First off, look at this:
“You are incredible, I’ll be recommending you to all of my friends!” Delighted Customer
Now, ask yourself—
Do you deserve such a review?
Well, regardless of whether you’re a business owner or customer support agent, brushing up on the importance of great customer service skills will surely do you good.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What great customer service is
- The principles of excellent customer service
- 25+ best customer service skills and how to develop them
- Plus, you’ll see real-life examples of exceptional customer service
What is Customer Service?
Customer service is the advice and assistance a company provides to its customers. By delivering timely, helpful, and easily accessible customer service, companies can retain customers and get more value from them.
Great customer service is synonymous with constant availability to solve customers’ issues while exceeding their expectations.
Need to learn about eCommerce customer support? Look no more: The Definitive Guide To Customer Support
4 Principles of Great Customer Service
Great customer service relies on four fundamental principles:
- Speed—Minimize the response time to improve customer satisfaction
- Accessibility—Make it available via channels customers prefer (social media, live chat, etc.)
- Understanding—Know what your customers call “good customer service”
- Empathy—Put yourself in the shoes of your customers to understand their pain points and make them feel heard.
These four customer service principles make customer service convenient, competent, and personalized. Together, they govern quality in the customer service industry.
Businesses provide customer support by phone, email, live chat, and… Read about 7 Common Types of Customer Service.
Why Is Customer Service Important?
Globally, 90% of customers consider customer service before choosing a brand and making a purchase, according to Microsoft. In the US alone, 60% of customers cut off their relationships with businesses after a poor customer service experience.
That’s why companies are so actively looking for good customer service skills among the people they plan to hire. These skills can give a business a major competitive advantage. Especially now that many companies offer products and services that don’t differ dramatically from each other.
Planning or using live chat for customer support? Then you’ll want to read these 10 Customer Service Skills for Live Chat Customer Support Agents.
25+ Skills for Customer Service
To bring you this selection of top customer service skills, we’ve reviewed studies from such sources as Microsoft, The Northridge Group, PwC, or McKinsey. We’ve found that regardless of the industry or business size, employers are looking for these customer service representative skills.
What is the most important customer service skill? Communication. Customer service people should be able to help customers efficiently and concisely—both verbally and in writing. This is where communication skills come into play.
A person with good communication skills gives clear, on-point instructions without mumbling and repetitions. That’s why it’s one of the most sought-after customer service resume skills.
Resources to learn communication:
- [TED Talk] How to Speak so That People Want to Listen by Julian Treasure, a top-rated international speaker on communication skills
- [TED Talk] 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation by Celeste Headlee, where she gives 10 useful rules for improving communication skills
Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s views and feelings. 76% of customer service leaders consider empathy to be one of the top qualities of a good customer service representative.
Empathy is one of the best customer service skills because an empathetic attitude shows customers a true interest and commitment to helping them. Often, customer service interactions aren’t as much about the speed of reaction as about being heard and supported.
Until recently, empathy was considered a quality. But as many studies, including this one from the Journal of Counseling Psychology, show that you can learn it. That’s why many companies hold empathy-building exercises to improve customer service representative skills.
Resources to learn empathy:
- [TED Talk] Compassion and The True Meaning of Empathy by Joan Halifax, a civil rights activity, author, and anthropologist
- [TED Talk] Why Aren’t We More Compassionate? by Daniel Goleman, an author, psychologist, and science journalist.
Attentiveness is one of the good customer service qualities and refers to listening to customers, following the conversation, and answering appropriately. To practice attentiveness, a service representative must focus on the customer and avoid distractions.
This customer experience report from The Northridge Group found that 57% of customers had to repeat information to agents. This issue undermines quality customer services and affects loyalty to businesses.
Resources to learn attentiveness:
- How to Become More Detail-Oriented at Work. This guide from Indeed talks about tips on how to take care of details as a professional
- Train Your Brain [Android app]. A top-rated free app with brain games for improving attentiveness and memory
Customers in the Northridge report also chose live chat as one of the fastest channels of issue resolution. More about live chat: What Is Live Chat? How Your Business Can Benefit From Live Chats With Customers
People call customer service because they need to solve the issues they’re having. In other words, they need to talk—sometimes even after customer agents have already found a resolution. The job of a customer service agent is to listen patiently and let the customer finish.
Agents with excellent customer service skills know this. That’s why they’ll listen and handle every customer with patience to help them feel appreciated and heard.
How to become more patient as a customer service agent:
- 15 Tips for Becoming More Patient from Zen Habits. A value-packed guide with practical tips and instructions for professionals.
