Customer service is a critical part of your small business. Based on this, it’s incredibly important to hire the right people for the job.  Your customer service team will ultimately be the face of your company and the main point of human contact with your customers. Excellent customer service is the key to loyalty, retention, business growth and profits.

In other words, your customer service reps are your business’s secret weapon. Just have a look at some of the data:

  • 81% of companies with strong competencies for delivering an excellent customer experience are outperforming their competition. (Peppers & Rogers Group)
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. (McKinsey)
  • 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they would pay more to ensure a superior customer experience. (Harris Interactive/RightNow)
  • 7 in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. (American Express)

It’s clear that delivering exceptional customer service is paramount to your business’s success. And training your reps to develop the right skills is the first step to getting there. Here’s where you should focus your efforts:

1. Problem-Solving Skills

The number one skill you need to excel in customer service is problem-solving. Every other part of the job is somehow related to problem-solving abilities.

Ultimately, a customer service rep’s job is to keep your clients happy. That often includes navigating through a complex set of issues and problems to find a sufficient solution.  

2. Clear Communication

Your team will have a hard time solving a customer’s problem if they can’t communicate the solution clearly. However, clear communication isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Effective correspondence means being able to put yourself in the client’s shoes and using concise explanations to get to a solution as quickly as possible.

Often, that means cutting out the jargon in favor of language that even the non-technical can understand.

In addition to communicating well with customers, your customer service reps will need to be strong communicators with your team. This means following processes and protocols for entering information into your help desk software or CRM.

3. Friendly Attitude

People hate to be treated like a number. The majority of people prefer to interact with a human when faced with issues. However, in today’s fast-paced society, customers are often seen as numbers on a spreadsheet.

The ability to stay genuine and show clients that they really matter to your business can make a whole world of a difference in their customer experience.

4. Empathy

We touched on this already. A stellar customer service rep can put herself in the customer’s shoes and understand where frustrations come from.

Empathy is necessary to offer the right solution. Often when people complain they really just want their problem to be acknowledged and to see that you care. Being empathetic can ease frustrations and maintain your brand’s reputation.

5. Business Acumen

This might be a bit surprising since customer service usually has nothing to do with making sales. Customer service is a business role though. While you aim to solve a customer’s issue and be their advocate, at the same time, you represent the business interests of your company.

Solving a customer’s problem means finding a compromise between the two.

6. Product/Service Knowledge

The best customer service representatives have deep knowledge of how your product (or service) works. Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than having an issue and ending up on the phone with someone who doesn’t understand their problem.

This doesn’t mean that your customer service team should understand the inner workings of your product as well your technical team. However, their knowledge of it should exceed that of its everyday user.

7. Strong Time Management

Your customer service team will likely deal with multiple customer tickets at one time. To make everyone happy will require a great deal of organization and superb time management skills.

With that said, make sure your employees aren’t spread so thin that they become robots checking customers off their list.

This infographic from Hiver expands on a few of these characteristics and names a few others that great customer services representatives have. Take a look!

Top 10 Customer Service Skills: An Infographic by Hiver

There’s a fine line between excessive and appropriate customer service efforts. The customer service reps you want on your team will possess all of these skills and become one of the most important parts of your business’s customer retention efforts.