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5 Essential Customer Service Skills Every Employee Should Have

One of the things I ask my M&A clients is, “How many negative reviews do you have online?” Most don’t have many, but if you do, it will be a major red flag for a potential buyer.

Great customer service is one hallmark of a great business, and the path to providing a positive customer experience starts with your employees. It’s essential that you hire team members with a customer service attitude, but it’s critical you provide training on the subject as well.

And training doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. To get started, host short, weekly training calls or meetings with your team. Pick a topic from the list below and have a discussion with them about how they can use each skill in their daily interactions as well as related areas for improvement. As time goes on, it can be helpful to reflect on the previous week’s skills to see if any learnings can be shared with the group.

Patience
Patience is one of the most important customer service skills your team can bolster. When customers come to you for support, they may be frustrated, confused, or the like. That’s why it’s important for your team to meet the challenge of providing great service by remaining patient with the customer until their problem is resolved. Instead of becoming flustered or short with the customer, teach your team to focus on solving the issue at hand as quickly and as graciously as possible.

Key take away: Your employees should understand that being patient means being able to accept or tolerate delays or problems without becoming annoyed or anxious.

Positive Language
This one is also very important. Using positive language entails making minor changes in the way you speak that alter the perception of what you’re saying. The best way to explain this one is with an example. Let’s say a customer asks whether a certain product is in stock and your employee knows it’s not. The negative answer would be to say, “Sorry, but no, we don’t.” Doesn’t sound too bad, but hear the difference in this positive answer. “I apologize, we don’t have that item in stock. However, we do have a few similar items I can show you or I can order that one for you right now.” Which one would leave the customer with a better impression?

Key take away: Teach your team how to use positive language to help keep escalations at bay and make customers feel as if they’re being well taken care of and heard. Use specific examples.

Product Knowledge
This one’s a no brainer — your team must have enough knowledge of your products and/or services to answer your customer’s questions. Have you ever gone into a business to ask a few basic questions and the employee working can’t answer them, has to look them up, or calls the manager over? That doesn’t necessarily leave you feeling confident. When the employee is new or if your questions aren’t so basic, it’s more understandable. But the bottom line is that your customers expect your employees to know about your products and services.

Key take away: Provide continuous training about your products/services to all employees. Make sure they can answer your customers’ most common questions, and that they know how to find them quickly in the event they can’t. Bonus if you create an FAQ handout for everyone!

Attentiveness & Perceptiveness
Creating a positive customer experience is all about making customers feel understood and well taken care of. When a customer walks up to your counter, calls, or sends an email, they expect to get a prompt response. Similarly, when a customer is upset, they expect an appropriate response. It’s important your team understands that they should “read” the customer’s tone and body language. By attempting to understand the customer’s emotional state, your team can make them feel as if someone is on their side.

Key take away: Teach your team to be responsive and attentive as well as understanding of your customer’s point of view. When a customer knows employees are putting in the effort, they’re more likely to view the interaction as a position experience.

Ability to Act
This one may sound counterintuitive, but I assure you, it’s essential. Some customers will never be happy — no matter how great your product or service. Some customers will become frustrated, irrational, or overly emotional and there’s not much you can do to stop them. When this happens, it’s important that your employees know how to “act.” And yes, I mean act as in fake it! While sincere service is the best service, keeping a smile on your face and your language positive when an interaction gets tough is critical.

Key take away: Let your team know that it’s okay if they have to act their way through an interaction to keep it as positive and friendly as possible until it’s resolved.

Poor customer service can cost your business significantly. To avoid the pitfalls of bad customer service, empower your teams to dazzle your customers with excellent service. Be sure to provide specific, actionable, and ongoing training. And encourage your teams to put the training into action. You could even provide rewards when you see team members putting their training to use.

Bottom Line
Customer service can make or break your company, so spending time each week or a few times a month discussing these basic skills with your employees will really make a difference to your profits and peace of mind.