Communication skills are extremely important and woefully under-taught in high school. Getting out and finding a job where you interact with the public or speak and teach within your institution means needing to communicate clearly and without fear.
Specific to customer service – whether within or without your organization – are many soft skills that are hard to teach, at least in a classroom setting. Understanding the needs of people and why they might lash out at you are concerns you will have every single day. You have to be able to help, apply some psychology and perhaps even counsel people who come to you with questions that on the surface seem simple.
Let’s look at some of the most important communication skills for customer service professionals and how to integrate them into your approach to your job.
This might sound like we’re suggesting that you stop caring about your work, but it couldn’t be further from the point. When you allow the person on the phone or standing in front of you to bother you as a person, rather than the you who is the employee, you’re doing 2 things:
It’s completely understandable to not want to provide good – or any – customer service to a belligerent person. How you handle those customers, however, can dramatically affect your day. Being able to detach and tell them “I can get my manager if you need me to”, without dwelling on the negative interaction, is a step towards resolving conflict and keeping your sanity.
Especially with a difficult customer, it can be hard to deliver bad news or be firm about a deadline or debt. This is the most important time to be able to clearly communicate what they need to hear.
For many people, delivering unpleasant news to a customer is difficult – say, for instance, the time frame to appeal a debt has passed. Many customer service professionals will then scramble for a way to make it seem less bad, leaving openings for the customer to get angrier or ask for some other exception. This wastes everyone’s time and ends up prolonging the unpleasantness.
Say what you mean, clearly and without hesitation, and if there’s nothing else to say, don’t be afraid of the silence after you deliver the news.
If someone calls or comes in and asks about a product or service, and there is pertinent additional information they will eventually need, it’s a good idea to at least touch base. For instance, if someone is inquiring about FMLA at your work, while you’re handling their request it would be good to mention your company’s sick bank (if they have one).
Being able to anticipate the needs of your customers based on their initial query will take familiarity with customer service and a good knowledge of your company, but it’s an invaluable skill.
The goal of cultivating communication skills for customer service professionals is to make the lives of customers easier, as it relates to your business. Though customers can be belligerent and sometimes beyond the scope of our ability to assist, you mustn’t let that affect your emotional state or how you assist other people. Add value to your customer service as much as possible, be professional yet courteous and always speak and write clearly and you’ll have a fantastic rapport with your customers.