing reply. Possessing the detailed product/service knowledge, and using it to solve the problem, is an essential skills in being able to deliver appropriate results on time. Consider the example of how Virgin Trains helped Adam Greenwood with a loo roll! In real time, Adam tweeted to Virgin Trains about the lack of toilet paper in the loo. Maybe he wasn’t expecting a solution, but Virgin Trains’ team was not only quick to respond but also helped Adam out of an unfortunate predicament. Now that is an example of customer service that deserves a round of applause!

See our pages on Problem Solving for more.

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

Empathy, Understanding and Patience

Dealing with angry customers is tough. It can take a lot of patience to hear reasonable (or sometimes stroppy) arguments. But, you can’t ignore them, and this is why you need to be calm and try to understand the customer.

Empathy is a great virtue in customer service. According to human psychology, friendly interactions create long-term bonds.

When dealing with customers, use ‘positive’ language, address them with genuine concern, treat them well, and take note of their pain points. Make them feel that they are important to your business, and let them know that you will help them no matter what!

Zappos has always set high customer service standards. In a recent incident, a Zappos employee broke a record for the longest customer service call when a call that began with a customer seeking help with an order went on for 10 hours and 43 minutes. Yes, it sounds crazy but the call did continue for longer than a typical working day. The customer service agent’s involvement and guidance made the customer so happy that the conversation just continued.

It’s not always about making a sale, sometimes it’s about building a long lasting relationship!

A Lasting Impression Counts

Handling Pressure, Follow-ups and Technology

Not everything goes as planned. At times, there will be unexpected situations and the team should be ready to handle them. There may be more than the estimated number of calls in a day, some unidentified problems, missed points, unattended requests, etc.

But how to handle such matters?

In simple terms, you should have the ability to turn shocks into surprises, and use the right tools and technology to deliver a complete solution. For example, routing certain calls direct to the right service agent can help resolve those issues quickly.

Never panic under pressure. When things go wrong, take responsibility and put them right. And don’t forget to ask for feedback as this will offer another opportunity to earn customer loyalty. Here’s how the general manager at the Sheraton Boston Hotel acted to resolve a customer service issue when pre-ordered drinks failed to arrive at a reception party. The manager not only resolved the problem but also followed up a day later to apologize for the oversight and ask for feedback. The outcome was a glowing review published publicly, so this gesture clearly mattered.

Strive For Superiority

Teamwork, Observation and Anticipation

Customer service is a team effort; it is not limited to a department, but is everyone’s job, and requires sound coordination and collaboration.

The entire organisation should work together towards excellent customer service sharing information, customer conversations, feedback, improvements and any other suggestions. Service agents with sharp observation skills can analyse present interactions to prevent future problems, ‘reading between the lines’ to discover more than just what customers say.

Every year poor customer causes a loss of $62 billion to US companies. A scary and harsh reality, isn’t it? Customer service agents can play an important role in limiting such losses, anticipating issues in advance, and guiding other teams to improve services.

Learn more about the importance of effective teamwork.

The Sky’s The Limit

Self-Evaluation, Creativity and Adaptability

Learning has no age bar. There are many ideas, tips, literature and case studies that cite examples of great customer service, and it is good to learn and develop expertise from these sources.

Besides that, don’t hesitate to develop your own creativity and be open to new ideas. Learn from every customer interaction (even from your own experience of being a customer when you purchase something). Also, never restrict yourself to certain practices: being adaptable is key!

Measure your own performance. To be consistent in delivering great service, assess your work and make changes as the need arises. A Walker report suggests that in the 2020's, buyers will prefer to associate with companies delivering a first-rate customer experience. Achieve a competitive edge with innovative customer service. Service agents should be happy to walk an extra mile for customer satisfaction.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills eBooks.

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills

Develop your interpersonal skills with our series of eBooks. Learn about and improve your communication skills, tackle conflict resolution, mediate in difficult situations, and develop your emotional intelligence.

It’s just the beginning…

Customer-centric organisations are bound to succeed.

Hire a people person to manage your customer service team. Help your employees develop the skills they need to engage with modern customers. Inculcate a customer-centric ethos. Connect and collaborate with customers to develop excellent customer service and ultimate success.

About the Author

Swati Kungwani is the business analyst and content manager for iTouchVision, a UK-based customer service platform. She specialises in customer experience management and driving new customer initiatives