Thursday, 22 January 2015

Customer Service Communication Skills

Good communication skills, both written and verbal, are highly valued in customer service and this is something we talk about during our Customer Service training courses. However, listening skills and empathy are also an important component of good communication, both of which tend to be overshadowed. Listening doesn't come naturally to most people. It's something we need to work at, and stop ourselves from ‘jumping in’ and giving our own views and opinions. Mostly, people don’t listen; they just take turns to speak. We tend to be more interested in announcing our own views and experiences rather than listening and understanding others. In a customer service environment, this is a recipe for disaster.

Obtain the customer's name as soon as possible and use it
Ask for the customer’s name first, rather than their reference number or address. This shows you are a good listener and adds a nice personal touch. Write it down if that will help you remember.

Be adaptable
There's no reason for customers to be approached using the same style every time. Use personal experience to build rapport so that the customer feels you are putting yourself in their shoes and treating them as an individual. Adapt the way you deal with each customer. Meet their unique needs with a unique approach.

Make their problem your problem
Take ownership of the enquiry, especially if it's a complaint, and develop a one-to-one relationship with the customer so they have a point of contact they can come back to.

See things from the customer’s perspective
Try to imagine yourself in the customer’s shoes. How would you feel? How would you have reacted? What result would you want?

Ask open-ended questions 
Open-ended questions encourage the customer to share what they know about the situation and help build rapport. Closed questions that can be answered 'yes' or 'no', do little to advance the situation. Instead, ask questions that begin with 'who', 'what', 'where', 'why', 'when' or 'how'. Open questions naturally encourage conversation because they are almost impossible to answer with a single word.

Remember the value of an apology
A simple, genuine, heart-felt apology at the appropriate time can quickly defuse a difficult situation and break down barriers.

Avoid assumptions
Don’t make assumptions about what the customer is telling you – actively listen!

If necessary, give the customer an idea when they can expect a result
It’s not good enough to tell a customer you will get back to them. Give them an indication as to when that will happen. Will it be within five minutes, an hour, before 5pm today, tomorrow?

You can find out more about our Customer Service training courses on our website. We deliver all across the United Kingdom.

Photo by Stuart Miles. Courtesy of