Have you ever said, “I would like to speak with a manager?”
Most people have.
When a customer has a really bad experience, talking with a manager is the easiest way to get their needs met. So, managers deal with grievances that are too difficult for employees to solve.
They struggle with a full range of personalities, all of whom feel that they’ve been misguided, underserved, or genuinely ripped off by a business.
To de-escalate these situations, managers need to master a full toolkit of customer service skills. These 30 must-have competencies empower even the newest manager to resolve even the trickiest customer service dilemmas:
Patience is an acquired virtue — people need to practice it to hone the skill. It’s also the backbone of a successful customer service manager. With patience, you can help connect people to solutions without rushing them or the process.
Advanced Communication Skills
The basics won’t cut it when it comes to communication skills. Managers need to become adept experts at conveying an idea or concept in a way that resonates with people. To practice this skillset, use easy-to-understand language and bring sincerity to the conversation with a clear voice.
Managers are the ultimate decision makers in difficult situations. To have a positive impact, they need to feel confident in their choices. A wishy-washy approach sends a negative message to both staff members and customers.
Sometimes, managers need to break their own rules for the good of the business. The best leaders use discretion, and approach each issue as a separate case. When making exceptions to company policy, always act out of integrity.
Sometimes a customer won’t take no for an answer. In these types of situations, managers need to negotiate between the needs of both their team and the client.
A Growth Mindset
According to Carol Dweck, developing a growth mindset — or the belief that through hard work, feedback, and good strategies you can improve — is the key to success at anything. Practice a growth mindset by seeing every customer service challenge as an opportunity to develop as a manager.
Most people only remember 25 to 50% of what they hear. But by actively paying attention to the message of customers and showing that you’re listening, you can increase your retention rate.
If your customer feels heard, they’re a lot more likely to drop their hostility or issue.
If managers think they already know everything, they can’t learn from or help a customer. Humility brings a different tone to the conversation, communicating acceptance and a willingness to learn from a customer.
Ability to Problem Solve
Sometimes, there’s not a clear solution to a customer service quandary. Rather than using a cookie-cutter response, the best managers come up with creative solutions to unique problems. For great examples, look at companies like Nordstrom and Zappos, who are famous for innovating in their customer service.
A Cool Head
Flying off the handle doesn’t help anyone. Maintaining cool neutrality (and not taking anything personally) gives managers the bandwidth to address an issue head-on without creating a bigger mess.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines empathy as the ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings. Managers in every industry would benefit from putting themselves in the customer’s shoes in order to truly solve a problem.
Despite its association with empathy, compassion is actually a different skill. It’s the desire to help relieve someone of their suffering. Practicing compassion at work brings a greater sense of purpose and dedication to customer service management as a vocation.
Resolving conflicts starts with understanding. Do you really get the issue? Always mirror the exact words of customers back to them to make sure you’re hitting the mark. This kind of conflict resolution models the best behavior for employees too.
Customer service is a person-to-person activity that often takes place through advanced technology. Technical fluency with basic software programs is a necessary skill in the 21st-century customer service. Even a manager at a brick-and-mortar store may need to respond to a negative review on Yelp.
Mindfulness is undoubtedly a buzzword — and it’s an important one. It refers to bringing awareness to one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Mindfulness brings calm acknowledgment to any crisis and diffuses rather than adds to toxic emotions to a conversation.
Customer service is inherently stressful. During stressful conversations, managers need to step out of “fight or flight” mode to reduce their own stress level and that of their employees.
Managers benefit from practicing generosity with their customers. If they can solve an issue by going above-and-beyond, it’s worth the lost revenue to protect the company’s reputation.
If managers have a basic understanding of psychology, they’re more likely to accurately pinpoint the type of customer you’re dealing with. Empowered with this understanding, they can make sure to appeal to the customer’s distinct personality type.
It’s important that businesses respond to and resolve complaints as fast as possible. For customers, time is everything. By effectively using their time, managers optimize the likelihood of a happy client.
Deep Product Knowledge
Managers should know their products even better than their staff members. This kind of product knowledge makes it easier to identify and fix problems ASAP.
Saying “I’m Sorry”
A lot of people say “I’m sorry” the wrong way. Rather than take responsibility, they make excuses and minimize the problem. When apologizing, managers should always offer a clear solution and promise to do better next time.
Managers set the precedent — not just for other staff members — but for customers too. By thinking positive and looking for solutions, they’re more likely to appease the needs of everyone.
Customer service requires an incredible work ethic. Once you have solved one issue, you’re managing the next one. A work ethic keeps managers going, even at the end of a long shift.
Awareness of Body Language
Let’s say you return soup at a restaurant because it’s cold. If the manager comes to your table and apologizes with a scowl on their face and their arms folded, you know they don’t mean it. Managers need to be aware of the messages non-verbal they send every day.
Tone of Voice
Just as with body language, your tone of voice can ruin every customer experience. Sounding petty, exasperated, or frustrated won’t add up to a resolution. Keep your voice calm, strong, and consistent.
When faced with raised voices, name calling, and verbal threats, managers need to practice strong boundaries. Sometimes, this means severing a relationship with a client or even getting the authorities involved.
Managers need to hold themselves accountable to the promises they make to customers. Do you have a return policy? Stick to it. Accountability also creates consistency, which are two hallmarks of outstanding customer service.
Appreciation for Feedback
Bad feedback from customers isn’t necessarily bad. It can help managers to make the necessary improvements, pointing out issues before they start to affect the bottom line. The best managers practice appreciation when it comes to receiving even the worst feedback.
The Willingness to Ask for Help
By knowing when to ask for help, managers ensure that they’re never overwhelmed by too many issues at once. Asking general managers, business owners, or even CEOs for their input reinforces positive decisions.
Managers need to end a customer service conversation when it’s over, especially when a client continues to harp on a now-resolved problem again and again. Ideally, managers finish an interaction once they have confirmed that the customer is satisfied with the resolution.
These 30 ultimate customer service skills enable managers to rise above any problem, no matter the severity of the predicament or the unique context at play. To offer an even stronger customer experience, spread these skills to your entire team. Share this list with your employees and incorporate the skills into onboarding and training programs.