Customer service skills: what does it take to make a great customer service advisor?
What key customer service skills should your staff possess? How do you get the best out of them? And how do you ensure your customers get the best possible level of service?
These are all questions we find customer service managers ask us regularly. One of the most important is, what does it take to make a great customer service advisor?
In my opinion there are five key customer service skills that define the best advisors:
- Ability to establish rapport with customers and clients
- Problem solving
- Strong listening skills
- Strong commercial awareness
- Team working
First impressions are incredibly important. The moment you pick up the phone and begin communicating with a customer or client, you are being judged. Depending on the nature of their call, whether it’s a customer complaint, inquiry or transaction request, the way you immediately address, respond and converse with them will not only inform how the conversation develops, but their overall impression of you and the company you represent.
You have to put yourself in the customers’ shoes and have empathy with their perspective.
The ability to instantly build rapport with a client or customer is one of the key customer service skills, especially when you are dealing with customers over the phone, because you can’t rely on using body language and personal interactions to enhance the conversation.
Establishing a positive dialogue with customers, even if they are calling with a complaint, enables customer service advisors to deal with problems faster and reassures the customer that their issue has been understood and will be dealt with effectively and in a timely fashion. A strong telephone manner therefore is a vital skill which if executed effectively, can help to build positive relationships and brand loyalty.
In order to achieve this, you need to provide regular training for all of your team members. That may sound obvious but this has to be driven by listening on both sides. Make sure you carry out one-to-one reviews with your team on a regular basis and provide specific training for team leaders on how to engage and lead their staff. This will help to establish them as role models and showcase “what great looks like”. This approach provide you with an understanding of the issues they are facing and allow you to build an effective personalised training programme to ensure each member of staff is developing and progressing according
to both their desired development plan and your requirements for the business and your team.
I believe that whilst advisors operate on an individual basis they can learn a great deal from each other. At Granby we encourage our team leaders to make sure there are team meetings on a regular basis. This provides an opportunity for staff to share their experiences with each other for the benefit of the business, in addition to establishing a forum for great performance to be recognised and rewarded.
Establishing a regular programme will allow you to recreate scenarios which may test these skills, and generate new perspectives and insights into how individuals and the team can continue to improve the level of service they are providing. By discussing and implementing appropriate steps staff will continually feel they are working in a progressive environment. Throughout this process it’s important that advisors are able to think for themselves but also know when to ask for help.
Building strong dialogue between you and your employees is essential and the best way to empower your staff. Not only does it help them develop their communication skills and ability to establish a strong rapport with customers, it also helps to create a positive, well-structured working environment, which naturally influences customer communications. As part of this make sure you employ a variety of questioning techniques when training your staff to ensure they fully understand issues from the customers perspective. Advisors often forget what it’s like to be a customer when they are interacting with them, which can mean the level of service they pass on is not to the level they themselves would expect. Akin to this is the importance of solely focussing on the needs of the customer. Staff who are not fully engaged with the nature of each call they are on are likely to make mistakes, so make sure there are no distractions surrounding your advisors which might prevent them from concentrating purely on the customer.
In essence focussing on positive behaviours and giving feedback in a variety of ways in addition to sharpening on customer communication and service is crucial to training and developing an exceptional customer service team. If you measure your staff against these behavioural competencies and use them to recruit and develop you team, you too could end up with staff like City and Guilds Apprentice of the Year Joshua Smith.