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The Alternative Board Blog

How to Improve Your Team’s Customer Service Skills

Dec. 10, 2020 | Posted by The Alternative Board
customer service

No one can predict what will happen to the business landscape in 2021 (look how far off the experts were about 2020, pre-coronavirus pandemic!). But one constant will remain in place next year, and for years to come: the primary importance of high-quality customer service.

For some businesses, customer service seems to come naturally. The leaders and the workforce they guide appear dialed-in to changing customer needs and can easily rectify any errors in product quality and/or distribution that arise.

For other businesses, achieving first-rate customers looms as a greater challenge. But whether your team operates at top efficiency in this area or not, here are customer service training tips to keep in mind for 2021:


Continuously emphasize the importance of the customer.


Businesses with a great reputation for customer service make clear to employees that “the business’s customers are its lifeblood,” according to the training firm ServiceSkills. This approach is strengthened by reminding employees “that it is the customers who pay their salaries, awards their bonuses at the end of the year, and … that good customer service directly impacts the business’s bottom line.”

There are many ways to advocate for effective customer service, but this is one that all of us can grasp.


Incorporate empathy into the training process.


Certain soft skills are known to be highly successful in the “art” of customer service. As part of a comprehensive training program, SurveyMonkey suggests paying close attention to the following customer-service qualities:

  • Applying the same degree of empathetic service to every customer, no matter how difficult they might be
  • Using “authentically positive language” to ensure clear, consistent communications
  • Supporting the efforts of every employee to gain in-depth knowledge of the company’s products or services
  • Being able to “swallow one’s pride and accept blame or negative feedback” from customers when it’s justified (and even sometimes when it’s not)

Also, SurveyMonkey points to the importance of understanding every key touchpoint in the customer experience, in order to avoid mishaps or other costly mistakes along the way.


Emphasize empowerment in training.


You’ve hired employees who demonstrate intelligence, flexibility, and courtesy in their dealings with customers. With this in mind, empowering your customer service team to take independent action (within reason) is critically important.

When a customer service rep is obliged to take time to check with higher-ups regarding a complaint or refund, the customer (who’s often irate to begin with) only becomes more unhappy. A far better approach involves bypassing the internal approval logjam and allowing the reps to make key customer-focused decisions on the spot. Support those elements of training that help team members become more flexible and pro-active in addressing customer service issues.


Hire people who demonstrate customer-service qualities.


Less customer service training may be needed if you hire for the right qualities in the first place. Recruiting individuals with clear-cut problem-solving skills is a great first step.

Be sure that “your job description and interview questions focus on characteristics associated with good customer service and critical thinking,” notes Insperity. Doing so can “dramatically improve [your] customer service ratings simply by hiring with these skills in mind.”

Finally, reinforce each and every customer service “victory” within your organization.

“When customers take the time to report excellent customer service, make sure you acknowledge the employee personally and during the next staff meeting,” says Carol Elassad, Owner at TAB Kansas City, Missouri. “Employees want to be recognized for doing a great job, and this reinforces the desired customer service performance.”

Want to learn more about how to provide stellar customer service? Check out this article, “9 Ways to Keep Your Customers Longer.” Let’s all make 2021 the year of great customer service!


Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by The Alternative Board

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