5. Product knowledge
Seems like an obvious skill for customer service, right? Yet, 32% of customers in Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service survey complained about speaking to support agents who had no knowledge to resolve their issues. This finding was similar for different customer ages and countries.
The best way to build a positive experience with support is to have knowledgeable customer service representatives. That’s why “willingness to learn” or “ability to learn quickly” are great customer service skills to put on a resume.
The State of Global Customer Service also found that 88% of US customers saw chatbots as effective at resolving their issues. Want to know how to use chatbots? Check out: Chatbots Explained: A Super Simple Guide For Everyone
6. Positive outlook
Customer service departments have the power to reinforce a positive brand image. In fact, 65% percent of customers find a positive brand experience more influential than advertising and marketing, says this PwC report.
Unsurprisingly, many companies teach customer service agents to adopt a positive attitude. By helping to recognize factors driving bad mood and eliminating them, companies help agents practice courteous manners.
Learn how to be more positive:
- How Positive Thinking Builds Your Skills, Boosts Your Health, and Improves Your Work. A positive thinking guide from a New York Times best-selling author James Clear
- What is Positive Mindset: 89 Ways to Achieve a Positive Mental Attitude. A science-backed guide from Courtney Ackerman, MSc., a known researcher of positive organizational psychology.
7. Time management
There’s never enough time—this hardly rings more true for other professionals than customer service agents. To provide quality customer service, they need to have good time management skills.
Employers prioritize time management on the list of customer service resume skills. With this skill, agents can solve customer problems efficiently and know when to move on to another request. Ultimately, time management helps get through a busy schedule with less stress.
Become better at time management:
- Time Management guide from Mind Tools. Task prioritization, scheduling, goal setting, self-motivation, concentration + time management tools.
Open-mindedness is often at the top of any customer service soft skills list. It refers to the willingness to listen to other opinions and ideas to expand your own perspective.
Recruiters see open-mindedness as a good customer service attribute. They want to know if a person is willing to learn new approaches to solving customer problems. Such employees are more adaptable to work conditions and ready to work in a team.
Resources to help become open-minded:
- The Benefits of Being Open-Minded. A popular, LCSW-approved guide on open-mindedness in simple language.
Personal consistency is about the ability to stay responsible, dependable, and reliable. In the customer service industry, consistency also shows a full dedication to providing positive customer experiences. That’s why it’s among the good qualities of service agents.
Companies earn customer loyalty by consistently providing excellent service. To achieve this goal, they need people who are ready to commit themselves and stay engaged without distractions.
Take a look at these resources to learn this skill:
- How to Be Consistent: 5 Steps to Get Things Done All The Time. A guide from a New York Times bestselling author Marie Forleo [+video].
Did you know that chatbots can help to earn customer loyalty? Here’s how: How to Increase Customer Loyalty with Chatbots
Persuasion skills are a good sign of an agent’s customer service experience. They enable them to reduce the time spent dealing with customer requests and retain them through connection and engagement.
Mind you—persuasion doesn’t mean manipulation. A skilled customer service agent can convince customers to accept certain solutions by relying on an appropriate choice of words or tone of voice.
Become more persuasive:
- 12 Ways To Be More Persuasive, From The Classic Book ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People.’ A guide from Business Insider for anyone interested in becoming better at persuasion.
A person with advanced customer service skills is better equipped to work in different work environments and with different communication tools and channels.
About 51% of 18-to-35-year-old customers make a second contact using a different channel if their issue isn’t resolved (Northridge report). Since competence in various channels (live chat, phone, email, etc.) is one of the important areas of customer service, employers are looking for highly adaptable agents.
Learn adaptability with these resources:
- 4 Ways to Boost Your Accountability Skills. Train yourself to be more adaptable and recognize what might be holding you back (by Anne Willkomm, Assistant Clinical Professor at Drexel University)
- [TED Talk] How Adaptability Will Help You Deal With Change by Jennifer Jones, an organizational change consultant and executive-level coach.
12. Ability to handle unexpected situations
Taking customer service to the next level requires dealing with occasional unexpected and unusual requests effectively. Unreasonable product questions, family drama, or even personal attacks—customer service folks should be ready to deal with all of these.
This is why companies need representatives who can handle difficult customers and remain respectful. No amount of customer service skills training can prevent surprising situations, so this ability is priceless for employers.
