employees serve customers in a busy cafe

The 34 Most Important Customer Service Skills You Need To Have

The cornerstone of every great business is customer service. By extension, then, success in business relies on your, and your employee’s, customer service skills.

You might think the cornerstone of your business is a great product or an effective management team. But those things are worth much less without the ability to make your customers happy.

Sure, your awesome product or service may keep them happy for a while, but sooner or later, someone is going to find something wrong and will make that thing known.

What are you as a manager or employee going to do in those instances? Dismiss the customer and move on? No, of course not. You’re going to do your best to solve the problem so you don’t lose that customer, and potentially, many more.

That’s why it’s so important to cultivate top-notch customer service skills in yourself and every single employee who works for you. But what exactly are “top-notch” customer service skills?

We’ve created this list of the 34 most important customer service skills you need to have to make your business successful.

These skills are even great for the everyday dealings with customers that don’t involve a complaint. We’ll come at them from the perspective of problem-solving, but use them every day to make your customers happy.

Let’s get started!

Important customer service skills

1) Respect

The idea behind respect is that you treat others the way you would like to be treated. If you had a problem, you wouldn’t want to be dismissed or ignored, would you? Of course not.

The same goes for the person who has come to you with an issue to resolve. Regardless of their attitude, good customer service skills dictate that you be respectful at all times.

Here are some simple ways that you can show respect:

  • Use their name
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Look at them while they’re speaking
  • Wait until they’re finished before offering a response

2) Patience

Man with good customer service skills and patience

Customers with problems are going to want to talk. They’re going to want to explain every last detail to you. Sometimes, they’re going to keep talking even after you got the point.

An employee with good customer service skills will wait patiently and let the customer talk until they’re finished. This helps the customer feel like they’re being heard and can go a long way toward making the situation better.

One way to cultivate patience is to remember that, most of the time, the customer is not upset with you personally.

3) Self-control

Some customers are going to keep their voice low, stay calm, and communicate in a rational way.

Others, however, are going to let their emotions get the better of them and come at you with yelling and harsh words. Some may even insult you directly.

It’s these situations that demand strong self-control. By staying calm, you allow the customer to vent his frustration without creating an antagonistic situation that could get even more heated.

Keep in mind that the customer may just want to be heard, and this is the only way he knows to make that happen. Let him have his say and then work to resolve the issue.

An effective way to maintain self-control during a confrontation is to take a few deep breaths and count to 10 before responding.

4) Concern

Good customer service skills include being concerned about the well-being of the customer regardless of the problem she is having.

Concern for the customer goes back to being concerned for the reputation and success of the business itself.

If an employee isn’t concerned with the success of the business, he’s not going to be concerned about the happiness of the customer.

5) Attentiveness

When a customer has a problem, he wants to be given the attention necessary to get the situation resolved. That means more than just taking the time to fix whatever is wrong.

Attentiveness means making eye contact, listening to what the customer has to say, following the conversation, and responding appropriately.

It does not mean, looking elsewhere, focusing on something else, and only hearing part of what the customer said. When you focus on the customer — when you’re attentive — you’ll often see a simple way that you can resolve the issue for the best.

6) Empathy

Empathy is the ability to sense and understand the emotions of others. It’s essentially putting yourself in the emotional shoes of the customer.

Many will argue that empathy is the most important customer service skill out there. True, it is an important piece of the puzzle, but it’s only one skill among many that make good customer service possible.

To practice empathy, try to feel what the customer is feeling, then think about how you can make those bad feelings go away. It takes a bit of effort, but everyone can be empathetic if they really try.

7) Flexibility

Flexibility is crucial when dealing with customer problems. The rules may state clearly that you don’t give away free products or services.

Sometimes, though, that may be exactly what is necessary to resolve an issue. An occasional bending of the rules to make a customer happy should not be discouraged.

That doesn’t mean letting the customer run roughshod all over you. But you, and your employees, need to be flexible enough to make exceptions from time to time.

8) Communication skills

Group of friends with good communication skills

Good customer service communication skills involve more than just the words you say, although those are important, too. Good communication skills involve body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and much more.

When conversing with an irate customer, try these simple tips for good communication:

  • Keep your body relaxed
  • Show a bit of concern on your face
  • Keep your tone of voice calm and neutral
  • Try to use positive language (words like can, will, help, resolve) when responding

These communication skills can help defuse even the most difficult situations.

9) Effective listening

There are two outcomes to every conversation:

  1. You can correctly interpret what the customer is trying to say so that she will be completely understood.
  2. You can misinterpret what the customer is trying to say so that she will be misunderstood.

The customer service skill that separates those two outcomes is effective listening. And effective listening is about more than just hearing what the customer has to say.

Effective listening involves understanding both what is being said and what is left unsaid. Often, it is what is unsaid that is more important than what is said.

