How to Improve Your Customer Service Skills

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No matter how great or unique your product or service is, if your customer service skills are poor, you will have a hard time retaining or attracting new customers.

Some people think that providing customer service is easy. All you need to do is be polite and help customers with any queries they have. But there’s way more to it! To be able to answer your customers’ questions, you need to be a great communicator, explain everything in simple terms, have patience, know the products or services like the back of your hand and much, much more.

Unfortunately, no one’s born with great customer service skills. But the good news is, you can always learn and improve!

So whether you’re looking to improve your own or your team’s customer service skills, we got you covered!

people queueing up at a coffee shop and baristas preparing the coffee
Photographer: Joshua Rodriguez | Source: Unsplash

Practice active listening

One of the most important customer service skills is active listening. Active listening is the ability to not only hear the words that another person is saying but also to understand the meaning and intent behind them.

To understand the customer’s problem and give them the best solution, you need to practice active listening. It will help you avoid conflicts and make your customers feel heard and valued.

These are a few things you can do to improve your active listening:

Stay focused and show interest

Don’t try and do other things while your customer is explaining their problem. This will likely make them feel like you don’t care. Especially if you miss a critical detail and they have to repeat themselves. Instead, pay full attention to them and if the conversation is happening face to face, keep eye contact and show facial expressions to prove that you’re listening and are willing to help.

Ask open-ended questions

Whether your customer needs a recommendation, help understanding how to use your product or is complaining, your goal is to ask questions that encourage further responses. For example, if someone is complaining about your product, don’t just ask if they would like a refund. Ask something like “how could we improve to meet your expectations?”. A question like this is beneficial for both sides. It will show your customer that their opinion is valid and even if they don’t come back again, you will get a better insight into what your customers expect from you and how to avoid situations like this in the future.

a customer talking to a shop assistant. to improve your customer service skills you need to practice active listening
Photographer: Christiann Koepke | Source: Unsplash

Show empathy

Now let’s move to another one of customer service skills – empathy.

A lot of the time, conflicts arise because we look at the situation from our own perspective. Sometimes you might think that a problem your customer is facing is very minor and they shouldn’t even worry about it, while in reality, it’s something that is extremely important to them.

Remember, there’s only a very small percentage of customers that complain only because they have nothing better to do. Most people have a genuine issue they are trying to solve. And once they contact you or your team, they expect to be respected and supported.

Even if you’ve never experienced what your customer is going through, improving this customer service skill will allow you to understand their reactions to that particular situation.

So how do you develop empathy?

You can do it in two simple steps!

Step 1 – surround yourself with people that have different views and opinions.

Step 2 – instead of disagreeing or judging, try to understand them. Make them feel heard and comfortable talking about their problems.

And hey, if you work in a customer-facing role, you don’t even need to worry about that first step as you already meet many different people while doing your job. All you have to do is make them feel understood when they have an issue or a complaint. Instead of giving them a quick solution, say something like “I’m really sorry about it. I understand how it made you feel. But let me help.”

As you can see, it’s nothing difficult. But simple acknowledgement can make a big difference!

Use positive language

Did you know that ability to use positive language is actually one of the customer service skills? And this one can take some time to master.

We’re sure that when speaking to customers, you try to be friendly, polite and helpful. But have you ever thought about the actual words you use?

For example, if you notice that your customer is using a product incorrectly, do you say “don’t do it this way” or “the best way to use it is to do this”?

Can you see the difference? If you tell your customer not to do something, they might feel embarrassed about doing something wrong or get even angrier if they are already complaining. Using positive language in a situation like this means telling a customer what they should do without highlighting what they’re doing wrong.

Another example of using positive language would be how you reply to your customer's requests.

Let’s say a customer reaches out about a product that is out of stock asking when it will be available. You know that the product will be delivered in two weeks' time. These are two options for how you can reply:

Option 1: “I’m sorry but we can’t get you the product until the end of the month. We’re having some issues with deliveries but you can try checking in two weeks' time.”

Option 2: “This product will be available in two weeks’ time. But I can place the order for you right now and make sure it’s sent to you as soon as we receive it.”

Both options mean the exact same thing – the product is out of stock right now but will be available in two weeks. However, if you use option 2, you make those two weeks sound like a very short period of time. And if you offer to place an order for the customer, you offer a solution to their problem which makes them feel valued.

yellow balloons with smiley faces on the grey background. to improve your customer service skills, you need to use positive language
Photographer: Tim Mossholder | Source: Unsplash

Patience, patience, patience

To improve your customer service skills, you need to improve your patience!

Not all customers are nice and friendly. We all get angry customers, customers who have some, let’s say, interesting requests and customers who need extra attention to understand something that might seem obvious.

We all know that customers aren’t always right. But it’s a secret they can’t know! That’s why you should always make them feel like they are.

The worst thing you can do when dealing with challenging customers is to lose your patience. No matter how difficult it gets, you must not let your emotions take over and stay calm.

To improve your patience, you need to be self-aware and understand what triggers you. Once you identify those triggers, you can notice them on time and control your emotions better before it’s too late.

Another thing you should do is not to take things personally. Remember, if a customer is being rude or angry, they would be the same way even if there was someone else talking to them instead of you. They are most likely angry with the situation and not with a specific person.

And if you are struggling to take any kind of negative feedback, even when it’s presented in a polite form, you should remember that negative feedback gives you an opportunity to grow and improve! Without knowing what you do wrong you can’t change things that don’t work. This can lead to losing more customers who might think the same but don’t express their thoughts.

Know EVERYTHING about your products or services

If you sell products you make yourself, it’s easy to know all the details, such as what materials you use and how you make them. But if you sell something that has been made by someone else or buy products that help you deliver your service from another business (for example, you’re a hairdresser and buy hair products from specialist shops), you must know everything your customers might be interested in.

This is especially important if you run any type of food business. You must know what allergens you use in your dishes.

Moreover, if you have a team, are you sure they know all those details? No? Then it’s worth investing some time in training them and informing them about any changes happening as soon as possible.

Because there’s no such thing as “I don’t know” when providing customer service! Even if you or your team don’t know something, you must do everything you can to find out the answer.

Also, don’t get angry with your team if they forget something! We are all humans and things like that happen. But to avoid that, let them know that you’re always ready to help them. Or you can even create a little book with all the information your staff needs to know. If they forget one or another detail or don’t know something, they can always check and give the right answer to your customer!

Want to learn more about how to improve your customer service skills?

Then join our Above & Beyond Customer Service Course!

By taking this course, you will not only learn how to improve your customer service skills. You will also learn how to:

  • Turn a negative customer experience for one customer into a positive experience for another.
  • Understand the importance of the first step of the customer journey with your company.
  • Deliver customer service to challenging customers.
  • Understand the value of converting customers compared to marketing and finding new customers.