Question: What customer service skills are most important?

Answers from frontline reps —


People skills and product knowledge. There are two specific skills that I see as the most important to being a good member service representative.

The first is people skills. Good communication, showing empathy, resolving conflict, displaying patience, and having tolerance are key components of good people skills. Possessing these skills gives you the patience to ensure that your message is being communicated effectively, the tolerance to empathize and walk in someone else’s shoes, and all of this leads to a smooth resolution to conflicts among your members and colleagues.

The second skill is product knowledge. Being a product expert is vital to the member experience. People need to trust that you are competent enough to direct, recommend, and guide them toward the best possible options available. Knowing the products you offer, how they benefit the member, and how they stack up against the competition, all help to build that trust. Another aspect of product knowledge is to know what resources you have and how to utilize them. Being aware of your resources gives you the confidence needed to find answers. That level of confidence resonates with your members, which in turn gives them confidence in the answers you find.

While these are not the only skills needed to provide good member service, mastering both will put you on the fast track to becoming an exceptional member service representative.

Jerrard Gates, Navy Federal Credit Union


Communication and empathy. I think that one of the main skills, if not the main skill, that customer service reps need is the ability to communicate. It shouldn’t matter if it is verbal or written communication, if the person on the receiving end doesn’t understand what you mean … it doesn’t matter how well you did your job.

You also need to be able to think on your feet because customers (as we all know) don’t always react the way we think they will, or ask the questions that we think they will.

Another skill that I think is important is being an empathetic listener. You need to be able to understand the customer’s needs, wants, questions, and concerns and be able to relate to the customer.

In many of today’s customer service jobs, we are doing much more than just answering phone calls. We text, chat, email, conference call. and sometimes we even have face-to-face interactions with certain clients. Since we have so many ways that we communicate with the customer, it makes that many more ways that we need to make sure that the customer sees us as professionals.

Jo Sprowl, SKF USA Inc.


Listen and clarity. There are so many skills that are important for someone working in customer service. The ability to listen and clarify for the customer is part of the foundation of the service we can provide. To have the skill to understand what the customer is trying to explain and then take that information and turn it into a solution is invaluable.

Patience is not only a virtue, but a skill everyone needs working in customer service. This is true not only when working with customers, but also when working with other departments. We all must rely on someone for information at times and not everyone works at the same pace.

The ability to de-stress is important as well. When you work in customer service you are the face that everyone sees. It can be stressful, but knowing ways to manage your stress throughout the day and after work will make the day a little bit easier.

Rachel Dillon, Assurant Specialty Property


Top three skills. Customer service representatives must be strong in many diverse skills to be effective in their roles. I think the top three skills needed to have a successful career in Customer Service are:

  • Patience/Empathy. When reps exercise patience and empathy with their customers, they put themselves into the shoes of the customer. This practice can be helpful in de-escalating the member from a frustrating space to a place where solutions can be entertained and considered. When someone is emotionally driven, it is hard to figure out a logical resolution to the situation. By connecting with our member, or customer, we allow ourselves to identify with the situation and brainstorm better, mutually-agreed upon, solutions.
  • Creative Thinking. Speaking of those better solutions, creative thinking allows us to assess all sides of a situation and create an individualized resolution. For example, if a member wants a fee waived, consider why the fee was assessed in the first place and if there are pieces of information that the member, or customer, may need to avoid such upsets in the future. Also, this is how organizational changes can happen. It only takes one person to ask “Why?” to get the ball rolling.
  • Adaptability. So, when you have been empathetic, patient, and creative, the last vital skill may be adaptability. Changes happen in organizations all the time and to be agile and adaptable may be a customer service representative’s best asset. Understanding and accepting that change will happen can go a long way in terms of implementation.

Megann Wither, Doc’s Doggy Daycare

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