What Makes a Good Customer Service Representative?

Customer service representatives are the bridge between any business and its customers—whether they communicate face to face, on the phone, or via email or chat. When customer service representatives are excellent at their jobs, communication across the bridge is fast, clear, and friendly. When they aren’t up to the task, the bridge breaks down and companies lose customers.

The cost of poor customer service is high. According to research by NewVoiceMedia, a global call center software company, US companies lose an estimated $75 billion each year as a result of bad customer service. According to a 2016 report by Accenture, a global business services company, the cost of customers taking their business elsewhere due to poor service is closer to $1.6 trillion. Additionally, Accenture’s study found that 52 percent of consumers said they’ve switched companies based on bad customer service experiences.

These revenue losses are not caused by customer service representatives alone, but rather indicate deep issues with overall customer service approaches. However, they do illuminate the high value customers place on positive interactions with company representatives. Strong customer service representatives are a critical part of any successful business. But what are the qualities of the best customer service representatives—those who help avoid customer frustration and foster customer loyalty? Here are the top skills and traits of exceptional customer service representatives:

They Are Empathetic

Great customer service representatives put themselves in the customer’s shoes and understand problems from their point of view. This is important with every interaction, but especially when customers are angry or distraught. It’s human nature to become defensive when people are yelling at you, but empathy is generally the quickest way to diffuse the situation. In tense situations or when customers are on the offensive, good customer service representatives find common ground. Things you would likely hear them say include:

  • I’m sorry this happened.
  • I understand this is frustrating.
  • I would feel the same way.
  • You are right.

Only after expressing genuine concern about the issue would these representatives move into problem-solving mode.

These representatives also don’t take things personally, which allows them to maintain their empathy through long days spent grappling with countless problems. The customer may be saying ‘Your business is the worst!,’ but these representatives know what they mean is closer to: ‘I’m very upset. I gave you my money and you didn’t deliver what I expected.’ These representatives also understand that they have no idea what customers are facing in their life beyond the phone call, and that unrelated situations can contribute to rude or impatient behavior.

Note: Being empathetic doesn’t extend to abusive situations. In these scenarios, the customer should be told you cannot help them unless they communicate respectfully. No one should be on the receiving end of screaming, cursing, or insults.

They Communicate Clearly

Many customer service issues are straightforward and resolved within a minute or two. If that were always the case, being a good customer service representative would be a snap. But the best customer service representatives shine when problems are unclear or complex. During the back and forth necessary to solve tough problems, these representatives ask clarifying questions. For example, they may say, “Can you explain what happened?” or “Can you describe the issue further?” They are also honest when they require help solving the issue, and they communicate the status of any resolution whether it’s close at hand or far off.

Strong customer service representatives say, “If I understand you correctly,” and then repeat the customer’s issue. Saying it out loud ensures they understand the problem accurately, and also helps customers realize they were unclear or left out important information.

Finally, skilled representatives clarify next steps when the problem is ongoing. They will let the customer know when they should expect to hear back, and who will contact them. Nothing will make a customer feel forgotten faster than long waits for information or updates.

They Enjoy Solving Problems

The best customer service representatives recognize and embrace that problem solving is the crux of their job. They know people aren’t contacting them to shoot the breeze, but are calling them with pressing questions, problems, or concerns with a product or service they’ve spent their hard-earned money on. While this should go without saying, most people have experienced customer service representatives who behave as though they’d rather be visiting the dentist than helping you with your problem.

Strong customer service representatives enjoy the process itself. They’ve got an ‘I’m on it!’ spirit that customers pick up on and appreciate.

They Have a Learning Mindset

Customer service representatives must become experts in the products and services of their company so they can understand customer queries, and help people troubleshoot through a phone call or webchat. And when new offerings roll out, they must get up to speed by the launch date. Excellent representatives are passionate about studying user manuals and understanding products backwards and forwards so they can answer questions without having to transfer calls to someone else.

These top service representatives are also always on the lookout for ways to improve, to problem-solve more effectively, and to help customers feel heard. They bring this mindset to every customer interaction, which allows them to listen without thinking they have all the answers and to pursue solutions creatively.

This may be their most important quality. Few customer service representatives will have every skill they need from the start. But when they have a learning mindset, they can cultivate any missing competencies in short order.

Need help recruiting skilled customer service representatives? Contact LINK Staffing.