5 Essential Customer Service Skills Your Team Needs

Customer service is an extremely important aspect of running a business, which is why companies invest huge amounts of time and money in customer service courses and training methods. However, building a strong team can be a real challenge, as there are a number of essential components.

Here, we take a look at five skills that any good customer service team needs.

1. Communication Skills

The ability to communicate effectively is an absolutely crucial customer service skill for your team to possess. This includes having team members who can convey information in a clear way – whether it is through speech, letters, emails, or on social media – but also requires the ability to obtain and retain information from customers as well.

Someone with good communication skills will be a good listener, will utilise positive rather than negative words, and will make effective use of body language. Ideally, they will also have a strong talent for persuasion, allowing them to convince interested customers that your products or services are right for them.

2. Knowledge of Products and Services

While it may seem like an obvious point, good customer service relies heavily on the individual team members knowing what they are talking about when dealing with customers. This, in turn, requires a detailed knowledge of the products and/or services your business has to offer.

For that reason, a huge part of your customer service training should focus on educating staff members. Their knowledge should be based on what a customer may want (or need) to know, meaning it probably won’t include the intricacies of how a product is made, but must include a deep understanding of how a product actually works.

3. Patience

Patience is a vital asset for anyone working in a customer service role and its importance should be stressed to your team. Customers will often only reach out to staff members if they are angry, confused or desperate, and patience makes dealing with emotionally charged people significantly easier.

“Also be sure to take the time to truly figure out what they want,” says Gregory Ciotti, a marketing professional for Help Scout. “They’d rather get competent service than be rushed out the door.”

4. Attentiveness

When it comes to discussing examples of poor customer service, people often cite times when they felt ignored, or as though their needs were not deemed to be important. Repeated studies have also shown that ignoring customers is extremely damaging to the relationship between a business and its clients, so avoiding it should be a priority.

In fact, research carried out by Conversocial found that more than 1 in 4 customers would stop doing business with a company if they were ignored, while almost half would be less likely to do business with a company if they saw other customers being ignored. Therefore, it is important to have attentive staff, who are always willing and able to offer help, anticipate problems and generally engage with your customer base.

5. A Calming Influence

At those difficult times when things become heated, staff members who have the ability to defuse a situation are invaluable. As a result, you need team members who are not only able to keep their cool under pressure, but who also have a calming influence on those around them.

The ability to stay calm, no matter what the situation or how intense a customer is, can help to make sure any solutions are completely rational and carefully thought through. Moreover, that calm approach can easily rub off on other staff members and on customers, making the entire situation a whole lot less volatile.

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Remain Locally Competitive: Tips for Small Businesses

Businesses like Home Depot and Wal-Mart offer convenience and affordability to many consumers. The harsh reality of this is that the Wal-Marts of the country tend to sap business from small local businesses. These smaller entities offer similar inventory but are unable to keep their prices comparatively low for several reasons, mostly due to tax breaks and inferior resources.

There are very few industries whose local small businesses are not threatened by larger competitors, or at least the prospect of them moving into the local community. It’s important for all businesses to prepare for the potential impact.

Heed the tips below to remain locally competitive against big businesses.

Remain Locally Competitive: Prioritize Customer Service

One of the most common criticisms of large companies like Wal-Mart is that their customer support is severely lacking. In a thorough article on Kabbage that touches on this issue, several business leaders stressed the importance of customer service for local small businesses in response to the subpar customer service of larger competitors.

“Many people have found that not only is the quality not always there, but the customer service [of larger competitors] is lacking,” explains Craig C. Powell, CEO of 5 Block Radius. “We know what we do and we love it, and we want to create those feelings for our customers too!”

What Powell and many other prudent CEOs of small businesses are doing is emphasizing customer service, recognizing that quality of customer service is determined by effectiveness, not size.

So while the Wal-Marts may be able to outprice small businesses, consumers who recognize the importance of customer support – which is many – would rather pay a little extra for that, as opposed to saving some on a product.

Maintain a Prominent Internet Presence

With practically everyone on social media now, a business would be foolish not to capture their audience on the Internet. Small local businesses should use their local connections and pride to connect with locals in the area. This can be done in two ways:

  1. Regularly providing interesting content on social media
  2. Showing support for the local community

Both tasks can be easily accomplished with tweets or Facebook posts.

As this Entrepreneur article explains, it’s important for businesses to nurture their social media following because Google ranking regards social media presence as a prominent factor in its algorithm. A small business has a smaller scope than big corporations, but the small businesses are able to better provide a humanized, personal experience to their followers, a fact that they should take full advantage of.

Strive for a Highly Connected and Collaborative Company

A Forbes study found that companies who utilized enterprise collaboration platforms to better connect their company experienced a 12% increase in sales, a 75% decrease in support calls and a 75% decrease in the time required to generate and maintain content.

Indeed, seamless collaboration and communication makes any business more efficient by providing employees with a transparent flow of information that can better aid their tasks and result in a more optimized work environment.

Speaking of collaboration, some small businesses could prepare for an incoming larger corporation by considering a collaboration or merge with another small local business specializing in a similar niche. There are many strategies based on collaboration and connectivity that can excellently prepare a small business for a larger competitor.

Appear Professional

It’s important to remain personal and connected with customers on a more intimate level than that of larger businesses, but small businesses also need to exude a certain level of professionalism reminiscent of these larger corporations. It shows a level of organization that consumers are confident in.

Small businesses should strive to make every aspect of their business professional, from the way they answer the phone to general attire to the design of their business cards or web site.

Focus on a Niche

Superstores like Target or Wal-Mart may be able to cover mostly every industry, but there’s rarely a passion for that niche demonstrated by employees or the general selection. A small business, on the other hand, can choose to focus on a niche to a substantial extent, holding events that would interest this demographic.

Provide Personalized Value

Many big-name stores are great at providing value when it comes to costs; however, small businesses are able to provide personalized value that large business cannot. Providing customized services and a more personal approach can greatly enhance the value a customer feels they are getting. For instance, contracting company Sunshine Contracting offers a learning center and free estimates to provide enhanced value to their customers throughout projects.

Small business can also provide media representative of their passion, such as a YouTube tutorial for the field. For example, a local hardware store could create a video tutorial on how to build a deck chair, which has the chance to go viral and provide advertising that rivals the large competitors. By presenting this tutorial to their audience on social media, they’re providing a valuable resource. They also affirm that they are truly passionate about the subject and should be considered the knowledgeable go-to source in the local area.

The prospect of a Wal-Mart moving into town can be daunting for small local businesses, but the tips above can help them prepare for it by embracing local roots and small business passion. Any quality small business can compete with the likes of Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot with the right strategy.

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