10 Customer Service Skills for Success in Any Job

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Boost your business by mastering the most effective customer service skills.

[Featured Image] Two women sit chatting and laughing at work, hunched over computers.

When you walk into a cosmetics shop, and the salesperson asks if you need any help, that is customer service. When you call your credit card company to dispute a charge and speak with a representative, that’s customer service, too. 

Customer service plays an important role in attracting and retaining customers. Businesses can leverage good customer service to boost sales. Empathy, good communication, and problem-solving are core skills in providing excellent customer service.

In this article, you’ll learn customer service, its importance, and the top 10 customer service skills for a thriving business.

What is customer service?

Customer service is supporting customers before, during, and after their purchase. Someone providing customer service helps the customer navigate how to use the product or service and troubleshoot any errors or defects that may arise. The response is positive when a business is hospitable and puts customers first. 

Today, businesses also need to meet customers where they are shopping. E-commerce sales in the UK are higher than in any other country, making up nearly one-third of the retail market [1]. That means customer service should consider how to meet online customers at every touchpoint, in addition to in-person or phone interactions, to foster a holistic customer experience.

Whether you are a restaurant owner, waiter, technology start-up founder, or UX designer, delivering good customer service requires a human-centric approach. Though it can vary by industry, here are some common examples of good customer service attributes:

  • Speed: Customer receives a quick response and positive engagement.

  • Multi-channel communication: Customer service is available on multiple platforms, such as telephone, social media messaging, or live chat.

  • Personalised: Customer service is tailored to each customer.

  • Proactive: Answers, such as FAQs and product information, are available without the need to contact the business. Any other needs or desires are anticipated and addressed.

Why is customer service important?

Good customer service can improve a company’s sales and brand reputation. Customers tend to spend more money if they feel special and the service is tailored to their needs. According to the UK Customer Satisfaction Index report from The Institute of Customer Service, 35 percent of customers in the UK were willing to pay more for excellent service [2]. This, in turn, helps develop a positive brand association for future purchasing decisions.

Beyond a business’s bottom line, strong customer service skills can yield benefits internally. Informal feedback generated from customer interactions can be an invaluable resource for improving user experience (UX) and product design. Furthermore, hiring respectful, empathetic employees can enhance team collaboration and well-being. 

Brands known for customer service

Some of the biggest brands use customer service tactics to become associated with the brand. Apple is known for its personalised support portal, which allows you to view every product you’ve ever bought. It is linked to the Apple Genius bar, so you can easily book an appointment when you need support.

Ikea offers a 365-day return policy for every unopened purchase and 180 days for open shop-bought items, allowing customers to comfortably try out new items and decide whether to exchange for alternate products. Starbucks quickly replaces spilled drinks, and customers love seeing their names scrawled on the side of their coffee cups.


10 customer service skills for success

Anyone can learn these skills to build customer loyalty and foster strong relationships among employees and teams. You likely already possess some of these skills or need some practice to sharpen them.

1. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s emotions and perspective. Delivering a good customer experience requires tapping into their headspace to fulfill their needs. It means reading cues and anticipating what they want. The outcome of empathy can look like treating customers kindly when they enter your restaurant, allowing for refunds within 30 days, and assisting them in their decision-making process.

Example: A customer calls their internet service provider complaining that their WiFi has been spotty over the past week. The representative says, “I understand how frustrating that can be. Let me do some tests to troubleshoot the issue.”

2. Problem-solving

Being able to solve problems is key to customer service. If a customer contacts the business with an issue or complaint, the employee needs to figure out why they are experiencing the problem and how to fix it. Solving the problem may require you to be patient and respectful as they explain the problem. You should be able to have the necessary technical knowledge to help the customer resolve the issue and help them prevent it in the future.

Example: Over live chat, a customer cannot reset their password to log into their account. The representative performs a manual reset and then walks the customer through how to reset their password in the future.

3. Communication

Communication can occur in many forms, through various channels, penetrating customers through in-person interactions, the instruction manual, and social media copy. Effective communication is utilising clear and concise language when educating customers on products and company policies so that they feel confident making a purchase and feel that they’ll be supported even after the purchase. When speaking with customers in person, body language should be positive, refraining from mumbling or crossing the arms and looking bored.

Example: A customer calls a local cafe to inquire about opening hours. The barista on the phone responds quickly and cheerfully instead of muttering incoherently and placing them on hold.

