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November 8, 2014 | Client Service | Posted by Craig Baldwin Craig Baldwin

9 Customer Service Skills Every Professional Must Have

 

During my time in public accounting I noticed one nasty habit.

 
Anytime something went wrong on a job, it was immediately flagged as “poor client service.”

 

No one actually explained what customer (or client) service was. The term was thrown around like some amorphous catch-all, clearly no one understood it.

 

I’m convinced the manager told us that because he heard his boss say it, who heard her boss say it, who read it in a book, and told his management team about his brilliant new plan, “Deliver great client service!”

 
In an effort to avoid such confusion in the future, we’re going to share 9 customer service skills that every professional must have.

 
(I encourage you to print out this list and pin it up in your office where the most eyeballs will see it.)

 

Transparency

Transparency is the strongest proactive measure in avoiding customer service issues. It instills trust in relationships, allows problems to be solved faster, and creates authentic relationships to be formed (if you’re into that sort of thing).

 

Lack of transparency is the number one complaint I’ve received as a professional and the number one complaint I’ve given as a customer.

 

When customers are out of the loop on project progress or issues – anxiety rises, surprises occur, and time is wasted. Ta-dah, bad customer experiences.

 

I know most professionals are scared to let down their clients, but the cover-up is always worse than the crime. Customers understand mistakes, but patience runs thin when those mistakes are not communicated in a clear and timely manner.

 

Empathy

Empathy is viewed as a “joining” emotion – bringing two parties together in order to collaborate on issues effectively. Exactly the type of thing necessary for great customer service.

 

We all have different levels of empathy. Some professionals, like accountants, are believed to be less empathetic than their colleagues in the marketing department. But like many skills, empathy for the sake of empathy is worthless. It’s all about what you do with it.

 

An empathetic team is able to anticipate the needs and worries of a customer and react appropriately. Many bad customer experiences occur when the service person is unable to understand, and thus react, to the situation.

 

Purpose

In a perfect world, every team member and employee has purpose. It’s what drives us, gives us conviction, and enables us to deliver stellar performances.

 

For those same reasons, purpose is so important for delivering great customer experiences. If you’re not purposefully delivering the right experiences to customers, you’re not giving them the quality they deserve.

 

Nothing displays this better than this quote from John William Gardner, former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.

 

“Some people have greatness thrust upon them. Few have excellence thrust upon them. They achieve it. They do not achieve it unwittingly by doing what comes naturally and they don’t stumble into it in the course of amusing themselves. All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.”

 

Just imagine how happy your customers would be if you brought that attitude to work everyday?
 

Attentiveness

Touch points when service issues arise are typically brief. Customer has a problem, you clear it up, customer moves on with their life.

 

This is what makes attentiveness so important.

 

The moments you spend with a client or customer, you’re “on stage.”

 

You must listen to and comprehend each word in order to respond with precisely the right answer.

 

The more timely you can process customer issues, the more likely productivity stays intact for both parties. And don’t we all want a little more productivity back in our day?
 

Professionalism

In high pressure service industries like law and public accounting, professionalism is constantly under the microscope. For those of us hiding behind our computer monitors, the leash is a little looser.

 

EIther way, professionalism is one of the skills where you have little to gain but a lot to lose. Slips in professionalism not only affect customer experiences but can have a negative impact on the brands we work for.

 

Worried about how you’re viewed in front of your customers? Be the Peyton Manning of your team, and try your best to avoid looking like (no longer in the league) Terrell Owens.

 

Courtesy

When customer service is delivered with courtesy, it’s the icing on the cake. Going the extra steps to accommodate a last minute mishap, or sending a personal thank you are the types of acts which make personal impacts with customers.

 

This is why the types of service customers tell their friends about (on social media or otherwise) come from having courtesy and going the extra mile.

 

Even for those businesses at massive scale, each customer still wants to be treated as a person. Done well, courtesy can be the difference in your own service and differentiate you from the competition.
 

Responsiveness

Does anything drive you crazier than when you need an answer and the person responsible for getting back to you goes dark? Hours, days, and even weeks go by and you’re left in the lurch.

 

It’s a nightmare. That’s why responsiveness is so huge.

 

It’s so large, many tech companies now upsell their services with “priority support.”  Because delivering a great experience with lightning speed allows customers and clients to get back to their regular course of work. And for customers who can’t afford issues or downtime, responsive service is the difference between success and failure.

 

Decisiveness

We mentioned earlier that you are the master of your job, be the professional, the person people come to for answers. And when it’s your turn to provide value, people want authority, not uncertainty. That’s why decisiveness is so important.

 

It doesn’t mean act prematurely and risk the wrong answer. But try your best to deliver the right answer in a timely manner and act with authority to your customers. Those are the type of actions that instill trust in your customer relationships, and trust is key to repeat business.
 

Know that EVERY customer matters.

Which customer is your most important?

 

Trick question, they’re all the most important.

 

I take severe issue with businesses who rank and prioritize their customer base. That mind-set alone is the first thing to lead to bad customer experiences.

 

If you don’t have the bandwidth to give a customer or client the requisite amount of service – what should you do? Let them go.

 

Your company and brand will be better protected in the end than continuing to provide sub-par service to an existing customer.

 

There you have it, 9 customer service skills every professional must have. Feel like there’s still more to add? Good, because when it comes to the customer, there’s always room for more.
 

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  • jasonmblumer

    This post freakin’ rocks. Great reminders.

  • http://thisiskeep.com/ Keep.

    As always, Craig, you create and deliver exceptional content for your readers.