8 Customer service skills that every employee needs

It’s a cutthroat world out there so your business needs to be prepared. Training your customer service representatives on what to say and how to say it is the first step. The truth is, your customer service reps are the front line of your business. These are the people who represent your business and engage with your customers (potential and longtime buyers alike) day in and day out.


 Customer service skills employees need

  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Positive language
  • Clear communication
  • Knowledge of product
  • Able to read between the lines
  • Persuasiveness
  • Calming presence

Without a game plan for the way your team operates and communicates with customers, your business can suffer big-time. To ensure poor customer service isn’t the reason you lose a sale, this article will go over the essential skills you should look for in your employees. Some of these skills may be innate for some, but they can all be taught over time.

Every employee on your roster should exhibit these customer service skills if you truly want your company to succeed. Not only are these qualities helpful in business, but they will likely propel you and your employees in life overall as well.

employee customer service skills

#1: Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share in the feelings of somebody else. This is a good example of a customer service skill that tends to be more of a personality trait, but with careful attention, you can still work to improve it.

This skill comes in handy because, even if you can’t give a customer exactly what they want, you can understand their frustrations. It may not solve the problem at hand immediately, but acknowledging the feelings the customer may be experiencing will help you gain the customer’s trust. They will see you are a human and not just a robot with zero regards for their wellbeing. As soon as your employees understand how to empathize with the customer, they can work towards creating more strategic messaging to help create a better outcome for everyone involved.

Something as simple as the following statement can work wonders: “I understand you’re probably very disappointed that we could not honor the expired sale price, but I want to help make things right.”

#2: Patience

Truly being patient with a customer means to wait without getting annoyed or upset. The need for patience at work can arise in a variety of different scenarios, no matter the managerial level of the employee.

Sometimes, patience just means listening to the customer air their grievances. Letting your client feel heard and respected is a big customer service tactic that can pay off really well—especially when you take into account the fact that customers are often reaching out because they are confused or frustrated. Simply take the time to hear them out without cutting them off or insinuating they are wrong, and see what happens.

We hate to be cheesy, but the old saying is true: Patience is a virtue.

#3: Positive language

You’ve met a Debbie Downer before, haven’t you? A Debbie Downer exhibits the opposite of positive language—this type of person finds a reason to speak negatively about pretty much everything. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer at parties, and your customers will certainly not appreciate one when they’re trying to do business with you.

Words have power, and it’s in your best interest to use your words to strengthen customer relationships, not tear them down. Using positive language in customer service means you can turn any situation into an open-ended, positive one instead of a closed-off negative one.

For example, if a customer asks you a question, and you’re not sure of the answer, what do you think is the best reply?

  1. I don’t know
  2. Great question, let me look into that for you!

The second answer is an example of using positive language. Do you see how the second reply can turn the situation around, while the first reply is a dead-end, an unenthusiastic answer? Another example is, instead of saying you can’t do something, say that you can try to solve the issue. Again, it’s a simple switching of your language, but it makes a very big difference in your customer’s happiness.

#4: Clear communication

Clear communication is achieved when the exact message you are trying to send is the exact message received. Sometimes, people can misinterpret confusing language and take it to mean something completely different than intended—that is the opposite of clear communication.

For example, if you were purchasing a bag at the store, and an employee said you qualified for a gift that would be included at checkout, you may think that means the gift is free. But what if that employee then proceeded to ring up the “gift,” tacking the price onto your bill? You’d be upset, right?

When it comes to important details, make sure you leave nothing up to doubt. Even though the employee in the example made a mistake, it could easily turn you off of that store forever. If you need to take extra steps to ensure your customer understood you clearly, then go ahead and provide some extra explanation. Nobody likes feeling like they’ve been tricked (even if by accident).

#5: Knowledge of the product

A big annoyance for customers is when a company’s staff seems unknowledgeable. You should know what you’re selling as if it were the back of your hand. Lack of knowledge about your product can immediately crush your customer’s trust that you know what you’re doing at all.

If someone asks a question about your product you’re unsure of, use positive language to help you figure it out: “To be honest, I’m not sure if we carry that model anymore, but let me check with inventory to make sure.”

If you don’t know your product, how do you communicate the benefits to your customer and get them to buy it?

#6: Ability to read between the lines

These days, customer service can be conducted via telephone or computer, which means it’s much harder to read customer cues. When you can’t see facial expressions or hear the tone in a customer’s voice, it’s a lot tougher to assess their true feelings about the situation. That’s why it’s more important than ever to anticipate and read between the lines.

Reading between the lines means thinking beyond what the customer is telling you. Look for subtle clues that may be able to help you understand their mood, patience level, or personality. Someone who does not use exclamation points or lengthy wording, for example, probably won’t enjoy receiving those things from you, either.

customer service skill

#7: Persuasiveness

Being persuasive means you can help convince the customer to take an action you want them to take. Persuasiveness does not equal being pushy.

A lot of times, customers will fill out your customer feedback forms with curiosity and questions about your company, not because they want to complain. If your customer service rep or employee receives one of these curious inquiries, he or she needs to be ready to convince the customer that the company is the right choice. A good customer service rep should always be ready to turn a question into a sale, and having persuasion skills is the top way to do this.

#8: Calming presence

To have a calming presence, take special note of the social cues you are exuding. Harsh tone and fast speech are two no-nos if you are trying to calm the customer down. “Keep it cool” under pressure, and see the positive results that ensue.

If a customer is upset, the customer service support team is that customer’s one hope that their issue can be solved. Instead of blaming the customer or getting testy with them, stay calm and walk them through their issue as slowly as needed. Hopefully, by the end of the conversation, your customer will also be much calmer.

If you’ve completely appeased a situation and the customer is thanking you 10 times over, now is also a great time to point them in the direction of your leaving you a review or filling out a feedback form. Ask them kindly if they might like to record their experience and send them a link to leave a review. But remember: Only ask if the customer is happy.


As you may have realized, a lot of these customer service skills can go hand-in-hand. It’s hard to be patient without empathy, and it’s difficult to retain a calming presence without patience. That means, though, as you master each one, the others will become easier.

Which customer service skills do you think are most important? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments!

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