This is the first article of a series about great customer service skills. Subscribe here (for free) to receive the next ones!Listen to “To Have Great Customer Service, You Must Master These 5 Service Industry Skills” on Spreaker.
During my time in the corporate world, I was often involved in the selection of new employees, but never deeply entangled in the hiring process itself.
That changed when I started my own business in 2017. After that, I had to make all the decisions for myself. At first, it confused me.
It’s already hard to leave your job at a multinational corporation and start your own company. A lot of new business owners think they’ll be great at hiring, but they soon find out that it’s more difficult than they thought.
Starters’ luck played a bigger role in my first few hires than any skill I had. But later on, I kept making mistakes after mistakes. Fortunately, Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon wrote a book that helped me to make much better hires.
Think twice if you think this post isn’t for you because your company isn’t in the service industry or you’ll never be a recruiter. I think these qualities are quite important in many different areas.
They can help you build a career or start a business with a team of people who work together to give your customers excellent service.
But first, it is crucial to understand ONE thing:
What Are Customer Service Skills
The customer is always right, right?
While this may be true in many cases, you do not have to agree with it every time. Working in a fast-food restaurant or a marketing agency involves dealing with the wrong customers more often than you imagine.
Still, respecting clients and providing excellent customer service is as important as doing your job correctly. Skills in this area can help you become a team leader, advance in your company, or even get promoted in sales.
If you are an entrepreneur, knowing how to identify that in your candidates will be an ingredient for your business performance to soar.
Essentially, customer service skills help you communicate and assist clients. A good customer skillset will turn to more sales and keep buyers coming back for more.
Your goal when dealing with customers is to make them happy with their purchases and wish to buy again from you. Ideally, they’ll feel secure shopping with you and knowing they’ll get their items on time. When that happens, you are at the APEX of customer skills.
The 6 Traits that Build Great Customer Skills
1 — Foster a genuine human warmth.
Ask men and women what they want in a partner, and they’ll say things that aren’t the same. In fact, in surveys after surveys, men and women from different cultures agree only on one thing: warmth is the most important thing.
A real sense of warmth — or, as it is sometimes called, kindness.
A researcher from the University of Central Florida and the University of South Carolina found that gastronomy employees tend to think of their coworkers and managers as either warm and competent or cold and incompetent. This is even though competence and warmth aren’t always linked.
Warmth may not be as important as skill in jobs like cooking or working in the kitchen. Kindness can’t cook a piece of raw chicken. But for Managers, it is necessary. There is a considerable effect on employees’ work attitudes and turnover when managers are seen to be warm.
Hire people who are warm and train your employees to be more socially oriented.
2 — Grow the habit of being empathetic.
Belinda Parma, a British entrepreneur, once wrote in the Harvard Business Review that empathy should be a part of every company, from the director’s room to the shop floor.
Marketers, managers, and sales clerks can all benefit from empathy. It helps them know their customers, and it helps them figure out what will make their customers buy their products and services.
Having empathy is very important when it comes to solving problems with unhappy customers, preventing damage when there is an accident, and building a good reputation. These things can either help or hurt a business.
So, empathy isn’t just important for you and your team, but it’s also important for your bottom line.
My first business was in the hospitality industry. Empathy was crucial for our front-desk workers because they had to deal with guests from all over the world, each with their own priorities and needs. One should not ignore the fact that Asian female guests might want to stay in a female-only room, or that Australian groups might want to have pre-parties in our backyard.
3 — Nurture an upbeat attitude even during difficult times.
Customer service can make anyone tired. Whether you’re just starting or have been in the business for a long time, this is still true. Setbacks happen all the time, but they aren’t very rare.
It gets even more complicated when you are an entrepreneur. Plenty of things will go wrong when you start a business. You are still discovering new and better ways of doing things.
If you and your team have a negative approach to challenges, things can get dark very quickly.
But I am also not advocating for deluded optimism, but for a sense of goodwill, hope, and energy that moves the first stones in the path of an entrepreneur, making it easier to start and run a company. In the early days of my new business, some of the problems were dirty (especially when our basement flooded with sewage). My first employees would quickly give up if we faced all our problems with a pessimistic view.
