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  • Writer's pictureSharon Oatway

Mastering Customer Service in Today's Environment: 5 Essential Customer Service Skills

Updated: May 31, 2023


customer service agent

The Rate of Change in Customer Service

Thanks to rapid advancements in technology, globalization, and changing customer expectations, customer service organizations face unprecedented disruption.


In every business, customer service must be agile and adaptable to keep up with the pace of change. New technologies and tools are emerging at an unprecedented rate, and customer service organizations that fail to adopt and integrate these tools into their processes risk falling behind their competitors. For example, the rise of artificial intelligence and automation is transforming many industries, and customer service must be able to adapt to these changes to remain competitive.


Globalization has also increased the rate of change in business as companies expand their operations and compete globally. This has led to new challenges and opportunities, such as adapting to different cultures and regulations in different regions.


Finally, changing customer expectations also drives the rate of change in business today. Customers today expect personalized and convenient experiences across all channels. Companies that fail to meet these expectations risk losing market share to competitors who can deliver a better customer experience.


Overall, the rate of change in business today is swift and shows no signs of slowing down. Customer service's vital role in retaining and growing existing customer relationships is at the center of this change. To succeed in this environment, customer service organizations must be agile, adaptable, and willing to embrace new technologies and strategies to meet the evolving needs of customers and the market.


The New Role of Customer Service Professionals

When a customer reaches out to customer service, frontline customer service representatives have the opportunity to solve problems, provide information and forge a human connection. With the introduction of alternate channels for support, these human interactions may be few and far between. Often, when a customer finally picks up the phone to call customer service after attempting to self-serve, their level of frustration can be at a peak. The traditional customer service skills of the past will not cut it in today's environment.


Many skills are important for customer service agents to be successful in delivering a great customer experience, but here are five of the most important:

VereQuest has a robust library of Customer Service Agent e-learning modules. Ask about our free trial.

1. Customer Service Communication Skills

Effective communication skills are crucial for understanding customer needs, building rapport, managing expectations, and resolving customer conflicts. Customer service agents should be able to communicate clearly, actively listen, and tailor their communication style to the needs and preferences of each customer.


Here are a few reasons why communication skills are essential in customer service:

  • Understanding customer needs: Effective communication helps customer service agents understand the needs and concerns of customers, allowing them to provide better solutions to their problems.

  • Building rapport: Effective communication helps build rapport and trust with customers, making them more likely to be satisfied with the service they receive.

  • Managing expectations: Effective communication helps manage customer expectations, providing clear information on what solutions are available and what to expect during the resolution process.

  • Conflict resolution: Effective communication skills are crucial for resolving customer conflicts, de-escalating tense situations, and finding mutually beneficial solutions.

  • Feedback: Effective communication skills are essential for receiving and responding to feedback from customers, allowing businesses to continually improve their customer service.

While problem-solving skills are also crucial for customer service agents, effective communication is necessary for identifying and resolving customer problems. By prioritizing both communication skills and problem-solving skills, businesses can provide effective and satisfying customer service experiences that build customer loyalty and enhance their reputation.

64% of customers do not fully trust the information they receive from customer service representatives, even if it is the right answer. ~ Kolsky

The ability to communicate clearly, concisely, and confidently is crucial in customer service. In fact, 33% of customers say that efficiently answering questions is the most essential skill a customer service agent can have. Makes sense. Fortunately, many organizations have moved away from Average Talk Time (ATT) as a key measure of success – which often required CSRs to rush through their response -- in favor of other customer-centric metrics like First Contact Resolution (FCR). The move away from 'speed' enables CSRs to take the extra time needed to clarify and educate the customer, as required.


2. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. In customer service, empathy is vital for building rapport and trust with customers, demonstrating that their concerns are understood and that the customer service agent cares about their experience.


The ability to see things from the customer's point of view allows customer service professionals to connect with customers on a personal level, understand their needs and concerns, and provide more effective and personalized support. Here are a few reasons why empathy is crucial in customer service:

  • Builds trust and rapport: When customers feel that customer service professionals are truly listening to their concerns and trying to understand their perspective, they are more likely to feel valued and build trust with the brand.

  • Increases customer satisfaction: Customers who feel that their concerns are being heard and addressed in a caring and empathetic manner are more likely to be satisfied with the service they receive.

  • Improves problem-solving: By understanding the customer's perspective and emotions, customer service professionals can more effectively identify the root cause of the issue and provide more personalized and effective solutions.

  • Enhances brand reputation: A business that consistently demonstrates empathy in its customer service interactions can build a positive reputation and increase customer loyalty.

  • Reduces customer churn: When customers feel that their concerns are being heard and addressed in a caring and empathetic manner, they are more likely to remain loyal to the brand and recommend it to others.

Customers are 9x more likely to be highly engaged when they receive what they consider to be empathetic customer support. ~ Gallup

Overall, empathy is a crucial skill in customer service because it allows businesses to provide more effective and personalized support, build trust and rapport with customers, and enhance their overall reputation and customer loyalty. In fact, for most customers, how they relate to the experience is predominantly based on emotions, not facts.


Whether a customer service representative is 'naturally' empathetic or not, all CSRs must learn how to leverage empathy to engage with customers. To make sure that each customer feels heard and valued – regardless of the outcome.

VereQuest has a robust library of Customer Service Agent e-learning modules. Ask about our free trial.

3. Problem-solving Skills

Customer service agents must be skilled in problem-solving and able to identify and resolve customer problems quickly and effectively. This includes the ability to think creatively, anticipate potential issues, and find solutions that meet the needs of the customer.


