10 Customer Service Skills for Success in Any Job

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Boost your business by mastering effective customer service skills.

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

When you walk into a store, 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 essential 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. When a business is hospitable and puts customers first, its customers respond positively.  

Today, businesses also need to meet customers where they are shopping. Experts predict e-commerce sales in India will grow at 19.4 percent and 21 percent in 2024 and 2024, respectively [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, including telephone, social media messaging, or live chat.

  • Personalised: Customer service approaches get tailored to each customer.

  • Proactive: Answers like FAQs and product information are available without contacting the business. The company anticipates and addresses any other needs or desires.

Why is customer service important?

Good customer service can improve a company’s sales and brand reputation. According to a 2017 study, nearly 63 percent of Indians will not purchase when they feel customer service is poor [2]. 

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

Brands known for customer service

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

Zappos offers unlimited free shipping and a 365-day return policy for every purchase, operating on the philosophy that companies can spend advertising money on extreme customer service. 

10 customer service skills for success

Anyone may learn these skills, build customer loyalty, and foster strong relationships among employees and teams. You likely already possess some of these skills, or you may 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 fulfil 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 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 vital 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 situation. You should possess adequate 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 is multi-faceted. It happens in various forms, over multiple channels spanning in-person interactions, social media, instruction manuals, and website ‘help’ or ‘FAQ’ sections.  Effective communication is essential and requires using language that customers understand when educating them on products and company policies. Clarity and transparency increase their confidence in purchasing and the company’s ability to continue supporting them 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. The use of verbal cues like ‘mmm’, paraphrasing, and asking 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 Mumbai 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 the website to empower customers to find the information without contacting the support team. 

Example: An electronics sales representative helps customers decide which mechanical keyboard to purchase because they explain every model, brand, and type. They even convinced 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 if your business appears on a site with a star rating system like Google Maps or Glassdoor. 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 whilst leaving the nail salon and ruins 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 when working in customer service, tenacity is required to complete the job thoroughly and accurately. Customers appreciate it when service professionals walk them through the process when they need help. They will likely continue doing business with you if you have ensured customer satisfaction.

Example: A new landscaper makes a mistake when tending the garden 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 helpful customer service skill in problem-solving. Finding innovative and quick ways to solve the problem can decrease time with each customer so that you can help more customers in a day. It requires being familiar with different departments and referring customers if needed. Developing creative problem-solving approaches is a skill you can sharpen while on the job.

Example: Customers are responsible for return shipping for a company based in Australia. With an uptick in complaints, the CEO experimented with free shipping for two months to keep up with 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, empathising 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 store is upset because some important pieces are missing. The customer service employee thanked the customer for their patience and understanding as they mailed the missing pieces to them within one week.

Enhance customer service skills with Coursera

Consider taking a Course or earning a Professional Certificate to help sharpen your skills. For example, with the Knowledge Accelerators’ Customer Service Fundamentals Course, you’ll learn the skills needed to gain an edge in the in-demand IT customer service industry, such as communication skills, empathetic behaviour, and problem-solving. 

Suppose you’re seeking a job in IT support. In that case, 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.

Article sources

1. Statista. “Revenue growth ecommerce market in India from 2018 to 2023, with forecasts until 2027, https://www.statista.com/forecasts/261336/b2c-e-commerce-sales-growth-in-india#:~:text=As%20of%202023%2C%20the%20revenue,to%20lockdowns%20and%20social%20distancing./ “ Accessed February 28, 2024.

2. Business Standard. “Indians value quality of customer service: Study, https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/indians-value-quality-of-customer-service-study-117032201350_1.html#:~:text=%22Nearly%2063%20per%20cent%20of,care%20was%20a%20competitive%20differentiator..” Accessed February 28, 2024.

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