The saying, ‘The customer is always right,’ has stood the test of time for good reason. Every business relies on having a good relationship with its customers. Without customers, there is absolutely no chance of a business succeeding.

This is why it is essential for businesses to understand how to build and maintain positive relationships with their customers. In the absence of vital key customer service skills, there is a risk that you could let your customers, and ultimately your business, down.

Thankfully, good customer relations is not rocket science and there are a few simple steps that everybody in a customer-facing role should be able to master.

Here, we take a look at some of the most important skills necessary to improve your communication with customers. It’s about more than being a ‘people person’

Yes, this vague description will no doubt appear on the CV of many a candidate seeking a customer service position. But what exactly does being a ‘people person’ mean? Speaking in such general terms isn’t terribly helpful when you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of understanding how best to converse with and impress your customers.

Specifics are essential. So here are a few core skills that should always appear high on any list…

Patience

Great service beats fast service and most customers would rather a company take the time to really understand their problem or needs and work hard to find a solution than feel as though they are being rushed. Of course, no-one likes to be kept waiting for answers too long and there is a careful balancing act to be struck here.

However, in general, taking the time to fully understand your customers should top your customer service skills wish-list.

Equally, it’s important to remember that some customers may be reaching out to you with regard to something that they do not fully understand. This can lead to confusion and frustration. Remaining patient enough to deal with their issues even when they may be impatient themselves is not only the professional thing to do, it is the best way to quickly resolve a situation and move on.

Attentiveness

The ability to really listen to what your customers are saying is crucial. It’s about far more than simply listening to what they say directly to you. Learn to read between the lines and try to understand how they are feeling about your service without actually saying it.

Clear and concise communication

There is no room for ambiguity when dealing with customers because misunderstandings, however accidental, can lead to a loss of trust and reputational damage. Make sure that any important information you need to share with your customers is clear from the outset with no room for doubt.

Good product knowledge

This one sounds simple because it is. If you don’t know your product better than your customers, you can’t be in the best position to serve them when they encounter a problem.

The power of positivity

How you use language to communicate with your customers can have a dramatic effect on the way they feel you have dealt with them. For example, telling a customer that something they want isn’t available until next month because you don’t have it in stock and there is a backlog, does not sound as positive as telling them that you will take their order and get their goods to them as a matter of urgency when they arrive next month.

The message is essentially the same but the tone in the latter response is far more likely to leave the customer feeling valued and happy.

Happy face

Some people will always find something to complain about. When this happens, it’s important to maintain a cheery, helpful and professional persona in order to achieve the best possible outcome from the interaction.

Be aware of time management

Despite saying earlier that great service beats fast service, everybody has demands on their time and customers want to be dealt with efficiently. If you can’t help them, find somebody who can and keep moving towards a resolution. Nobody likes to feel their time is being wasted.

Be able to ‘read’ your customer

When much of today’s customer interaction uses technology, it can be harder to read the mood of your customer. Don’t guess at it and risk becoming over-familiar. Friendly and professional is a safe position from which to create a personalised experience for them. It’s important to be able to stay calm regardless as to the situation so that you can handle any surprises that can – and most likely will – be thrown at you.

Focus on the goal

Having clear goals is important to help maintain a focus and deliver a service based around guidelines that everyone understands.

The power of persuasion

Potential customers will want to know more about a product before deciding if it is right for them. Good customer service staff should be able to recognise this and use their skills of persuasion to convince a customer why they need the product.

Tenacity and empathy

Putting in that extra effort will pay off! Knowing when your customer is satisfied is a crucial skill in ensuring that your customer is left feeling valued and understood.