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Career Advice

Essential Skills for Customer Service

A recent report tracking the level of satisfaction with customer service in the UK has revealed that this crucial factor in so many industries has fallen to its lowest level in 5 years. Whilst the figures are of course contestable, it got us thinking about what exactly constitutes good customer service?

Most businesses (and especially the big ones) are completely obsessed with the level of customer satisfaction that they provide, and there’s a very good reason for this. It’s the same reason why the term ‘the customer is always right’ is so enshrined in our psyche; customers despise what they perceive to be poor service and will happily vote with their feet in protest to it.

If you have ever worked in retail, we’d wager that your CV almost certainly contains the phrase ‘providing good customer service’ in your list of job duties. That’s all fine and dandy, but to help you really stand out against the competition perhaps we can find a better way of putting it.

What skills are involved in providing good customer service?Customers 2

It’s easy to provide excellent customer service when everyone is happy and no one has any complaints to make, but great customer service providers really come into their own when dealing with a difficult situation. Yes employers care that you will have a smile on your face and greet customers with a cheery ‘good morning’, but anyone can do that, this is why in application forms and interviews the questions are almost always geared towards the handling of difficult situations.
Below are 5 key skills and attributes that you can call upon to show you have what it takes.




We have put this one at the top of the list for a reason.  If you don’t have patience in a customer facing role then this will undermine any other attempt to provide good service that you make. Difficult situations arise in customer service roles, that’s just a fact of life. You may even find that customers get snappy (and perhaps even ill mannered) when seeking a resolution to an issue; someone who is skilled in customer service will identify that in most cases this frustration is not aimed at them.  To most customers you and the business that you work for are indivisible from one another, and by being patient with them you can help project a positive image of your employer.

This is such an important quality to have in a customer service role that it forms the basis of a question which regularly crops up in job interviews and application forms. It usually goes something like this “Can you tell us about a time when a customer came to you with a complaint and explain how you resolved their issue and left them feeling satisfied”?



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This might sounds like a wishy-washy sort of skill to list on your CV, but in our experience it under-rides everything that is expected of an employee in regards to customer service.  Being able to put yourself in the position of a customer ultimately increases your understanding of their issue and provides an extra incentive to help find a positive solution. This comes naturally to some but for many, finding empathy with a customer and their situation is a skill that needs to be honed and perfected over time.

Whilst you are unlikely to hear the question “tell us about a time when you showed empathy with a customer” any question about dealing with a difficult customer complaint or situation will give you an opportunity to introduce this skill.  Employers love to hear that you can relate to your customers because it means that you will help add an extra level of human interaction to their operation.


Pragmatic Thinking

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This will often be referred to as ‘being a problem solver’ or ‘taking the initiative’ and simply means having the mental dexterity to quickly resolve difficult situations and find creative ways to ensure customer satisfaction. This skill is important within a huge range of roles, but it is especially useful when working in customer facing roles where showing initiative and ‘going above and beyond’ to please a customer, can really help to project a positive image of the company you work for.   As a customer there is nothing as frustrating as a customer service representative who isn’t willing to think of ways to help resolve an issue; and this is something which employers are very well aware of.

In an interview or on an application form there are many questions that you may be asked which will allow you to describe this skill, but the ones that give the most scope for development include ‘tell us about a time when you showed initiative’ and ‘tell us about a time when you went above and beyond to help a customer’.


Responsibility and Ownership

Whilst you might not be personally responsible for an issue or complaint that a customer may have, you as a customer service representative are responsible for ensuring that the situation is dealt with in the best possible way.  This skill is as much about taking pride in the work that you do, as it is about making people happy.  A good employer will help you to build this sense of pride in and ownership of your work but, where this is not the case, a strong natural work ethic can be indispensable in providing an excellent level of customer service. Having this skill demonstrates the difference between a person who takes fulfilment from their work and one who is simply there to pick up a paycheck at the end of the month. Therefore it is one that employers love to see on application forms and hear about in interviews.


Professionalism and manners

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Maintaining a certain level of professionalism is integral to providing excellent customer service. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a personality-free corporate robot, but customers have an expectation of how they will be treated by a company and it is important that you meet their expectations.

Exactly what it means to be professional is difficult to pin down, although we can all think of instances where we have encountered behaviour that would be considered unprofessional.  We reckon being professional means that you behave in a manner that is always considerate of the customers opinion of the company that you work for. Understanding this will help you to show an employer that you are a person who can be trusted with the reputation of their business and ultimately contribute to constantly improving it.

If you found this useful then you might like to take a look at some of these recent posts;

The skills you need for a career in Health and Safety

Six ways to become more employable in 2015





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