Improve your skills in handling surprising situations:
As a customer support representative, you’ll be dealing with four types of customers. Curious to know how to handle each? Check out: Types of Customers: How to Recognize And Handle Them
Customer service representatives sometimes face issues that aren’t so easy to solve. For example, explaining a technical solution to a non-tech-savvy person might be quite a challenge. That’s where their tenacity can make a difference.
Tenacity is one of the superb customer service skills that differentiates okay-ish and excellent support quality. A tenacious customer service agent puts in extra effort and doesn’t stop until the problem is solved.
How to learn tenacity:
- [Podcast] Grit/Tenacity in Customer Service. A free episode from The England Logistics Podcast Network with customer service representatives sharing their experience.
14. The ability to admit not knowing
Trying one’s best to find a solution is one of good customer service skills. In some cases, though, the agent must not continue wasting a customer’s time if they don’t have a solution.
Admitting not knowing something might be an uncomfortable customer service experience. Yet, it’s a better idea than hiding a lack of knowledge or keeping someone waiting for hours.
15. Conflict resolution
Let’s be honest—many customer support interactions involve conflict. That’s why conflict resolution is part and parcel of basic customer service training.
Having good conflict resolution skills is a huge plus. People with such skills practice optimism, positivity, and empathy in conversations with customers. Also, conflict resolution means knowing when to terminate conversations with manipulative and angry customers.
Learn conflict resolution skills:
- Dealing with Unhappy Customers. A guide + video from Mind Tools with practical tips and step-by-step instructions on conflict resolution
Do you have a plan for handling conflicts? This guide has tips to improve your customer service skills: 5 Tips To Handle Customer Complaints Like A Boss
Sometimes, even good product knowledge and customer service agent training aren’t enough to solve a customer’s issue. That’s where creativity can make a difference. This skill is important for quality customer services to come up with solutions in different situations.
Being able to think of creative solutions ultimately allows serving more customers in less time and with less effort. Combined with empathy, creativity can be a customer support soft skill for increasing customer satisfaction.
Need help with learning how to be creative? Take a look at these:
- 5 Science-Backed Ways to Boost Your Creativity. A research-packed Entrepreneur guide to becoming more creative while doing simple things
- 17 Ways to Develop Your Creativity. Expert-approved guide with 17 practical tips for those who need to become more creative.
What is the key to excellence in customer service? Dependability is certainly one. Having a team of dependable service representatives is a blessing for employers.
Dependable service agents respect deadlines, pay attention to training, develop client-facing skills, and constantly build their customer service skills list. But, more importantly, they understand their role as a team player who works toward a bigger goal.
A customer service representative needs to choose the best course of action in every interaction with a customer. They need to gather details and decide which outcome will be the best in that particular situation.
Customer service instructions and scripts don’t always provide options for every issue customers are facing. Plus, the representatives must be quick in their responses to avoid keeping customers waiting. That’s why decision-making is a big part of a customer service skill set.
Learn decision-making with these resources:
- Decision-Making guide from Mind Tools. Decision-making models, tips on choosing between options, and making decisions in a group.
For 57% of customers, “being listened to and heard” is a sign of great customer service, according to The 2020 Customer Expectations report. This customer service agent skill goes a long way in helping customers feel comfortable and valued.
Although customers want their customer service agents to be skilled listeners, 57% of them are “often asked to repeat information,” said the Northridge survey we mentioned before. That’s why listening to every customer is essential for alleviating frustrations and helping agents avoid making false assumptions.
Improve listening skills:
- [TED Talk]: 5 Ways to Listen Better by Julian Treasure, a top-rated international speaker on communication skills
- [TED Talk] The Best Way to Help is Often Just to Listen by Sophie Andrews, the CEO of The Silver Line.
20. The ability to let it go
It’s not a secret that customer service agents often encounter verbal abuse. When these unwanted situations happen regularly, it’s easy to feel down and even depressed.
That’s where the ability to let go comes in. It’s one of those good customer service skills that help to reduce stress and keep moving forward. So, agents who know how to let a stressful situation go succeed in their roles.
21. Acting ability
The ability to “put on a happy face” is also among top customer service skills. Every agent must have basic acting skills to maintain a positive persona, especially when dealing with difficult customers.
That persona should remain the same regardless of how well or poorly a customer is treating the agent. To help agents develop these skills, employers teach how to put aside biases and feelings.
Politeness means being consistently respectful, welcoming, and interested in helping customers. Seems like a must skill for customer service, doesn’t it? Yet, many customer experiences with support agents suggest a different picture.
The Northridge Group found 30% of customers often speak to impolite customer service agents. Such experiences result in low customer satisfaction—that’s why appropriate courtesies and manners are a part of communication skills training.
