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10 key customer service skills
Most jobs available for graduates are customer-centric and require some unique skill-sets. Master a few customer service skills and rule the job market.
 The job market has never been better for young graduates. There are opportunities galore in the booming service sector companies in the BPO, retail and hospitality domain. Most of these jobs are customer-centric and call for certain unique skill-sets. BPOs and multiplexes hire fresh graduates as customer service and sales executives and retail stores look for shop floor executives, supervisors and managers.
 
“The current job market is demand driven and youngsters with good communication skills and a positive attitude will be spoilt for choices,” says Prashant Kuruvilla, VP – HR with Delhi-based E-Soft Technologies.
 
So, if you are a fresh graduate, looking to make a career in the service industry, here are the 10 key customer service skills that you need to brush up on:
 
Language skills
Good communication is the lifeblood of the service industry and it’s important that your language should be devoid of grammatical errors. While we have all learnt the basics of grammar in school, the most important attributes in spoken English are: sentence construction (your ability to form meaningful sentences) and word order (ability to use the right words as per context). Talk to people in English as far as possible and watch English news and sit-coms. The objective here is to develop conversational skills.

Vocabulary
Your vocabulary should be good so that you can tackle challenging communication and customer service scenarios. You should be able to demonstrate a satisfactory use of word choice so that your customer maintains confidence in your skill sets. Follow the TIS rule (think it, ink it, sink it). When you come across a new word, make a note of it in your personal diary and read it out loud at least thrice.
 
Pronunciation
You need to have a clear pronunciation and diction, such that, it does not interfere with your overall communication with the customer. This includes stress, rhythm and intonation patterns in your speech. Many institutes like the British Council offer courses in communication skills for call centers and service oriented jobs. These programs also help you in neutralising your accent and sounding more professional.
 
 Tone
You need to speak in an upbeat and positive tone. This enables you to connect with your customers and colleagues and also build long lasting relationships. A lot of negative emotions like anger, sarcasm, impatience, etc also get communicated through your tone, so it’s important to watch out for it. Your tone should reflect empathy and concern for your customer.
 
Listening skills
Good listening skills will help you understand the main ideas of the person you are communicating with. It also enables you to understand the specifics of a particular situation that you could be dealing with. Good listening skills will also ensure that you provide appropriate answers to questions and understand the emotional clues that your customer may drop.
 
Problem-solving skilss
You should be committed and have a sincere desire to solve the problems of your customer. Your ability to ask the right kind of questions will be a key factor in providing an effective solution. You also need to prioritise your time and understand your customers’ needs and wants.
 
Flexibility
You need to adapt to your customer’s unique needs and changing circumstances. You should be open to change and be willing to take the customer’s feedback and act on it. Being flexible also helps you identify new business opportunities and make more sales for your organisation.
 
Initiative and proactiveness
You need to be proactive and anticipate customer problems. You should be able to apologise and correct a mistake rather than hide behind company policies. Walking an extra mile for the customer will cement the relationship and would lead to repeat business.
 
Professionalism
You need to be professional, friendly and courteous. Being direct and expressive helps to build a strong relationship with the customer. Showing your respect to the customer, team members, company, and competitors is also important as this demonstrates confidence in self and the organisation. A professional attitude will leave the customer with a positive feeling.
 
Task orientation
As a customer service professional, it’s important to strike a balance between the job at hand, relationship and rapport building activities. While you need to engage in building a positive relationship with the customer, you must keep issue resolution and meeting targets as your top priority. “Most tele-sales consultants keep sweet talking with customers without asking the customer for the order (closing the sale). This is ineffective as the objective of the organisation is also to make sales and profits” says Kanishka Malhotra, Managing Partner of New Delhi based – Hotel Solutions India.
 
So brush up on these skills and succeed in customer service careers.
 
[Sunder Ramachandran is a corporate training consultant based in New Delhi]




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