Soft skills refer to the abilities used to delight a customer that don’t relate to your product, service, or company. These are nontechnical skills like interpersonal communication, personality traits, and social awareness, which all play an important role in customer experience.
If a customer is upset and an agent needs to de-escalate immediately, it’s solely up to their ability to communicate effectively and use soft skills to resolve the customer issue even when a solution isn’t exactly clear.
Below is a list of some of the most important soft skills that are essential in customer support.
1. Conversation- Conversation starting is a very useful customer support skill. A small, back-and-forth banter helps establish common ground with the customer and creates a more human interaction with them. This is particularly important if you’re communicating over the phone or through live chat, as these interactions are less personal than a face-to-face conversation.
Whenever you’re working with a customer, it helps to have some go-to conversation-starters ready. You can ask about common topics e.g the weather, but, feel free to get more creative as long as you keep topics professional. Ask about work experiences, hobbies, or anything else that will keep the customer engaged with the conversation.
2. Empathy and Understanding
Empathy and understanding are fundamental to customer service. However, they’re difficult to master if you don’t understand customer needs. It is hard to display genuine empathy for the customer since you don’t realize or comprehend the repercussions of the problem they’re facing.
One of the ways you can show empathy is by explaining what you know about the customer’s problem. Talk about what the situation is, how the problem occurred, and, most importantly, why it’s significant for the customer. Showing that you completely understand the issue will make the customer feel like you’re more invested in their case and more likely to help them find a solution.
3. Managing Ambiguity
As a Customer Service Representative, you’re expected to know all of the technical language associated with your product or brand. The customer, however, might not be as well-versed in the same environment and might not provide the level of detail you’re looking for when they’re explaining a problem.
Managing ambiguity is all about obtaining the information you need to troubleshoot while still working seamlessly with the customer. This means asking the right questions, using examples to illustrate an idea, and trusting your troubleshooting skills to arrive at the right solution. Ideally, the customer should leave the experience feeling like they collaborated with you on the effort and contributed to their own success.
4. Creative Problem Solving
When the customer is ambiguous or has a complicated problem, sometimes you need to be creative to find a solution. Great customer service representatives are excellent problem solvers and can come up with clever and effective solutions to overcome objection points.
To become a better problem solver, try to challenge yourself to think differently. Don’t immediately jump on the first solution. Instead, make a list of potential options and weigh their pros and cons. If possible, tell a colleague about your ideas and ask them for feedback on what they think is best. Listening to a new perspective can help you identify the best solution available or come up with new ideas to solve the problem altogether.
5. Body Language
Body language can make or break customer service interactions.
But, even when you’re not communicating with a customer face-to-face, your body language still plays a crucial role in how you deliver a message. Your breathing patterns affect the way words are spoken and facial expressions influence your tone of voice. So, even when you’re on the phone with a customer, it’s important to keep your body language in check to ensure you sound optimistic and empathetic
6. Time Management
We are a society that expects instant fulfilment, or at the very least, satisfaction with the least amount of waiting time.
Time management is said to be a set of principles, practices, skills, tools and systems that help you use your time to accomplish what you want. In today’s world where we are often in a hurry, effective time management in customer service is vital. It is important to understand what customers think a long wait period is and how those intervals impact the bottom line.
Most customers will always have a deadline for when they expect you to respond to their case. This is where it helps to set response time SLA’s that outline when customers should expect a reply from your team. Meeting these expectations consistently is the key to developing trust with your customer base.
7. Positive Vocabulary
When serving customers, it’s important to use positive vocabulary. While you can’t control how significant a problem is, you can control how you make it sound to the customer. If you use pessimistic language or overexaggerate the issue, the customer will feel like you can’t solve their problem which is the exact opposite effect that your support team should have.
Customer Service Representatives should always feel confident that they can solve a case. While you should be transparent and straight forward about the severity of the issue, you should couple that honesty with an assurance that you’ll overcome whatever roadblock is put in front of you.
8. Follow-Up Questioning
As a Customer Service Representative, you should be asking customers almost as many questions as you’re answering. This shows that you have a genuine interest in your support cases and that you’re searching for the best solutions possible.
If you just answer the customer’s questions and don’t ask any of your own, you’ll only leverage the customer’s product knowledge during your troubleshooting. Instead, by asking follow-up questions and diving a bit deeper based on your own intuition, you can uncover solutions that the customer might not have considered before. This can really help you become a creative problem solver especially when a customer has been dealing with a complicated or reoccurring issue.
9. Active Listening
Customers don’t just want to be heard, they want to be understood the first time they explain an issue. This means customer service representative need to be actively listening whenever a customer is telling them a problem.
Active listening involves a deep focus on the other person’s point of view. Rather than thinking about what you’re going to say next, center your attention on what the customer is telling you and be prepared to repeat those same details back to them when you’re providing a solution. This shows that you not only heard what the customer told you, but you understand their goals and how you can help them navigate the problem at hand.
Author ~ Dennis Mmasava