Customer service is easily one of the most valuable and underrated roles that you’ll find in a business. Without customer service, there is no bridge between product and consumer.
If you love interacting with people, but have a hard time pushing for a sale, customer service could be the perfect career choice! Now, where do you begin?
First, Let’s Squash the Stigma
Customer service gets a really bad rap. I think the majority of this comes from the idea that you’ll always be dealing with irate and difficult customers.
This is simply not true.
While they do exist, difficult customers aren’t the majority of who you interact with. In most cases, you’re helping someone sort out a situation that is causing confusion and discomfort for them. It’s very rewarding to witness and at the same time, you’re helping your company develop a welcoming and trustworthy reputation, which leads to a loyal customer base.
Without customer service, there’s not as much opportunity to strengthen the relationship that allows your business to survive. Remember that irate person I mentioned earlier? Imagine how much they’re going to love what you offer once you help them sort out everything they’re struggling with.
Sales generates customers, but customer service keeps them.
Luckily for you, it’s not difficult to get quality experience in customer service. Most of the time, the first few jobs a person will hold end up being retail or fast food. These are often overlooked, but hold great opportunity to really develop your customer service skills.
And the best thing about a customer service role? It’s one of the best roles to leverage as you grow in your career. From customer service, you can grow into sales, marketing, tech support, and many other jobs. Even if you want to be a public speaker, a podcaster, or a videographer, the skills you learn in customer service will be invaluable.
So, how can you make sure that you squeeze every last drop of value from your entry level service job?
1. Get out of your head
The first step to quickly identifying value is simply put. Stop convincing yourself that there is no value to be found. The sooner you can accept and understand that every job you will ever work in your life will teach you something or produce value for you in some way or another, the sooner you can figure out what it is and maximize it.
2. Harness your inner actor
In a customer service position, you’re playing the role of a very optimistic helper that is happy to assist in any way needed.
I get it. Not everyone is like this naturally, but that’s why you should look at it as a performance. Even if you’re frustrated, sad, exhausted, etc you can step away from yourself and be something completely different for your time at work. You’ll notice when you start doing this, it becomes much easier to handle those difficult customers I mentioned earlier.
3. Break out the psychology!
The human mind is interesting. The majority of people I spend my time with find an interest in the study of psychology. Often times, this is used as a way to justify interest in marketing. I can understand that, but I’m going to make the case that you get to utilize it just as much in customer service.
The quicker you are to realize what someone wants or needs out of a specific interaction, the more effective you become. Additionally, having the skill to word answers in a way that is specifically tailored to help that individual understand and see the benefit is also very valuable.
You’ll analyze reactions and craft a response that balances it well, begin to understand specific archetypes of people, and a lot more. Keeping your eye on this kinds of things will allow you to learn some pretty important aspects of communication and interaction with others. These skills are transferable as well, and will likely follow you to the end of your career. If you like psychology, this is a promising avenue for you.
One of the quickest way to ensure you’re walking away with all the value you can get is to reflect at the end of each day upon what you’ve accomplished and where you created the most value for people. This is super important in any role, but especially customer service. You don’t have sales metrics to measure and you don’t have traffic indicators like the ones used to calibrate marketing.
You may have satisfaction reviews, but that’s not always the case. In this field, you have to be deliberate in identifying what you’ve done well and where you can improve. Set time aside to do this daily if you need to and it will eventually habituate.
5. Take your time
All in all, I think the most important piece of the puzzle is taking time to really get to know who you’re working with and why they’ve come to you. How are they feeling? Why?
These pieces of information not only make it easier to help them, but easier for you to understand where they’re coming from to instill trust and comfort while they work with you.
Again, customer service is what keeps business going. If you have a job opportunity in that field, and you love interacting with people, don’t pass it up!
People don’t say “Everyone should have a service job at least once” for no reason. It’s worth it, I promise.
