Career Development

Customer Service Skills: Definition and Examples

August 25, 2020

Customer service skills are a set of behaviours, practices and traits that you rely on to create a positive experience when interacting with your customers. Whether you interact with them on the phone, in-person or through e-mail, it's important that you relate to your customers and provide them with the support they need. Employees can use a combination of problem-solving, communication and interpersonal skills to help them become more successful in delivering positive customer experiences. In this article, we explain what customer service is, why customer service skills are important, customer service skills that are essential to every business and how to highlight them.

What is customer service?

Customer service is both a set of job skills and a type of job. As a set of skills, it entails many qualities, such as communication, problem-solving, empathy and active listening. As a job, customer service representatives are responsible for addressing the needs of clients and ensuring they have the best experience with the company and its products or services.

By providing excellent customer service, businesses can gain new customers as well as strengthen existing customer relationships and improve customer loyalty. While you may think of customer service as an interaction that happens between business and customer, it also applies within a business. For example, your role may require you to provide service to other internal departments. In this case, you must understand and be able to meet their needs.

What are customer service skills?

Customer service skills are the skills that you use when interacting with a customer. These skills can also be valuable when following up with a customer after an initial conversation. For instance, if you are a customer service representative for a cell phone provider, you'll need to be able to handle customer complaints, troubleshoot technical difficulties and assist with billing and payments. To accomplish this, you will likely use a variety of skills, including:

  • Communication. When interacting with customers, it's crucial that you be able to communicate with them in a clear, easy-to-understand way to help them solve a problem and answer their questions. You will also need to respond to requests in a timely manner.
  • Patience. Your customers may ask multiple questions, be upset or ask you to repeat yourself several times. It's important to be patient with customers, especially when they may be unhappy, to keep the conversation productive, remain friendly and ensure a positive customer experience.
  • Empathy. It's just as important to be patient with your customers as it is to be empathetic. For example, when dealing with a customer who is frustrated or angry, it's essential that you understand their feelings and experience and communicate with them accordingly. Practicing empathy can help you better understand the needs of your customers so that you can effectively assist them.
  • Technical knowledge. Having technical or industry knowledge can better prepare you to resolve a customer's issues.

The importance of customer service skills

For many businesses, customer service professionals are the public face of a company. Businesses rely heavily on employees who can establish positive interactions with customers, which can help develop a good reputation and improve customer loyalty. By offering the best possible customer service, you can fulfill your customers' expectations and ensure a positive experience overall.

If you work in the customer service industry, such as food and beverage or retail, much of your success comes from your ability to provide your customers with a positive experience overall. Learning and developing behaviours and traits that make you an effective customer service worker can help you advance in your career.

Top customer service skills

While customer service is often seen as a skill on its own, there are many skills that are critical in providing a positive customer experience, including:

  • Active listening
  • Ability to adapt
  • Attentiveness
  • Conflict resolution
  • Creativity
  • Decision-making
  • Dependability
  • Effective communication
  • Empathy
  • Friendliness
  • Knowledge of your product or service
  • Open-mindedness
  • Patience
  • Quick thinking
  • Reading physical and emotional cues
  • Responsiveness
  • Timeliness

Customer service skills are often considered “soft skills.” As you learn how to communicate effectively, make decisions, think independently, and improve your understanding of empathy, you'll be able to relate to and assist others more easily. Employers value individuals with strong soft skills because they are able to interact effectively with customers and colleagues alike.

How to improve your customer service skills

Everyone can benefit from developing and improving their customer service skills. The ability to communicate effectively, being empathetic and listening to others will help you improve as both an employee and colleague. In addition, increasing your technical knowledge and skills will help you become more successful in providing service to others. There are a number of ways you can improve your customer service skills, including:

  1. Ask customers and colleagues for feedback. Ask your customers to provide feedback on the service they receive if your employer allows it. Customer feedback can help you gain insight into whether you are creating a positive experience for customers. You may also want to consider asking your colleagues for regular feedback. This can be done during quarterly or annual reviews. Make notes of the feedback you receive and take time to reflect to see how you have improved and what else you need to work on.
  2. Ask your manager for feedback. Managers often observe how employees work with customers. It may be helpful to ask your manager for feedback on your customer interactions.
  3. Read customer feedback reports. If your customers receive service feedback forms, take some time to review them. Reviewing this feedback may give you a different idea about your current customer service abilities than what your colleagues or manager can provide.
  4. Practice new skills. You can also improve your customer service skills by simply practicing them with a trusted friend or colleague. It may also be helpful to work on improving your knowledge of the service or product your employer offers. This can help you better resolve issues with customers.

By improving your customer service skills, you can become more successful in providing a positive customer experience. Customers who are happy with the service they receive are more likely to share their experience with others and may give you high ratings on customer reviews.

How to highlight your customer service skills

You may already have some of the customer service skills employers are looking for. You can highlight those skills on your resume, in your cover letter, during interviews and while on the job.

Customer service skills for resume

If you're applying for jobs that list customer service as a primary responsibility, provide a few examples of your customer service skills on your resume in the “skills” section. Make sure to include both your soft skills as well as technical skills and any product knowledge you possess that can help you provide effective service to customers.

For example, your 'skills” section might look like this:

Customer Service Skills: Proficiency in Salesforce | Efficient problem-solver | Friendly | Quick thinking

Customer service skills for cover letter

To highlight your skills in your cover letter, provide specific examples of when and how you used your customer service skills effectively. For example, if you worked as a sales representative, you could write:

During my time as a sales representative, I ensured all clients had their needs promptly met. When clients had questions or complaints about our sales process, I was able to provide answers and address issues in a timely manner. I have been praised for my problem-solving skills and my ability to understand the needs of our clients by practicing active listening and empathy. These abilities helped me deliver exceptional customer service to our clients on a daily basis.

Customer service skills for job interviews and on the job

During a job interview, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate your customer service skills by arriving at the interview on time, communicating clearly with the interviewer, maintaining eye contact and presenting friendly and open body language.

Customer service is essential for every business. By creating positive interactions, you can help your company gain both new and repeat customers, and develop stronger relationships with your colleagues. As you apply to jobs and advance in your career, your customer service skills will be key to your success.

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