Customer Service Tips: 7 Ways To Improve Your Skills TODAY

Like any other skill, if you don't keep on top of your customer service skills, they will get dull and less effective. Sharpen your skills with these 7 customer service tips.
Writer and Public Speaker, Freelance
August 21, 2013

Listen: You need to sharpen your customer service skills. Even if you're an award-winning customer service guru at the peak of your career, if you're not sharpening those skills, you're letting them atrophy.

Best Customer Service Tips

Try one of these customer service tips to keep at the top of your game:

1. Look For The Common Ground

Psychologists call it "implicit egotism," and it means people tend to like other people who are similar to them. Finding common topics of interest when talking with a customer shows interest and capitalizes on this facet of human nature.

2. Use CARP

The four stages of CARP are:

  • Controlling the situation
  • Acknowledging the problem
  • Refocusing the conversation
  • Problem-solving with the customer

By remembering and working through these steps, your team stays on track even during the most embarrassing mistake. It keeps the customer service session from veering off into other stages like "insisting you're right" and "taking unnecessary abuse."

3. Hang A Lantern On Mistakes

This is the practice of pointing out a problem early on to help people accept it without undue emotional involvement. The term comes from writing, and is part of maintaining willing suspension of disbelief. If you call out your mistakes—and what you're doing to fix them—instead of hiding them, you'll demonstrate your honesty and gain trust.

customer service tips

4. Practice Active Listening

There's an expression: "Listen, don't just wait for your turn to talk." Too many customer service interactions, especially those run by scripts, fail to heed this advice. There are four components to active listening:

  • Clarifying: Asking questions to make sure you understand a customer's ideas.
  • Paraphrasing: Rewording what a customer just said to confirm you understand.
  • Reflecting Feelings: Using phrases like "that must have made you angry" or "you seem pretty excited about that" demonstrates empathy and shows that you're paying attention.
  • Summarizing: Finishing a conversation with a quick summary of the most important points ensures that everyone's on the same page.

5. Say "I Don't Know"

It's tempting to make something up or take your best guess when somebody thinks you're an expert, but it's a mistake. Instead, admit it by saying, "I don't know, but here's what I'll do to find out." Then set a time to get back to your customer with an answer.

6. Bring Your Work Home

Work-life balance is important to both your health and your performance, but it can pay to come home one day and apply your customer service rules to your interactions with your family. This practice cuts both ways. You might find that your behavior at home wouldn't stand up to professional standards for treating your customers ... or you might find that your customer service habits are too insincere to pass muster with your loved ones.

7. Watch Your Language

This isn't about not dropping an f-bomb in front of the preacher who comes in for an oil change every three months. It also means watching your everyday customer service language for opportunities to make an impression. Three places to look are:

  • Authenticity: Do your words sound like a personal connection, or are they corporate boilerplate?
  • Positivity: Are you focusing on the best part of an interaction, even when it's an opportunity to improve?
  • Memorability: Can you, in an appropriate way, stop a customer in his tracks with a particularly clever, funny or meaningful phrase?

It doesn't take a lot of time, effort or money to keep up amicable relations with your customers. The key is to not let those skills get dull. These customer service tips will help keep those skills sharp and in tip-top shape.

Read more articles on customer service.

Jason has contributed over 2,000 blog and magazine articles to publications local, regional and national. He speaks regularly at writing and business conferences. 

Photos from top: Getty Images, Thinkstock