I've worked in customer service, and I'm a freelance writer with seven years of experience writing about business.
How to Be a Good CSR
Whether you are in a field where you handle customer service over the phone, in person, or online, being professional and having good customer service skills is a must. The customers appreciate a representative that is knowledgeable, professional, and friendly. It may take some time to be a good customer service representative (CSR), especially if you have never worked in a field like that before. However, just remember to take things easy, keep a level head, and you’ll be off to a good start.
This article is directed toward people who are just starting out with their customer service careers. If you have been part of customer service for a few years or more, you may or may not find this article helpful.
How to Improve Your Customer Service Skills
- Be professional.
- Try relating to your customer.
- "The customer is always right."
- Monitor your customer’s attitude.
- Stay level-headed dealing with irate customers.
- Take advantage of a sales opportunity.
- When applicable, find out what your customers think of your skills.
Most companies should provide some type of training program to new customer service representatives. When I was training for my AT&T call center job, I spent five weeks in a classroom and four weeks in a "transition" program, where we answered calls and got two or three assessments a week telling us how our progress was.
During your training program, make sure that you always ask questions and pay special attention to everything they teach you. There are a lot of things they teach you that you will need to know. There are also things that they don’t teach you that you will have to find out on your own. Don’t let this discourage you. Always ask questions if you are unsure about something.
2. Be Professional
This is a very obvious but often misunderstood or ignored trait. It’s very important that when you are in contact with a customer, you remain professional. This means that no matter how irate a customer may become, no matter what they say to you, you need to keep your calm and try your best to resolve the customer's issue without complaint.
You should never insult your customer or argue with them. Trust me... I understand how frustrating it is to get a customer who isn't cooperating! If you ever break that professionalism, you are hurting not only yourself but the company you work for as well. You could lose your job and make the company lose a customer.
3. Try Relating to Your Customer
Remain professional no matter what; however, try to relate to your customer. If your customer is a teenager and you are as well, talk about common interests when you are not required to talk about the reason you are servicing them. For example, if I was waiting on a certain process to finish that may take a few minutes while I am servicing a person my age, I might talk to them about current movie or game trends that I think they might be interested in.
Try speaking the way your customer does. When I need to call someone on the phone about a product or service, I normally try to talk to the representative like they were a friendly acquaintance. If the representative sort of ‘blows off’ my friendly chit-chat, I may be a little turned off. So, make sure that you make your customer feel comfortable. Talk to them the way that someone their age and personality type would. This will make them feel more valued. I know something like this may be hard to grasp at first, but once you have been in customer service for a while, you will begin to get more comfortable with how to do this.
4. "The Customer Is Always Right"
While technically you may not agree with what the customer says, and what they think may actually not be right, you must treat their opinion like they are.
Customers may come to you saying that, for example, a charge was on their bill, and it shouldn’t have been there. You know that there was no possible way that the charge could have been made unless the customer did it themselves, but you must still treat them like it shouldn’t have been there. Tell them you are sorry for the misunderstanding and follow your company’s procedure for these types of things.
The same rule applies to everyone in any type of customer service, not just phone calls. Always treat the customer as a valued customer and fix any problem they may have. If your company allows it, give deserving customers credits for the misunderstanding.
5. Dealing With Irate Customers
Getting these customers is unavoidable. You will run into them at some point or another. How you handle them is very important, and after you get used to dealing with these types of customers, you will become familiar with what works and what doesn’t.
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You might run into a customer that demands to speak to your supervisor before you’ve even gotten a chance to talk to them. I used to work for AT&T in a call center, and I would get these customers fairly often. I would start my introduction—"Thank you for calling AT&T! My name is…"—and before I could even finish saying thank you, the customer would demand to speak with my supervisor.
First off, some companies may require you to try to calm the customer down and get them to tell you what’s wrong before you try to involve a supervisor. However, sometimes a customer will absolutely refuse to talk to you, and you have no other choice.
In the event that you can manage to get the customer to talk to you, say something like, "I am very sorry that you are upset with ____. I will do my absolute best to fix the situation for you" (in your own words, of course). Then proceed to have them give you as much detailed information about the situation as possible. Fix the problem if it is within your ability. If it is not within your power to fix it, be sure to direct them to the person or department that can.
Never just give the customer the phone number of the department and expect them to call on their own. Always transfer them yourself but make sure that you give them the number in the event of a call disconnection.
If you get the type of customer that insists on calling you rude and offensive names and tends to yell and argue with you, you may not know what to do. In a call center environment, if the customer becomes too irate, you may have to direct the call to the department in charge of handling escalations. Never hang up on your customer; you could lose your job for that and just make the situation worse.
If you work in a public environment, you probably won’t run into these customers as much, but they will still show up. In the event that they do, you may have to call your supervisor up to your location for assistance. Never be afraid to ask for assistance with irate customers.
6. Monitor Your Customer’s Attitude
If you notice that your customers often seem irritated or annoyed, perhaps you are doing something to directly annoy them.
For those of you in call centers, do your customers seem the most annoyed after a long pause where neither of you has spoken? Customers do tend to get a little upset when the representative takes long breaks without talking. If you are busy researching or trying to fix their problem, make sure to keep the customer updated on what you are doing. Fill the silence with small talk. They’ll appreciate it.