Not being able to discern between these two things can cause communication to break down and lead to customer frustration and dissatisfaction.

10) Responsibility

Above all else, customers want someone to take responsibility for their problem. Even if it has nothing to do with you, take it upon yourself to get involved.

Reassure the person that you will stay with this problem until it has been resolved. That removes the burden from the shoulders of the customer and makes them feel like they’re moving toward a resolution.

11) Efficiency

Efficiency as a customer service skill

Solving some customer complaints may involve more than just giving away a free pizza or a ball cap.

Sometimes, the process of resolution involves numerous steps. That’s when efficiency becomes an important customer service skill.

Don’t neglect the problem. Instead, stick with it and work for a solution as quickly as possible with as few steps as necessary.

A quick resolution to a problem, even if it involves multiple steps, can make a customer feel valued and reinforces his perception of your business.

12) Not easily offended

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Customers are going to get angry. They’re going to yell and scream. Sometimes, at you specifically.

The ability not to take offense will go a long way in these emotionally charged situations. Try to stay calm even if you’re being insulted, and don’t let your anger rear its ugly head. Anger on your part will only make the situation worse.


13) Tenacity

Tenacity, also known as determination, is a key component of the good customer service skills we’re talking about here.

Tenacity is the drive to reach a successful resolution to the problem despite the work it might require. Tenacity is a motivation to go beyond the status quo in order to help a customer have a positive and enjoyable experience.

Cultivate that quality in yourself and your employees for a truly stellar customer service experience.

14) Positive attitude

You’d be surprised how far maintaining a positive attitude can go toward solving customer problems. Staying positive under pressure, often in the face of antagonism and negative emotions, can have a calming effect on the entire situation.

When you stay positive, you can influence the angry customer to calm down and take a better view of things. That makes finding a solution so much easier.

15) Decisiveness

Sometimes, the simplest way to solve a problem is to be decisive: Make the decision and then stick to it. Encouraging employees to make decisions, and then backing them up after they do, can bring about a quick resolution to most problems.

It can even keep problems from ballooning into something monstrous. If an employee is presented with a complaint and the solution is obvious and simple, give them the freedom to be decisive — to make the decision on their own.

16) Persistence

Persistence is the ability to stick with the customer’s problem until it is resolved. Persistence shows the customer that she is valued and that her problem isn’t being dismissed out of hand.

That simple act of being persistent in trying to make the customer happy can go a long way toward solving the problem. The customer will see your concern and soften her attitude accordingly.

17) Creativity

Example of creativity

No two problems are ever the same. Because of that, resolving the wide variety of issues that may pop up can require a healthy dose of creativity.

Creative solutions can stick in your customer’s mind and set you apart from other businesses that offer rote responses. Encourage creative problem-solving to make your business stand out.

18) A sense of humor

A sense of humor can go a long way toward defusing a sticky situation. Just make sure you are never laughing at the customer.

If they make a joke, fine, laugh along. But never insult the customer or make light of their situation, even in a funny way. That doesn’t help the situation at all.

19) Assertiveness

Assertiveness means taking control of the situation and doing what needs to be done to reach a successful conclusion. Assertiveness and decisiveness often go hand in hand.

When dealing with customer problems, try not to be meek or passive. This can cause the customer to lose faith in you.

That said, try not to be aggressive. Such negative behavior can cause the customer to take offense. Assertiveness occupies the middle ground between those two extremes.

Be confident and speak accordingly, and it will come across as assertive.

20) Persuasiveness

Some customers will accept your solution right away. Others will take a bit of talking to before they come around.

Persuasiveness is key to these types of situations. You may not always have to be persuasive in your dealings with customers, but it’s nice to have this customer service skill in the bag for when you need it.

21) Curiosity

#becurious about customer service skills

Every business needs a robust customer service strategy, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Staying curious and asking questions about the process as a whole can help you find ways to improve the way you work.

It can also help you see how your customer service program fits into the strategies and goals your business has set for itself.

At that point, curiosity can lead to impactful solutions that improve the way your team interacts with your customer base.

22) Willingness to learn

Customer behavior can change rapidly — sometimes, it seems, overnight — due to novel touchpoints, channels of interaction, and methods of relating to people of all sorts.

You and your customer service team don’t have to know it all, but it can be very helpful to maintain a willingness to learn and be taught.

Doing so can make it easier to adapt and accommodate your customers’ preferences and communication styles in the face of rapid change.

23) Resilience

Resilience is one of those customer service skills that few people think about until after they’ve experienced a particularly difficult client interaction.

A resilient person may be able to take a few deep breaths, make a conscious decision not to go on (or stay on) the defensive, and interact with the next person as if nothing happened.

Try practicing mindful and deliberate resilience, and you may see improvements in the way you and your team relate to your customers.

24) Ability to negotiate

In the process of dealing with customers, you and your team may be asked to provide solutions that satisfy the best interests of both parties involved.