Whether you’re helping a customer reset their password or resolving product issues, it is important to understand why they’ve come to you and how the world looks from their perspective. Not everyone comes from a tech savvy background, so if there are some instructions they’re struggling with, you should be able to adjust. Empathy is square one for any customer service agent.
2. Email Communication
Nobody likes waiting around for service. Especially if something’s broken. If you have an email outlet, you should be proficient in producing timely and thoughtful replies. These emails should include clear instructions to resolve the ticket, or questions that will get you to a point of understanding that allows you to tie everything up ASAP.
Of course, it’s not always that easy, but email shouldn’t be what gets in your way. Reply within 24 hours, proofread (check out Grammarly if this is something you struggle with!), and be as clear as you can. The only thing worse than waiting for an email is taking an multi-email thread to resolve a simple issue.
3. Verbal Communication
Very similar to email skills, verbal communication will be more of what you’ll see. Again, you need to make sure your customer feels heard and taken care of. Look them in the eyes and smile! (Even if you don’t want to) Smiling is contagious and will take you far in a role like this.
Another big piece of verbal communication comes from the clarity of your speech. There’s no harm in having a few one liners that you use frequently to answer repeating questions. The more sure of yourself you are in the answers you give, the more your customers will be able to trust you. If this is a skill that you need to work on, finding a local Toastmaster’s group could be useful.
Chances are very high that you’ll need to document your tickets and calls somewhere. To ensure efficiency and proficiency in your role, you need to make sure that you can at least type 50-55 words per minute. Even if you’re not documenting, this definitely ties into email communication skills. In this day and age, typing is a necessary skill, so invest some time into developing your abilities if needed. You can find typing tests super quickly, but the one I use to keep track of where I’m at can be found here.
5. Emotional Intelligence
This is a big one. Like everything on this list, it applies to any role, but customer service especially. If empathy is outward facing, this skill should be facing inward. If you’re having a rough day, just went through a breakup, or are grieving for any reason at all, you need to be able to put those feelings aside for the time you’re at work. I promise you that not only will customer’s notice, but it will affect your productivity during the day if you allow these things to maintain a hold on your mind.
Additionally, if you do run into those irate customers, the ability to remain calm and helpful will diffuse them, but also prevent you from getting upset and affecting your workflow.
Tools You Should Master
Salesforce is growing very rapidly, and service centers everywhere are quickly picking up on its abilities. You’ll likely end up logging notes, tickets, and contacts into Salesforce as you work, so it’s wise to understand how the program operates. Take some time to poke around on Youtube and Trailhead to get the information you need.
2. Softphone Services
This isn’t something you’ll encounter everywhere, but it’s common enough to include. You’ll see softphones in call centers mostly, but they are around the startup world. These programs allow you to make and receive calls on your computer using a headset. This means your hands are free to do whatever you need to do on your screen as you assist the customer. There’s a lot of different companies out there, but they all work in similar ways. If you’re looking for a few examples to look into, check out UJet, Avaya, and Google Voice.
Trello is fantastic. It’s easy to use and a staple for organization. You can design your workspace however is most efficient for you and utilize it however you’d like. It’s a great tool to organize tickets (unresolved and resolved), as well as any troubleshooting steps you want to keep track of. If you’re like me and struggle to organize mentally, having a visual outlet to make sure everything is taken care of can be immensely valuable.
- Take an improv class! This can help when dealing with those really uncommon and obscure comments/requests.
- Keep energy levels high for as long as possible. Even if you’re smiling, your body language can tell people that you don’t want to be there.
- Appreciate the hard days. When you’ve dealt with difficult customers, complicated problems, and confusing situations, you come out of the day a little bit stronger and filled with new experiences to draw from in the future.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer
- How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes
- How to Give Great Customer Service: The L.A.S.T Method
- TEDx: I Was Seduced by Exceptional Customer Service
- Customer Service Expressions for Various Situations
- How Emily leveraged her customer service experience to help her land her dream job
- VIDEO: How to Ask Good Questions
- Forward Tilt Podcast