You can choose whether or not to jump over the obstacles, but they are still there. How you face them, is up to you — but remember that your attitude also affects your team.
4 — Have a wolfpack leadership
In a service-based business, often a single person can’t solve all the problems.
For the last few decades, we are witnessing the disappearance of the one-man show while driving toward a team-oriented modern world.
In the new way of working, there are teams and networks of teams. We change job roles and specifications; rethink careers and internal movement; focus on skills as the key to performance; change how goals are set and how people are rewarded.
This new model is different from the one we’ve been using before. There is also a big change in leadership because of this.
Among 7,000 companies in 130 countries studied by Deloitte in 2016, they found out the top 10 human capital trends for the next years. Companies are having a hard time with things like employee engagement, the way they work, how quickly they can get things to market, and how innovative they can be.
All because leaders play a big role in how well their teams do, act and even think.
A team orientation means working on things like shared values and culture, clear goals, open feedback, and rewards based on skills and contribution (instead of by position), to name a few things. If you’re starting a new business, likely, you didn’t pay attention to some (or all) of these items because of the excitement of starting a new enterprise. You can correct it now and see how much better it will be.
5 —Dominate the ability to be conscientious
Conscientiousness is essentially the ability to mobilize your skills when they are needed and in the way that they help you, your team, and your business to achieve maximal performance.
When I think about conscientiousness, the first example that comes to my mind is Adama Traoré, the soccer (or football, depending on your continent) player from Wolverhampton.
He is one of the fastest football players in history. His body is gifted with an explosion and agility that was rarely seen in the most practiced sport in the world.
Still, he is far from being one of the top players in his position in the world. Different than masters like Cristiano Ronaldo or Pelé, Traoré doesn’t mobilize his extraordinary ability with the same efficiency.
In the entrepreneurial world, to be conscientious starts by setting goals and delegating to empower your team. They will fail to mobilize their best abilities at first, and it is your task, as a leader, to guide them. The best way, in this case, is trial and error.
6 — Be a Wonderful Listener
The last of the six traits of great customer service skills is also the most important. It is by itself a great customer service skill.
Good listening skills are the foundation of customer service.
Nowadays, listening is challenging because your mind is focused on a variety of things at once, including what you’re going to say next and how the conversation is affecting you.
Or electronics ringing and sending notifications all the time — it is a terribly distracting era that we are living in.
So, it takes effort to listen actively. There are three basic points to be a good listener:
1 — Stay in the present: Don’t think about what you’re going to say. Pay attention to the words coming out of the person’s mouth. However, don’t stare at him or her; gaze slightly downward and take notes if necessary.
2 — Don’t interrupt: It’s tempting to get a word in edgewise, especially if the customer wants something you can’t (or don’t want to) provide. But interrupting shows that you’re not really listening and reduces trust in your ability to resolve their issue or respond effectively to their needs.
Even if it’s clear that they’re wrong or that they aren’t really understanding what you’re saying, let them finish. You can gently raise objections or clarify points later on.
3 — Don’t form opinions: Just listen! Resist the temptation to agree or disagree with anything they say while they’re speaking; this shows that you’re not being open-minded enough to hear everything they have to
Conclusion: The 6 Traits That Build Great Customer Service Skills
Both by trial and error or by reading management books like the one from Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon, it took me some time to learn how to hire good talents in the service industry.
But the best professionals in this sector almost always present 6 essential traits:
- They foster a genuine human warmth.
- They developed the habit of being empathetic.
- They nurture an upbeat attitude even during difficult times.
- If they are team leaders, they adopt a wolfpack-like leadership.
- They dominate the ability to be conscientious, knowing when to mobilize their (and their team) abilities.
- They are wonderful listeners.
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Levi Borba is the founder of expatriateconsultancy.com, creator of the channel Small Business Hacks and the same website for Small Business Owners, and best-selling author. Subscribe to my articles (for free) and receive (also for free) the ebook “The Blueprint for First-Time Business Owners”.