10 Key Customer Service Skills
Updated: Mar 15
Customer service is the direct one-on-one interaction between a consumer making a purchase and a representative making a sale.
What is customer service?
The support you offer your customers — before and after they buy and use your products or services — helps them have an easy and enjoyable experience with you. Even in the age of technology, the human touch in helping customers is crucial. Customer service is meeting the needs and desires of any customer.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected customer service representative job growth at 5% between 2016 and 2026. That's close to the average for all occupations.
Why is customer service important?
According to a study carried out by Hubspot on the state of customer service, a few realizations were made, and these are:
Customer demand has increased. The level of service that might have been acceptable to a customer ten years ago could now result in complaints. Customers are demanding answers in minutes, not days. They expect automated and self-service options but want service staff to help with complex issues. And they want every interaction they have with a business – marketing, sales, or support – to be personalized.
The customer service teams serve more value to the company. Customer service has always been demanding; nowadays, it’s more challenging than ever. Customer service professionals are beginning to see themselves as the guardians of the customer experience. And, at a time when the customer experience is the key to growth, it becomes a differentiating value for many companies.
Some companies mistake customer service for a cost center. What is more worrying is the growing number of companies that view customer service as a cost center. This goes against what consumers expect, as most prioritize an excellent customer service experience, which will make them stay with the company longer or recommend it. In the long run, it does not mean higher costs but more benefits.
10 key customer service skills
Customer Service is neither a one-off task nor a one-size-fits-all approach. While delivering consistently good customer service requires work and alignment across your entire organization, an excellent place to start is your support team. It's essential to hire people who genuinely want to help your customers succeed — and to pay attractive rates to skilled professionals.
1. Pay Attention
You will only help a client by listening attentively to their pain points. Not only is it important to pay attention to individual customers’ experiences, but it’s also important to be mindful and attentive to the feedback you receive. You must be attentive to pick up on what customers tell you without directly saying it.
2. Emotional Intelligence
Customer service is not a one-size-fits-all game. Every customer wants to be heard. A great customer support representative knows how to relate to anybody, but they’re especially good with frustrated people. Instead of taking things personally, they intuitively understand where the other person is coming from and know to prioritize and swiftly communicate that empathy.
3. Communication Skills
Anyone in a customer service or front-line role would have to interact with customers over the phone or in person; for this reason, customer service personnel should have excellent communication skills. Look out for candidates who can express their thoughts clearly and confidently. Your best insight into the candidates’ ability in this area is by noting how well they express ideas and opinions.
On one side, customer service reps will be your company's voice to your customers. They must practice reducing complex concepts into highly digestible, easily understood terms. On the other, they’ll represent the needs and thoughts of customers to your company.
4. Writing Skills
Good writing helps you express reality and situations you see in words. Good writers also tend to use complete sentences and proper grammar — qualities that subtly gesture toward the security and trustworthiness of your company.
5. Closing Ability
Closing is not only limited to sales. Being able to close with a customer means ending the conversation with confirmed customer satisfaction (or as close to it as you can achieve) and with the customer feeling that everything has been taken care of (or will be).
6. Willingness to learn
While this is probably the most general skill on this list, it’s also one of the most important. After all, willingness to learn is the basis for growing skills as a customer service professional.
Your team members must be willing to learn your product inside and out, how to communicate better (and when they're communicating poorly), and how to know when it’s okay to follow a process — and when it’s more appropriate to choose their adventures.
7. Admit to mistakes
We learn every day. Be transparent if you’ve misunderstood a customer’s needs, made an error that’s cost them time or money, or failed to do something you said you would do. It happens – everyone makes mistakes, and admitting them is often the quickest way to resolve the situation positively.
If the mistake is on the part of the business rather than something you’ve personally done, you can still take the customer’s points on board and be clear about what you’ll do to help them rectify the situation. Be clear that wherever the problem originated, you are committed to finding a solution for them to the best of your ability.
8. Have a clear escalation pathway
Customer service teams and contact center agents will inevitably come across customer questions and problems they can’t solve independently. Be prepared for this eventuality by formulating and communicating an escalation plan for each person’s role so that everyone knows who they should contact with a customer question that goes beyond their remit.
9. Improve your technical skills
Customers may come to you with all types of problems, and they want their questions answers fast. You'll be wasting their valuable time if you don’t know how to implement a service ticket properly. Before interacting with customers, you should fully understand how to use your live chat and ticketing system and learn to type fast.
10. Know your products and services
To help the customer, you must have a deep knowledge of your products and how they work. It’s recommended that each customer service agent spends onboarding time with a seasoned product specialist so he can ask questions and fully understand the ins and out of the product. This way, you’ll be able to help customers when they’re troubleshooting issues, and you’ll know product tips and tricks you can share to make the product easier to use.