Finding a solution that makes everyone happy — both customer and business — can be extremely difficult. Good negotiating skills make it easier.

Such negotiation skills may even benefit your business by making it more flexible when new and existing clients ask you to do something you’ve never done before. You may be able to negotiate a more mutually-beneficial result.

25) Product knowledge

Knowledge is essential for dealing with customers who have questions about the products or services that your business offers.

Product knowledge can give you a better understanding of the pinch points involved in the customer experience. That, in turn, can help you find the right solutions in a timely and clear manner.

If you and your team are asked to support some technical aspect of the customer experience, it’s especially important that you all have both a deep and broad understanding of how the product or service works.

26) Collaboration

Handshake display of customer service skills

All businesses rely on collaboration. And that collaboration manifests itself on two distinct levels: with customers and with coworkers.

Interacting with customers is as much a collaboration as it is a problem-solving endeavor. If you and your team view the interaction as an opportunity to work together, it can make the entire experience better.

Customer service can, at times, require that you and your team work together — or even with other departments — to find a solution to the problem. A willingness to collaborate can be the key to this endeavor.

27) Problem-solving

It might not be at the top of everyone’s favorite customer service skills list, but strong problem-solving may mean the difference between a less-than-satisfactory outcome and one that everyone can be happy about.

To boost your problem-solving skills, try this simple process:

  • Acknowledge the problem at hand
  • Take a step back
  • Look for feasible, acceptable, and simple solutions
  • Choose the most appropriate option

Take the time to document the results and share them among your team so that everyone can learn from the successes of others.

28) Positive language

Positive language is both a frame of mind and a way of interacting with a customer that avoids mention of any negatives that may come up.

While this may sound like optimism — which, in itself, is an important customer service skill — it’s more technical than just a positive attitude.

Think of it as a way of communicating that highlights the positive rather than the negative. Instead of, “I’m sorry, we don’t have that product in stock,” positive language could move you to say, “That product will be available in two weeks.”

This is a very simple and basic example, but it highlights how positive language can change the thinking and attitude of those you talk to.

29) Confidence

you got this in sidewalk chalk

Confidence is often a result of experience and product knowledge. But even without said experience and knowledge, a bit of confidence can go a long way toward making your customers feel like they’re getting the help they need.

If a team member has only been on the job for a short time and lacks a sense of confidence, encouraging them to focus on the feeling that they will be able to solve whatever problem comes their way may help them appear more confident to your customers.

30) Adaptability

Sometimes, the first solution you choose doesn’t work. In those cases, you want to be able to adapt and explore other options.

Cultivating adaptability in yourself — and in your team members — can help improve all your customer service skills and may even cross over into successful leadership.

31) Authenticity

Being authentic means that you’re actively trying to help everyone you talk to — not just make a renewal, hit a business target, or avoid looking bad to the higher-ups.

While authenticity is often a skill you either possess or you don’t, if you fall into the latter category, a little practice may go a long way toward improving how you come across to the customers on the other end of the phone or across the counter.

32) Professionalism

When interacting with customers and clients, exhibiting professionalism at all times is a good goal to set for yourself and your team.

There are many different levels of professionalism, but, first and foremost, practice putting any personal problems you and your team might be experiencing on the back burner before dealing with customers and clients.

Doing so will help the person on the other end of the exchange feel like they are important to the business and make them more amenable to the solutions you suggest.

33) Quick thinking

Quick thinking doesn’t mean you have to have the perfect solution right away. In many cases, thinking quickly may mean that you’re able to create more time to deal with the problem rather than fixing it immediately.

For example, if someone asks you a question to which you don’t know the answer, rather than hem and haw and delay, a quick-thinking employee may respond with something like, “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that question. May I do some research and call you right back?”

In most cases, the customer will appreciate the honesty and that the rep is giving their problem the attention that it deserves.

34) Time management

Employees that engage in customer support — whether it’s their full-time job or a small part of their regular activities — have to juggle a lot of different responsibilities.

For example, they may have to decide how much time to dedicate to a variety of different tasks, including:

  • Handling difficult clients
  • Responding to emails
  • Preparation for customer meetings
  • Researching difficult questions

To help with developing good time management customer service skills, try implementing an action matrix into your workflow.

Schedule time to improve customer service skills

Schedule time to improve customer service skills

As a busy manager, you and your team have a lot to do. It can be extremely difficult to find time to train your employees to develop their customer service skills, let alone work on your own soft skills.

That’s where tools like Sling come in.

Sling is a software suite whose sole purpose is to streamline and simplify every aspect of your workforce management, all with the goal of giving you more time to work on training your team, developing your own skills, and making your business run better.

Use the time you get back from automating your management tasks to work on building a team with strong customer service skills. You, your customers, and your employees will be glad you did.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.

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This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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