Of course, any number of skills can play a part in developing positive company-client relationships, but we’ve identified the 10 key traits that are most vital for those wishing to successfully connect with customers:
- Empathy. Sometimes we have a tendency to view customers as little more than statistics and potential dollar signs. However, when we do so we lose the natural empathy that allows us to really feel for and understand what the customer is going through. Customers are real people with real problems. Customer service agents who can take a step back and recognize this fact are then able to treat their clients accordingly, and help bridge the gap between the customer and company.
- Flexibility. How many times have you had an issue with a product or a service and visited a FAQ page to find a solution, only to discover that your particular issue isn’t addressed? Customers have complex lives, and the problems they encounter are complex as well. This is precisely why customer service lines exist (so that customers can get custom answers to their individual problems). In fact, 26% of millennials prefer live chat or a service line when they have a question, most likely for this specific reason. Employees unable to offer solutions to the unique issues faced by customers are little better than FAQ pages, and may drive clients away.
- Knowledge. Few things are more aggravating than contacting a customer service representative and finding that he or she knows only as much (or even less) about the issue than you do. Customers who contact service agents are not looking for someone to help them brainstorm possible solutions that may or may not work, but for someone who has real, concrete answers. An encyclopedic knowledge of products and services is something that every service agent should have. When they do, retaining customers becomes much simpler.
- Communication Skills. Even customer service representatives with all of the answers can easily drive away customers if they don’t know how to communicate well. Bad communication leads to misunderstandings and aggravation, which have a way of bringing an abrupt end to customer relationships. Because of this, teaching your employees how to effectively communicate should be a top priority.
- Patience. Above all, be patient! Remember, the customer is contacting your firm because they don't have the answers. They may even be frustrated, and could blame you personally for their product not working to their satisfaction. But as aggressive as they may be, know that they’re simply upset and learn to not take it personally.
- Listening Skills: Listening shows you value opinions outside of your own and are open to new concepts. If this is done successfully, your customers will view you as a proactive partner who can find mutually beneficial solutions. As an active listener, you should repeat other people’s words and ask questions to affirm engagement in a conversation.
- Organizational Skills: A good customer service representative knows where to find information at any moment. This requires team members to be well organized and trained in where to find information. However, if a team member is disorganized, this can cause additional frustration by forcing a customer to wait for an extended time for an answer.
- Problem Solving Skills: Customers contact businesses with the expectation that their problems will be solved. This ‘soft’ skill requires that customer service representatives have the ability to quickly interpret and analyze a problem, and deliver an agreeable solution. Sometimes this requires an outside-of-the-box solution, so empowering customer service team members to leverage problem solving skills is important.
- Teamwork Skills: Good customer service can’t be delivered in a silo. To find the right solution, you may need to communicate with other team members or departments with different approaches and skill sets. The key to exceptional teamwork is realizing combined efforts are worth more than individual contributions.
- Professionalism: It may be tempting to respond negatively to an angry customer, but a good customer service team member will remain friendly and calm (even under duress). This reassures your customer that they can trust the business as a whole. Over time, the customer will realize they can depend on your organization to treat them with dignity and respect.
With so many options available to consumers, customer acquisition and retention is more challenging than ever before. In the past, many customers didn’t have much of a selection and were forced to do business with organizations they might otherwise have avoided. That’s no longer the case.
The fact remains that a customer has to want, at least on some level, to do business in order for an organization to earn a profit. That means businesses have a window of opportunity to improve customer relations and switch to a customer-centric approach before they lose frustrated former customers to competitors.
Remember that customer service skills are not just important for employees, but these are soft skills that go a long way outside of the workplace, too.
Keep in mind that customers are as unhappy with the situation as you are, and would rather do almost anything than have to contact a service agent. In fact, thirty-four percent of millennials say they’d rather get their teeth cleaned at the dentist than call a customer service line.
Make things easy on them by allowing them to blow off some steam without you responding negatively in return. Show them that you can make things right. If you can do that, they’ll be more likely to forget about the trouble they’ve been having with your product and instead focus on the polite and patient way you solved it.