10 Crucial Skills of Exceptional Customer Experience Pros

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Customer service nowadays requires professionals who possess a wide-range of soft and hard customer service skills.

Did you know that 55% of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience, and almost 70% of buying experiences are actually based on how the customers feel they’re being treated?

Let’s just say that the importance of effective customer service skills can’t be denied anymore. Gone are the days where customer service professionals were simply required to be “happy and cheerful” people who could read through company guidelines and direct customers around.

Customer service nowadays requires professionals who possess a wide-range of soft and hard customer service skills.

Let’s take a look at a few crucial customer service skills that every effective professional must develop in order to be successful in this field of work.

1. Customer Challenge Empathy

The ability to step into the customer’s shoes is the single most important customer service skill that a representative needs to have. As a customer, think back to all the times you’ve dealt with a customer support rep.

The notably good experiences will always be the ones where the support person understood not only the problem you were facing, but was empathic towards what you were going through.

Derek Sivers gives a great example of the importance of empathy when building relationships. While talking about his customers at CD Baby:

“If someone would call, saying, “I’d like to talk with someone about selling my music through you,” we’d say, “Sure. I can help. What’s your name? Cool. Got a website? Can I see it? Is that you on the home page there? Very cool. Is that a real Les Paul? Awesome. Here, let me listen to a bit of the music. Nice, I like what you’re doing. Very syncopated. Great groove. Anyway… so… what would you like to know?”

Taking out the time to view the situation from your customer’s perspective will go a long way in helping you understand what will help them walk away happy from the interaction.

2. Patience in Service Interactions

Being a customer service representative is not an easy job. There will be days where customers will get angry at you. There will be customers who have problems you can’t seem to find a solution to. There will also be days where you will need to explain the same thing to the same customer 10 times. Patience will go a long way in helping you keep your cool no matter what situation you happen to be dealing with.

It’s not just enough to be patient with the customer, it’s increasingly important to figure out a solution to the problem they are facing patiently as well. According to HelpScout“consumer research makes a strong argument that spending a little more time with customers is the way to go.”

What does this mean for you? Spending a little extra time making sure you’ve worked through the customer’s issues thoroughly is preferable to quickly resolving their issue and potentially overlooking something.

3. Constant Communication

Clarity in communication is a must-have customer support skill for any customer service professional. You don’t interact with your customers in person any more. You’re talking to them on chat, phone, email, or even Twitter.

It’s increasingly important to be clear when communicating with the customer so they understand the message and don’t need any further clarifications from your end. A second email/interaction to clear up any miscommunication the first time around will not only cost you money, but leave the customer feeling unsatisfied.

4. Powerful Positive Language

This is more than just being a happy person. It’s about getting across what you’re saying using positive language. Oftentimes you’re telling a customer you can’t deliver a feature or service to them, or explaining why something isn’t working right. Communicating this to them in a positive tone will help improve their perception of the interaction.

Carolyn Kopprasch, a Happiness Officer at Buffer, talks about having stopped using words like “actually” and “but” in her customer interactions.

“Bottom line is, if customers take time out of their lives to ask us a question, thus teaching us about areas of confusion in our app, we’d love if they never have any occasion to feel stupid, or wrong, or corrected.”

She offers great examples of how removing just two words from their emails has made their customer interactions feel more positive. Need ideas of other words you can consider removing, consider “unfortunately”, “I’m afraid”, “as you know” to consider just a few.

Here are some examples from the HelpScout blog:

“Small changes that utilize “positive language” can greatly affect how the customer hears your response…

– Without positive language: “I can’t get you that product until next month; it is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.”

– With positive language: “That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse.””

5. Exceptional Listening, Perceiving, and Understanding

Most of us have already started developing a response while the other person is only halfway through their sentence. Very few people are active listeners. They listen first, respond later.

Great listening habits can go a long way in making you a more effective customer service professional. Being able to listen to, and understand, a client’s concerns without defensively providing solutions will reduce miscommunication, make the customer feel valued, and also help understand customer concerns that might not be voiced otherwise.

A great example of this is when you contact customer support to talk about Issue A. Issue A, let’s say there is difficulty in signing up for a trial, is being caused by Issue B, which is poor website layout. A good customer service representative will help you sign up for a trial. A great one will listen, understand that the problem is about more than just the trial sign-up, and pass on feedback to the UX team letting them know that the website layout is not user friendly.

6. Product and Service Expertise

When a customer runs into a problem and reaches out to customer support, they want to talk to someone who knows the solution and can explain it to them effectively.

I’m a huge fan of the customer support at Buffer, and often reach out to them when I run into issues. While their “Happiness Heroes” (the job title for their customer service staff) might not be the guys developing the actual app, they certainly know how to explain it in detail.

Explaining technical issues in a simple manner is a skill we’ve discussed before, and having great knowledge of the product you are selling goes a long way in helping you hone that skill.

7. Solution Finding

Customers want their problems solved quickly when they contact support. While you can try to have every possible scenario laid out for your customer support staff, chances are there will always be a situation that hasn’t been addressed.

Instead of directing the customer here and there, it will be more effective if you hire customer support professionals who are proactive and able to solve problems with minimal hand-holding.

Creative thinkers who can look at each support ticket critically, and come up with a solution that addresses the unique needs of that customer, are often the best customer support professionals, with the best customer service skills.

8. Personalization

No two customers are the same. Therefore effective customer service professionals need to be adaptable enough to understand each customer’s requirements and deal with them accordingly. They must have adequate customer service skills to handle surprises and situations which they might not have handled before.

You need to be able to think on your feet, respond effectively, and deal with any new situation with the same grace you’d use to handle a problem you’ve solved a hundred times.

9. Goal Driven

The best customer support professionals want to see each support ticket through to a positive resolution. They will be focused on resolving each issue that comes up in the most effective and timely manner.

They value the metrics of customer support: average response time, ratings received at the end of the interaction, and will work towards improving these every day.

10. Time Tracking, Effective Time Management

Directly linked to being goal oriented is time management. Providing effective customer support is all about balancing the value you’re providing vs. the time you’re spending providing it.

Sometimes it’s impossible to help a customer. Should you keep working towards providing them some solution that will make them happy, or should you move on to another customer who you can help more effectively?

According to Nielsen-McKinsey, 33% of consumers prefer a quicker, yet ineffective response as compared to a delayed response. Therefore it plays in your favor to solve customer issues faster, even if it means letting some issues remain unsolved.

Conclusion

Customer services is not just a support operation for modern businesses. It’s a key business department that can shape your brand image and help you increase customer loyalty.

Every interaction with your customers is a chance for you to “WOW” them, and have them not only stick around as long-term clients, but also recommend more people to your business.

Developing these customer service skills can help take you from being a good customer service professional to a great one, and will go a long way in helping you deliver unforgettable customer experiences.

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