23. Stress tolerance
Frustrated customers and constant calls often cause stress in customer service agents. In fact, stress is in the top five reasons why they leave their jobs, says this survey from McKinsey. That’s why stress tolerance is one of the top skills for a customer service resume.
A high stress tolerance—the ability to handle a lot of stress without getting overwhelmed—is a major customer service skill set advantage. Employees with a high stress tolerance threshold are more likely to provide good customer service despite numerous stressful interactions.
Learning stress tolerance is easier with these skills:
- [TED Talk] How to Stay Calm When You Know You’ll Be Stressed by Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist, cognitive psychologist, and bestselling author.
- Stress Management Guide from Mind Tools. Stress management tips, types of stress, coping strategies, and relaxation techniques.
Confidence is also among the customer service resume skills you need to get a job. To employers, an agent who sounds confident is a positive reflection of their company. To customers, a confident agent makes an impression of a person who knows what they’re doing.
That’s why customer service soft skills training often consists of exercises to perfect the tone of voice. A confident voice will signal customers that they’re dealing with a knowledgeable and honest person.
Confidence is something you can learn from:
- Building Self-Confidence [from Mind Tools]. An in-depth guide to increasing and maintaining confidence + instructional videos.
25. A sense of humor
Customer service rep: “Click Add and then click Go.” Customer to her husband: “Mike, click Add and then go!” Her husband: “Go? Go where?”
Funny situations are common in the customer service industry. Sometimes customers make jokes or even ask to say hello to their pets. An agent with a good sense of humor knows when it’s okay to make jokes or laugh with a customer.
Develop your sense of humor:
- [TED Talk] The Skill of Humor by Andrew Tarvin, a trainer and motivational speaker on communication skills
- The Effect of Humor Usage on Customer’s Service Experiences. A full text of a study of customer-led humor on their experience with customer service.
A person with excellent customer service skills can memorize a lot of information fast. It’s like an actor getting ready for an audition and trying to memorize many things quickly.
Besides scripts and instructions, a customer service agent also needs to remember common solutions to specific problems, product information, and company policies. That’s why memory is one of the must-have customer service skills to succeed in the industry.
Need to improve your memory? Check out these resources to get helpful tips:
- Luminosity memory games. Fast and fun games targeting different types of memory + personalized learning insights [free account available]
- Memory games from BrainHQ. A collection of free and simple memory exercises.
Customer Service Examples
Here are five examples of good customer service from real-world companies.
1. Small Wallets: Personally respond to customer questions in real-time
Small Wallets responds to every live chat message from website visitors. Even the brand’s founder has a live chat mobile app to reply to customer requests (that’s him in the photo below).
Small Wallets recreated the in-store experience thanks to Tidio live chat and chatbots. And, they won a big corporate client. Read the Small Wallets case study.
2. Payoneer: Ask for customer service feedback with emails
Payoneer sends a post-survey email asking customers for feedback. This way, the company identifies areas of customer service that could be improved.
3. Illy: Apologize when necessary
Some orders made with Illy were delayed, which led to customers waiting longer for product delivery. To explain the situation and apologize for the inconvenience, the brand shared this message.
4. Pooch Bandana: Use an engaging greeting
Instead of generic “Hi, can I help you?”, Pooch Bandana uses a website chatbot as an opportunity to personalize greetings and grab the attention of customers. This will go a long way to make every customer feel more comfortable and engaged.
A website chatbot helped Pooch Bandana to double sales in just seven days.Read the case study and a chatbot tutorialto build your own chatbot.
5. Skips Barbershop: Be responsible and dependable
Skips Barbershop takes care of customer safety and health by following the recommendations of health authorities. Many people, including the person who wrote this review, appreciate such dependability, responsibility, and excellent customer service skills.
6. Breads Bakery: Learn from every customer
Responding to negative feedback and making changes is a must for outstanding customer service. Here, the business demonstrated a willingness to learn from the experience and maintain high customer care service standards.
Customer service skills can make or break a business. That’s why it’s important to nurture both basic and advanced customer service skills. Once again, here are the best customer service skills:
- Product knowledge
- Positive outlook
- Time management
- Ability to handle surprising situations
- Ability to admit not knowing
- Conflict resolution
- Ability to let go
- Acting ability
- Stress tolerance
- A sense of humor
Getting good at all these customer service skills doesn’t happen overnight. But if you commit to creating positive customer experiences, these skills will make a lot of difference in your career or business.