Customer service skills

106Customer service training is a key part of inducting staff into your company, so that they know what is expected of them. It is also a competency that may be sought when recruiting new staff.

What are the skills and competencies you need to look for in customer service staff?



  • Patience- they must be able to calm down irritable customers and spend time with them , allowing them to vent their wrath if necessary
  • Listening skills. Not the ability to hear, but to LISTEN
  • Interpreting what is said. For example customers may not tell staff the website layout is difficult to navigate, but if they keep getting feedback that people can’t find information they need, they need to work that out.
  • Communication skills are important to avoid misunderstandings. E.g. if an employee tells a customer something will be included, they may expect it to be free. If they actually mean “included and charged for” that may result in unhappy customers.
  • Complete product knowledge. They must be able to discuss the details of the product with customers to understand and address their problems
  • Use of positive language. Avoid using words like “unfortunately “or “I’m afraid “If someone says “Sorry we don’t offer that service “whilst strictly true, that coveys a negative feeling to the customer. If they say “We offer a service that covers that requirement and also allows you to … “that gives a much more positive message.
  • Confidence to escalate a problem to a supervisor if they can’t deal with it. This saves everyone’s time, energy and patience
    Empathy with customers –the ability to understand their wants and needs and what is in important to them in this situation
    Ability to keep calm and offer support to the customer who may be under stress.
  • Ability to think on their feet and handle unusual problems and offer a solution to the customer
  • Powers of persuasion. Sometimes future sales, and immediate sales retention, depend on your customer service staff being able to convince customers this is the right product in spite of any difficulties they may be encountering.
  • Go the extra mile –this should need no explanation!
  • Checking the customer is completely satisfied. “Is there anything else I can help you with? “
  • Continuous improvement -Willingness to build on skills and improve performance.

Why do you need a complaints procedure?

When a customer feels their expectations have not been met, he or she may make a complaint, bringing a problem to the attention of the organisation. They will expect some redress that involves more than simply supplying the original product or service that was the cause of the complaint.

If you don’t deal with customers complaints effectively they will spread the word to friends and family, and maybe even mention it in social media.

There are real benefits in dealing effectively with complaints. Research shows that most customers would recommend a company to their friends, even if something had gone wrong, if a complaint had been resolved.

Most customers will pay more for excellent service, which involves good service and great customer service.

How to handle complaints effectively

The first thing you need is a clearly stated policy, so that staff and customers both know what to expect.

Complaints should be welcomed, not treated as a nuisance. If a customer bothers to tell you what is wrong with your service, then it may help you to avoid the situation recurring and improve the service to your other customers.

You need to train staff in the correct method of handling complaints. Whoever is tasked with this, it is difficult and stressful, and they need the appropriate authority to resolve problems. The only thing worse than experiencing bad service, is being told by staff that it isn’t their fault, they can’t do anything etc etc.

Expect complaints to come in by post, phone, email, or in person and your system must be able to deal with all of these and respond to every complaint.

There should be a complaints log maintained .This is necessary both for follow up, and to inform training and new process development

Staff training

  • Staff should understand these basic principle of complaint handling;-
  • Thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention, and apologise for the problem
  • See the issue from their point of view rather than justifying the company’s position. Empathise with them.
  • Let them explain their situation, get all the facts, don’t assume you know what their problem is. It will calm them down to explain the problem, and know they are listened to.
  • Understand the problem and make sure it is resolved so that it doesn’t happen again. Make sure the problem is corrected. , and staff are trained appropriately. The next customer may not complain, just walk away.
  • Thank the customer again for highlighting the problem. Compensate them if appropriate, or offer a free gift, discount, or voucher for future purchases.