Customer service is rapidly changing. Gone are the days of simple phone conversations—now customer service teams face an influx of interactions across multiple channels.
With shifting customer expectations, the role of the modern customer service rep is also evolving. Rather than simply following formulas, reps must be in the business of creatively solving customer problems. We teamed up with a crew of customer service leaders and trainers to identify specific traits that the customer service reps of the future need to succeed:
Clear communication is essential for superior customer service. The increased number of interaction channels requires customer service reps to be able to communicate verbally and in multiple written formats.
“The recent shift in the customer service industry means reps need better-written communications skills. As little as five years ago, most customers contacts were by phone. But, as non-voice channels expand, agents that were hired for their verbal skills now need training on proper business writing skills. They need to learn different styles of writing for email, live chat, SMS, and social media. These skills are very different than verbal communication skills.”—Mike Aoki, President, Reflective Keynotes
Customers are easily frustrated when they feel that reps aren’t treating them well. According to AchieveGlobal, one in three customers prefer being treated with respect over having their issues immediately resolved.
“Undoubtedly, a great rep needs compassion to understand the customer on the phone or online is an actual person—not just a point of sale or a “time-limited” call to rush off the phone.”—Steve DiGioia, Trainer and Coach
Many people think customer service is about fixing issues and solving problems, but that’s not the whole story. The deeper aim of customer service is to provide a positive experience with a business. The easiest way to do this? Empathy.
“I’m always a soft skills person. If you can’t hold a conversation, if you can’t guide it the best outcome, that’s where reps need to concentrate their efforts. If you can speak to a customer and empathize with them the conversation will be that much easier—you’ll be able to truly understand the customer’s needs.”—Ben Collet, Director of Global Advocacy, Enterprise and Strategic Accounts, Zendesk
Empowering employees with the knowledge and authority they need to solve problems is key to a successful customer interaction. Great reps have the freedom, within the scope of their work, to make decisions that best serve each customer.
“Reps need to feel assured that they are trusted and have the appropriate power to act and solve a problem.”—Jeanne Bliss, President, CustomerBliss
Friendliness is a basic expectation for employees who interact with customers on a daily basis. Contact center environments are often fraught with heavy workloads and frustrated customers. Great customer service reps remain friendly—despite these realities—and interact with customers in a warm, engaging manner.
“People who work in the customer service and support space are by nature warm, helpful and caring. Yet once you put a headset on them, they seem to lose all sense of humanity. Customer service and support contact centers created this environment and leaders must unravel this and evolve.”—Hui Wu-Curtis, GM, Customer Service Operations and Strategy, Arizona Public Services
An important aspect of customer service is making the customer feel heard—this can make all the difference during a challenging interaction. Great sales reps listen carefully to the customer to discern exactly what they need and ask thoughtful questions to increase clarity between the customer and the rep.
“The most important thing you can do as a professional is to listen to your customer and be sure that you are are listening well.”—Brian Costanzo, President, SOCAP International
If a customer service rep doesn’t know how to answer the question or handle the problem, all the willingness to listen or help won’t do much good. Customer reps need to be equipped with the knowledge of their employer’s products and services.
“Customer service reps need to know their company’s products, service, policies, and procedures. Your customer is contacting you because they need an expert’s help.”—Jeff Toister, Founder, Toister Performance Solutions, Inc.
Mindful reps are more aware of their internal, natural reactions—and it allows them to respond deliberately and offer superior service. When reps practice mindfulness with customers, they read situations more accurately and better gauge how to personalize interactions. Mindful reps are also more aware of their internal reactions so they can respond deliberately to offer superior service.
“It’s important for reps to understand the impact of their decisions and their commentary.”—Troy Mills, CEO and Founder, Customer Care Advisory
Launch customer service rep performance to new heights
The time to plan and prepare for the future of customer service is now.
Forward-thinking customer service leaders identify disruptive trends, train reps on essential skills, and empower reps to provide superior service—all of which drive team performance. In that spirit, we’ve put together The Future of Customer Service: Insights for the Best Customer Service Teams in the Galaxy. This ebook includes expert advice from today’s customer service leaders and will help launch your team to success.