5 essential customer service skills everyone needs

Providing good customer service requires many different skills, and developing those skills takes needs practice. The Olark CS team tapped into their 70+ combined years of service experience to create this awesome list of essential customer service skills – all of which they practice daily!

  1. Problem solving
  2. Attention to detail
  3. Patience
  4. Humility
  5. Humor

Customer Service Skill #1: Problem Solving

No matter what area of customer service you work in, or want to work in, problem solving is key. Whenever a customer asks you a question, there is a high probability they have a problem that needs to be solved.

For example…

  • I can’t find this in green
  • How can I set up a new account?
  • Is there another way to export this data?

Here are a few ways to level up your problem solving skills:

Learn who to ask

Knowing where to go to get the answer you need is crucial in customer service. Whilst you can build a huge mental database of answers to questions, there will always be times when you don’t have the answer. Often, your problem-solving superpowers will lie not in “what you know” but in “who you know”.

Connect the dots

When a problem looks complex at first glance, take a deep breath. Focus on filling in the gaps. Ask all the questions you can think of, hunt for that common denominator, and never be afraid to tell the customer to give you a minute to pull the relevant information together. When you start drawing those lines between dots, you will be surprised how fast the picture comes into focus.


Sometimes a customer has a question you don’t know the answer to.. It might not be relevant to your product, or your field of expertise. It might not even be relevant to your business. Flex your customer service skills by being prepared for every eventuality. Redirecting a customer to the right place will make them feel like you helped them, even if you didn’t have the answer. Good ways to do that include –

  • “Have you tried asking in the menswear department? Let’s go and find someone who can help.”
  • “I found a great guide to that problem – here’s the link. Maybe that company can help.”

Customer Service Skill #2: Attention to detail

“Look after the pennies… and the pounds (or dollars) will look after themselves.”

That attitude doesn’t just apply to your finances. It applies in so many aspects of life – and it most definitely applies to nurturing your customer service skills. Attention to the small details can transform how you provide customer service.

Building trust

Attention to detail helps build trust with your customers. Do you know when the customer last interacted with your company? Maybe you could ask how they got on with the recommendation they received. Is it their birthday, or soon to be? How do they use your product? Maybe you can make some suggestions to help them enjoy it even more. Can you see a potential issue with their account? Draw their attention to it and offer assistance. Small things make a big difference.

Follow ups

There is nothing worse as a customer than being told that someone will get back to you, and waiting, only for no one to bother. We have all had that experience. Don’t let it happen to your customers. If you say you are going to follow up, do it. A quick call or email will do the trick and it speaks volumes about how much you value your customers.

Active listening

Listening is a skill. Listening is not just hearing what a customer is saying, but actually listening. If you have worked in customer service for a while, there will be questions you are asked all the time. As soon as a customer starts the question, it is really tempting to just trot out the usual answer – without fully listening. We are all telecoms customers – we know what that feels like. It doesn’t feel good. We just want someone to listen, and empathise.

Active listening also allows you to pick up on the small details. Maybe your customer bought the wrong size sweater for her daughter. Asking if it was for a special occasion as you deal with the replacement, commenting on what a good choice it was, or recommending the store’s sizing chart takes only a few seconds, but leaves a lasting impression.

Customer Service Skill #3: Patience

Patience is a virtue. It’s not a virtue which always comes easily, but it is valuable.

We have all experienced difficult, confused, angry or “just plain wrong” customers. All of the skills above will go some way to help de-escalate those situations, but ultimately patience is the key.

Frustration is like flu – it’s catching. -However frustrated a customer is, don’t fall into the trap of getting frustrated too.

“The customer is always right”

You know what? The customer is not always right. However, our job as customer service representatives is to find a way to make the customer feel like we did right by them.

Empathy goes a long way:

  • “I can see how that is frustrating”
  • “That must be really annoying”
  • “Let me see what I can do about that”

You won’t always win. Some people will never be satisfied, but listening with patience, trying to help with patience, and patiently working to understand their issue will help them feel heard.

Customer Service Skill #4: Humility

One thing that many companies find hard to do is apologise when something goes wrong.  The customer is not always right, and neither are we. Customer service agents are human too, and we make mistakes. Corporations make mistakes. A small dose of humility can de-escalate things faster than you thought possible.

Not knowing is ok

It is ok to tell a customer that you don’t know something. Battering on, trying to help when you don’t have the first clue what the answer might be is totally counter-productive. Equally, giving bad advice is just going to destroy trust with a customer. Admitting you don’t know something makes you human. The crucial part of admitting that you don’t know is to assure the customer that you will do your best to find out — and then follow up.

Sorry is the hardest word

We are often taught that apologising to a customer means that we are taking responsibility for a problem, or to use the dreaded phrase – that we are “liable”.

Actually, sorry is a really helpful word when it is used sincerely. Often, all a customer wants is to hear that you are sorry AND that you want to help fix the problem.

An empty sorry, with no solution or suggestion, rings pretty hollow. Even if you can’t solve the immediate issue, maybe you can offer something like a coupon,discount code, or some account credit.

Customer Service Skill #5: Humor

Humor is an under-rated skill in customer service. Used wisely, it can turn a normal interaction into one the customer will remember for all the right reasons.

Make sure that you are laughing with the customer – not at them. At Olark, we often send our customers links to fun, lighthearted “You are great” pages – each with its own little bit of humor. It’s a great way of making a customer smile, and lets you provide some humor when you can’t think of an amusing anecdote on the spot!

Humor is also a great way of chilling out with your team – or getting a stressful interaction off your chest. The Olark support team has a Slack channel where we hang out and keep each other cheerful. Thursday seems to be a particularly tricky support day – often when we get the oddest of questions or issues arising – which has now coined the phrase “it’s thursdaying all over the place”.


Want to find out more about providing awesome customer service?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *