Monday, 13 April 2015

What are Customer Service Skills?

So you want to work on a service desk or customer support centre?  You want to recruit somebody to your support team?  What sort of skills are needed?

All too often I see job adverts for people who "must have" good customer service skills and ITIL Foundation certification (if on an IT Service Desk). But are these essential and what are they?

If you are working in a front line role you need to be able to communicate well. That means you must be able to talk to the caller in such a way that they don't feel threatened by overly technical or commercial talk and you must be able to listen and understand what the caller is saying. They generally aren't calling because they love calling your team, rather they are calling because they need something / something doing and they can't do / find it themselves.

Now I'm not suggesting that if a caller says everything bad under the sun about your organisation or team you agree with them (that could be career limiting) but that you try and understand WHY they feel that way and think about what you can do to rectify it.  You may not be able to do anything, but if you can demonstrate that you have understood their concerns or issues and will attempt to do something about it, that will be a big step forwards.

Cheerful manner
Please do not go over the top.  I'm not suggesting that you should be "Have a nice day!" or "Missing you already", but smile when talking (even on the phone) and be polite.  If you have just had the call from hell, and the phone rings straight-away with no opportunity for someone else to take it, then take that deep breath, smile and answer the phone.  The caller doesn't want to know how bad things are - imagine how bad it is for them to have to call and ask for help.

Good telephone manner
Most support roles are telephone based now and so this is a critical "skill". The ability to feel confident when on the 'phone is important in most roles, but probably more so here. You need to be clear and confident.  And if anybody complains about the quality of your headset, change it immediately.  That is a piece of hardware that is as important as your computer and OSH approved desk & chair.  If you are recruiting somebody for this role, make sure that first interview is a 'phone interview. If that doesn't impress you, go no further because they won't impress your callers.

Under no circumstances should you be rude to the caller. This may be hard sometimes, but if they are rude to you, just ask to put them on hold and pass the call to your supervisor.

Ability to follow processes
Support teams have processes in place so that a similar level of service is provided each time a caller interacts with them.  You need people who can follow these processes.

Ability to think for themselves and not follow processes
Processes aren't always right.  To have people blindly following processes is wrong AT TIMES. The support team members need to know that if they feel a slightly different approach is called for (and it doesn't breach any company policies) then they will be rewarded for that thinking, not admonished.

Everything else can be taught / learned on the job.

Have I missed anything?

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