With self-serve options' growing acceptance and capability, most customers will attempt to solve their issues before contacting customer service. That means the types of requests customer service representatives receive are growing in complexity and emotion. Great CSRs love problem-solving – the more challenging the problem, the better! Sometimes it means getting creative and thinking outside of the box to arrive at a solution that will satisfy the customer. While other times it requires tenacity and a willingness to stick with a problem until it is resolved. That means doing for the customer what they would do for themselves in the same situation.


No one expects CSRs to resolve every problem every time, but customers expect them to take ownership of finding someone or something that can. Often, this comes down to the values of an organization and whether or not they are prepared to accept responsibility for resolving a customer's issue fully or push responsibility back onto the customer. The need for organizations to remove customer effort from problem-solving is key to customer loyalty. Here's why:


  • Increased competition: In today's business environment, customers have more options than ever, and businesses that cannot provide effective solutions to customer problems risk losing customers to competitors who can.

  • Instant gratification: Customers today expect quick solutions to their problems, and businesses that cannot provide timely and effective support risk damaging their reputation and losing customers.

  • Increased complexity: With the rise of new technologies and products, customer problems are often more complex than ever, requiring customer service agents to have strong problem-solving skills to provide effective solutions.

  • Customer experience: The customer's experience is more important than ever. Businesses prioritizing customer satisfaction and proactively taking ownership of customer problems are more likely to build loyal customers who will continue doing business with them.

44% of customers say that they feel they are working harder and investing more in the effort to solve a problem than the customer service representatives they work with. ~ Microsoft

Overall, customer service agents skilled in problem-solving and taking ownership of customer problems are more likely to provide fast and effective solutions to customers, enhance the customer experience, and build customer loyalty. By prioritizing problem-solving skills and taking ownership of customer problems, businesses can differentiate themselves from competitors and build a positive reputation for customer service excellence.

VereQuest has a robust library of Customer Service Agent e-learning modules. Ask about our free trial.

4. Adaptability

Adapting to different situations and customers is essential for customer service agents. This includes staying calm and professional in stressful situations, adjusting communication styles to meet the needs of different customers, and being comfortable with change.


If we have learned anything from the past ten years, it is how vital adaptability and a keen willingness to learn and grow are. Given that the needs and expectations of customers are constantly changing, businesses must be able to adjust and respond to those changes to provide the best possible customer experience. Here are a few reasons why adaptability is crucial in customer service:


  • Changing customer needs: Customers today have a wide range of needs and preferences, and those needs are constantly evolving. Businesses that can adapt to changing customer needs and preferences can provide more personalized and relevant customer experiences.

  • New communication channels: With the rise of social media and other digital channels, customers have more ways to communicate with businesses than ever. Customer service professionals must be able to adapt to new communication channels and respond in a timely and effective manner.

  • Technological advancements: New technologies and tools are constantly emerging in the customer service space. Businesses that can adapt and integrate these tools into their processes can provide more efficient and effective support.

  • Globalization: As businesses expand globally, they must be able to adapt to different cultures, languages, and customer expectations in different regions.

"We are living in an era of constant change, where breakthrough technology, political and social disruption, and rapidly evolving consumer expectations are all colliding to create a new and constantly changing reality." - Brian Solis

Adaptability is important in customer service because it allows businesses to respond to changing customer needs and preferences, adopt new technologies and tools, and stay ahead of the competition by providing the best possible customer experience. Every employee – but particularly customer service representatives who engage with a broad range of customers – needs to have the desire (and curiosity) to learn new skills, grow and change with the ever-changing environment.


5. Sales

Customer service agents must be able to sell (introduce new products/services to customers) because they are often the first point of contact between a customer and a business. They can influence the customer's perception of the brand and its products or services.


Here are a few reasons why sales skills are important for customer service agents:

  • Cross-selling and upselling: Customer service agents who can identify and recommend complementary products or services can increase sales and revenue for the business.

  • Building customer loyalty: By demonstrating knowledge about the business's products and services, customer service agents can build customer trust and loyalty, leading to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

  • Solving customer problems: In some cases, customers may not be aware of all the solutions available. Customer service agents skilled at selling can identify and recommend the best solutions to meet their needs.

  • Improving customer experience: When customer service agents can sell in a non-intrusive and helpful manner, they can enhance the overall customer experience by providing personalized and relevant recommendations.

VereQuest has a robust library of Sales e-learning modules for Customer Service Agents. Ask about our free trial.

Overall, customer service agents who can sell can increase revenue for the business, build customer loyalty, and improve the overall customer experience. However, it is important to focus on providing excellent customer service first. Selling should always be done in a helpful and non-intrusive manner that puts the customer's needs first.


The probability of selling to an existing, happy customer is up to 14 times higher than the probability of selling to a new customer, according to Marketing Metrics. Additionally, satisfied customers can be a valuable source of referrals to the sales team. That's why your customer service team has a direct impact on the effectiveness of your sales. ~ Marketing Metrics

Summary

Excellent customer service is vital in retaining and growing a customer's relationship with your organization. The way you deliver this service has a direct impact on how customers will feel about it. When you invest in ongoing customer service training, you will ensure your customer service representatives always have the necessary skills to provide an experience that reflects your brand at its best every day.

 
VereQuest Quality Assurance logo

VereQuest is a company that provides quality assurance, coaching, and e-learning solutions for call centers. We work with businesses across a range of industries to help them improve the quality of their customer interactions, increase customer satisfaction, and drive revenue growth.


Our e-learning solutions are unique in that they are both off-the-shelf and customized to your unique environment. You pay no ongoing learner fees and can host it on your own LMS (or ours).


Couple our e-learning with call/email/chat quality monitoring to identify areas for improvement and obtain real-time performance reporting. Leverage our skilled coaches or use our proprietary technology to support internal QA.


By helping companies identify and address areas for improvement in their call center operations, VereQuest drives better customer experience and sales results.


Get in touch for a no-obligation chat at info@verequest.com.






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