Customer service skills should be near the top of your hiring requirements for every employee who has direct contact with customers in any way.
According to Customer Service Adviser Blake Morgan, customers judge the quality of a company by "every single experience, every single touch point and every single conversation" they have with its employees. With each customer interaction — in person, on the web and over the phone — the quality of your brand is on the line. Equipping your employees with superior customer service skills can go a long way toward helping customers understand how much you value their business.
If your workers can master these five critically important skills, they'll produce great results for both the customers and the company.
1. Strong Communications Skills
Your employees need to be able to communicate clearly at all times. They should work to understand the context of every customer question, comment or complaint, as well as any cultural nuances that may be involved. They should also cultivate an instinctive ability to sense just how much information to impart to a patron at any given time — offering too little may cause customers to feel that their questions aren't being answered, while offering too much information could leave them feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.
Additionally, teach your employees to avoid using internal jargon or acronyms that confuse, rather than enlighten, customers. Employees should be able to use their interpersonal skills to help customers in any setting, whether in a retail store, over the phone, via social media or responding to an online complaint. Fostering strong communication skills in your employees will go far in obtaining customer satisfaction.
2. A Talent for Active Listening
Employees should always listen carefully to what customers are telling them. In any interaction, we all have a tendency to formulate our response while the other person is talking, thereby often missing what's being said. Your employees can't afford to misunderstand what customers are saying, particularly if an issue needs to be resolved.
How many times does a disgruntled customer just want to feel their problem is being heard, and then be amenable to a resolution? Train employees to always look at customers when addressing them. Consistent and friendly eye-contact demonstrates that they're truly concerned with making sure the other person is being heard.
3. Comprehensive Product Knowledge
In order to gain customers' confidence and trust, employees should demonstrate comprehensive product knowledge at all times. Have them do the necessary research to feel confident when discussing your products' benefits and features. If they're unable to answer a question, they should always refer the customer to another employee who can help. When customers feel that they're talking to an "expert," it's more likely they'll come away satisfied that their concerns have been addressed.
4. Positive Body Language (and the Skill to Read Customer Body Language)
Employees don't always know when their body language "betrays" them during customer interactions. Employees should be mindful to always project positive body language by smiling, making eye contact and conducting themselves in ways that feel accessible to customers. Being closely attentive to nonverbal communication cues can defuse a challenging situation, calming an otherwise irate customer so a resolution can be reached.
5. Patience and Empathy
Employees who lack good service skills sometimes let their emotions get in the way of helping customers. Employees should always have a calm, patient demeanor when communicating with patrons. Help employees improve their patience through proper customer service skills training and by providing them with stress-relieving tips.