4. Active listening

Every conversation requires a listener and a speaker. Listening to a customer’s questions and concerns and responding in a way that makes them feel heard paves the way to a solution. Verbal cues like “mmm,” paraphrasing, and clarifying questions are all part of the practice of active listening.

Example: When a customer calls a restaurant to make a reservation, the host listens and then repeats, “You’re all set! To confirm, your reservation is 7 p.m. on Saturday at our London location.”

5. Technical knowledge

As a customer service professional, you’ll want to be familiar with technical and industry knowledge to help customers make informed decisions and troubleshoot any issues. Representatives should be up-to-date on all product specifications, purchasing processes, product or service usage, and company policies. Plus, technical knowledge is helpful if you’re trying to upsell a product or service because you’ll be able to list out the features of the newest edition.

A good practice for businesses is to list FAQs on their websites to empower customers to find information without contacting the support team. 

Example: An electronics sales representative helps customers decide which mechanical keyboard to purchase by explaining every model, brand, and key type. They even convince the customer to opt for the pricier but higher-quality option.

6. Patience

Patience is handy when dealing with customers, especially if they are angry, resentful, or rude. A heated argument with a customer can diminish your brand reputation, especially given the star rating systems on Google Maps, Yelp, or Glassdoor, where your business might be listed. Practising compassion can help you deliver a positive customer experience. Your presence and actions can lift someone’s spirits instead of worsening a bad situation. 

Example: A customer drops her umbrella while leaving the nail salon, ruining her just-polished nails. The nail technician calls her back with a smile and repaints the ruined nails.

7. Tenacity

Tenacity, the ability to remain doggedly persistent throughout a difficult situation, is a quality often overlooked but very important in customer service. Along with patience and developing a thick skin, tenacity is required to get the job done thoroughly and accurately. Customers appreciate it when service professionals walk them through the process when they need help. They are more likely to continue doing business with you if you have ensured customer satisfaction.

Example: A new landscaper makes a mistake when tending the lawn and accidentally cuts the client’s beloved rose bush. The next day, he drives several hours to find the same plant to replace it.

8. Adaptability

Customers want to be able to reach a business on nearly every platform. Their channel of communication might change depending on the situation. That means your customer service needs to be adaptable. Sometimes, the same customer contacts a business through different channels. Integrating customer information with a customer relationship management (CRM) system helps to streamline inquiries from multiple channels. It also helps to accommodate your customers' different backgrounds and personalities.

Example: A customer contacts a dermatologist by phone (with a headset) if they’re in the car and running late for their appointment but prefers to email or text for appointment confirmations and administrative questions. 

9. Resourcefulness

Resourcefulness is a useful customer service skill in problem-solving. Finding innovative and quick ways to solve a problem can decrease time with each customer so that you can help more customers in a day. It requires familiarity with different departments within a business and referring customers if needed. Developing creative approaches to problem-solving is a skill that can be sharpened while on the job.

Example: An Australian company requires customers to pay for return shipping. Due to an uptick in complaints, the CEO decided to experiment with free shipping for two months to maintain the status quo. Five-star ratings increased shortly after that.

10. Positive attitude

Maintaining a positive approach to customer service can be difficult if your customers are frustrated with your product or service. A rule of thumb is to stay calm and try to meet the customer where they are, to empathise with their situation and why they might be upset. Driving customers away with a negative attitude will only cause more pain for the business, as it can lead to a poor reputation and a decrease in sales.

Example: A customer who bought a board game from the shop is upset because some important pieces are missing. The employee thanks the customer for their patience and understanding as they mail the missing pieces to them within one week.

Enhance customer service skills with Coursera.

Customer service skills are important across many industries and can help create a positive work environment for you, your colleagues, and your customers. With Knowledge Accelerators’ course Customer Service Fundamentals on Coursera, you’ll learn the necessary skills to give you an edge in the in-demand IT customer service industry, such as communication skills, empathetic behaviour, and problem-solving. 

If you’re seeking a job in IT support, you’ll learn how to perform tasks such as computer assembly, wireless networking, program installation, and customer service with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate. Get started today and complete your programme in six months or less.

Give your team access to 8,000+ engaging courses and hands-on Guided Projects to help them develop impactful skills. Learn more about Coursera for Business.


Article sources


International Trade Administration. “United Kingdom - Country Commercial Guide, https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/united-kingdom-ecommerce#:~:text=The%20biggest%20player%20in%20the,revenue%20in%20the%20United%20Kingdom.” Accessed May 22, 2024.

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