For those of you in face-to-face environments, does your customer seem to get irritated by the speed at which you are servicing them? You should attempt to be a little bit faster but don’t sacrifice quality. Most of your customers will understand this but will get annoyed if you take too long.
7. Take Advantage of a Sales Opportunity
Let’s say, for example, your business is having a sale on a certain product for a week. I’ll use AT&T as an example again. Perhaps AT&T is having a sale for a week where they are selling a certain phone to customers outside of their normal upgrade range for a discounted price.
If a customer calls in commenting that their phone has been acting up or giving any sort of issues to them, I would tell them about the sale that we are having. If I notice that a customer is using more minutes a month than what is allowed on their data plan, I will recommend that they upgrade their package to one that includes more minutes. This will give you a sale, and in most companies, you get paid a little bit extra for this.
Never offer to sell something to someone that is irate if you are sure that they will not want to buy it. If someone is mad at me, I’m not going to try to force them to buy a new phone or feature package if they were originally concerned about it.
If your customer is in a good mood, it’s a good idea to occasionally throw a sales pitch at them to try and sell something to them, as long as they might actually be interested in it. I wouldn’t try to sell a new video game to an older lady. Not unless she mentioned that her grandson's birthday was approaching or something like that. Get what I mean?
8. When Applicable, Find Out What Your Customers Think of Your Skills
It’s sometimes hard to do this without seeming annoying or desperate. However, if you can find a way to see what customers think of you, it will help you become a better representative.
At AT&T, customers had the ability to answer a short two-minute survey on the service they were provided. This was actually recorded, and our supervisors were able to see what we were rated. If we got a low rating, our supervisor could retrieve the call we were rated low on and listen to it. They would then tell us what we did wrong and how we could improve.
In a public environment, you could always find a way to determine your service by the attitude of your customer when they leave the store. Some places may offer customers to call a certain number to express their opinions on their service or fill out a piece of paper doing the same.
By finding out what your customers think of you, you can change your service to better accommodate them and, in turn, be a better representative.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I just started a job at a call centre. We make calls and I feel bad because of the people that we call also receive calls from around the world for the same product. This causes them to always get irritated and be in a bad mood. How can I tackle this issue?
Answer: Is this a Telemarketing/Cold-call center job? Those can be quite difficult to tackle and require a very level head, but they use many of the same skills mentioned in this article!
I recommend that you always keep your cool and try to be yourself. Try to keep in mind that, in their position, you would probably be irritated too. Do your best not to take it personally and follow your call flow.
Depending on your call center, they may have a very strict call flow for you to follow. For example, when I worked at a cold call center, I had an extremely strict call flow and I wasn't able to really be myself. So, at times I felt helpless when the person on the other end started getting upset. This can make it extremely difficult to put your own personality in the call.
However, if your supervisors do let you personalize the call, you should try to relate with the customer in any way you can. If you can manage to make them laugh, you'll immediately be able to calm their mood. Maybe something like "I know you probably hate these type of calls, but I promise to be quick!" but be careful! Some call centers will explicitly tell you not to use that line because it gives the customer the freedom to express how much they hate the calls and could lead to them hanging up.
Bottom line though? Empathize and relate with the caller, but also be sure to follow the guidelines set by your company. You don't want to get in trouble with them just because you're trying to calm a customer down.
Nick on December 26, 2017:
thanks for that information. it was nice reading all of it :)
Emelda on October 12, 2017:
Just starting as a CSR and this information is very helpful. Thank you for sharing!
Monica D on March 18, 2017:
I'm just starting out in this field and I must say this was very helpful for me. Thank you
Olude Michael from Dubai, UAE on September 12, 2016:
The article is very informative. Thanks.
dj rakkzz on May 14, 2016:
thanks for the information
menna on March 19, 2016:
I'm working in a call center job and I seem to have good feedbacks from customers themselves by the end of the call however they don't actually reply to the surveys they receive after the call which actually affect my numbers and disappoints me
Kevin T on July 09, 2015:
Thanks, It;s a great read.
Yhanx on August 10, 2014:
I really want to become a call center agent, and thanks to this hub. I've learned a lot.
rewel on July 03, 2014:
I work in AT@T callcnter billing and sales. And this hub really helps me a lot..
Thank you so much
Melissa Carlsen (author) from Arkansas on November 10, 2012:
thank you :P
rizwan akbar on November 10, 2012:
it's a gd hub. thanx!
Melissa Carlsen (author) from Arkansas on September 19, 2012:
Thanks Teaches :)
Dianna Mendez on September 18, 2012:
I love your approach to customer service, they are always right -- even when wrong! You covered all the important service skills needed to be successful in handling those tough situations in selling.
Melissa Carlsen (author) from Arkansas on September 15, 2012:
Thanks a lot :)
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 15, 2012:
I agree....I sure hope more call centers start teaching your suggestion. You did a good job of detailing suggestions.
Melissa Carlsen (author) from Arkansas on September 15, 2012:
Thank you. I was hoping this would turn out to be a decent hub.
David Livermore from Bakersfield, California, United States on September 15, 2012:
Ahh most call center employees need to read this. Good hub.