12 Customer Service Skills: Definitions and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Customers are more likely to recognise professionals that display excellent customer service skills. If you are in a people-facing role, you will benefit from paying close attention to your customer service skills. They essentially allow you to manage your customers' emotions and inquiries with confidence. When applying for a job in this industry, these skills will be crucial to your progress in the hiring process.

In this article, we discuss what customer service is, what skills the job entails, list 12 customer service skills with tips on how you can improve yours.

Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a CV

What is customer service?

Customer service is a key business function that provides additional support to customers by addressing their inquiries and complaints. It's an essential department that connects a business with its customer base. Customer service facilitates two-way communication so that customers feel heard and supported. You may find customer service representatives either in-person or through various virtual platforms, such as phone, email, messenger or social media.

Every organisation's approach to customer service is different. Each brand has its own customer service philosophy that determines its customer experience style and culture. This way, companies can better serve their unique target market.

What are customer service skills?

Customer service skills are a set of behaviours and traits that employers expect their customer service representatives to employ in their handling of customers. Typically, they are interpersonal skills that shape a professional's communication style in their interactions with the wider public. Customer service skills facilitate the flow of information and enhance your reputation. They help you navigate a spectrum of emotions that customers feel with confidence.

Customer services skills build stronger ties between companies and their customers while increasing customer loyalty. A good customer service culture is an enormous asset to organisations because people want to associate with brands that have an ethical public image.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

12 customer service skills

Developing your customer service skills will help you handle customer inquiries and complaints more effectively. The following are 12 crucial customer service skills you need to succeed in this industry:

Active listening

Customer service representatives need to listen carefully to their customers to comprehend their questions clearly. This requires good attentive listening skills. Attentive behaviours not only help you dissect the situation, but they also encourage customers to be open with you. When interacting with customers, remember to display good listening cues, such as nodding and summarising. Avoid interrupting others while they are speaking and kindly request a clarification when you feel confused.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence compromises of two main behaviours. The first is the ability to identify and control your own emotions. The latter is your understanding of the emotions of the person in front of you. Combining these two elements will help you diffuse a conflict before it escalates. A good customer representative does not take things personally. Instead, they are able to make a practical assessment of the situation and handle customer grievances tactfully.

Attentiveness

Attentiveness connotes your ability to convey appreciation towards your customers through verbal and non-verbal signs of respect. Polite mannerisms and comforting gestures are great examples of attentiveness. Usually, brands will have guidelines for customer service representatives to boost their attentive skills. Their aim to go beyond standard practices in the industry so that their customers are more likely to take notice of their effort. These acts may include serving free beverages at a customer service desk or awarding them with store credit to appease their grievances.

Communication skills

The key to customer service is communication. Pay attention to the way you speak to a customer to ensure you sound approachable. Examine your tone of voice and word choice to appear gentle and polite. Think before you speak so that you can articulate your instructions clearly.

Another crucial component of communication is non-verbal communication. Watch yourself talk in a mirror to examine your body language and facial expressions. As a customer representative, it's important to use assertive body language so that your customers feel confident about your advice. However, you also need to display kindness to safeguard against miscommunication.

Related: Selecting the Right CV Skills in 5 Simple Steps

Adaptability

Often, employers will provide a customer service framework for you to comply with in your dealings with customers. However, there will be instances where you will need to think on your feet. Adaptability ensures you can navigate problems without feeling overwhelmed. In customer service, you can expect a range of inquiries; therefore, adaptability will be essential to your success. In such situations, remain calm, ask questions and be open-minded.

Problem-solving skills

A large portion of a customer service representative's job is handling customer complaints. Thus, you will need to apply customer service skills to build a mental picture of the situation, brainstorms relevant solutions and select the most appropriate method to tackle their complaint. The entire problem-solving process also requires you to regulate your own emotions. If a customer feels frustrated, remember that it's a natural response to the problem at hand. Remain calm and inviting throughout the problem-solving process.

Leadership skills

Customer service representatives need leaderships skills to convey authority in their interactions with customers. This way, customers are more likely to trust your assessment of the situation. Leadership skills also give you the confidence to make decisions responsibly. Your supervisor will not be present at all times; therefore, it's crucial to get comfortable with the idea of working independently.

Empathy

The best way to diffuse an escalating conflict is by expressing empathy. This way, your customers will feel heard. You can practise empathy through small gestures of care and concern. Simple phrases, such as "I hear you" or "I am so sorry to hear that" can help your customers feel more relaxed in your presence. Avoid perceiving problems as a hindrance. Instead, use a complaint as a way to repair the connection between you and your customer.

Open-mindedness

When dealing with customers, it's important to keep an open mind. Doing so will make you more receptive to their thoughts and ideas. Even if you do not completely agree with them, showing that you are open-minded will make them feel less defensive. Open-mindedness facilitates the problem-solving process. It increases efficiency, too.

Patience

Customer service requires your patience. Those that reach out to you for help are often confused and frustrated. To appease their concerns, you will need to skillfully navigate not only the situation but their emotions, too. A good customer service representative makes their customers feel understood in a way that eases their frustration. Remember that your goal is not to solve their problem as quickly as possible, but to take the time to listen and understand their needs.

Creativity

Creative thinking helps you think on your feet when you encounter a unique customer complaint or inquiry. At times, you will encounter an especially challenging customer who you may need to appease through creative means. Just like the marketing function of a company, customer service professionals also need to come up with creative ideas to develop an engaging customer experience.

Time management skills

As a customer service representative, employers will expect you to dedicate most of your time to handling customer inquiries. However, you will still need to complete other admin duties. To achieve this balance, you need to employ effective time management skills. Create a schedule to manage your daily tasks and set reminders to keep yourself on track towards your goals. These techniques will allow you to prioritise and increase productivity.

Tips to improve your customer service skills

Developing your customer service skills takes time and practice. Here are a few tips to help you improve your customer service skills:

  • Ask for direct feedback from your customers. Interview your customers or send them a survey after a customer service inquiry to identify areas for improvement. Use their feedback to identify your strengths and work on your weaknesses.

  • Ask for feedback from your supervisor. Outside observers can give you tips on your communication style that you might not otherwise notice. Having an open discussion with your manager will help you discover what you do well and not so well. Implementing their feedback will show them your commitment to your personal development.

  • Attend a skills training workshop. You can easily work on skills such as communication, empathy and problem-solving, with the aid of a workshop or an online course. Determine the skills you want to develop and find a course that addresses your needs. Additional customer service qualifications also make you a more employable professional.

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