Customer Service Skills – Definition and Examples

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Is customer service a job or a skill? Sometimes job seekers see an open position with a title like “customer service representative.” Other times, they might look at other types of positions where the job description requires they have ‘customer service skills.’ Sometimes providing support is the position. Other times it’s a soft skill candidates need to demonstrate on a regular basis.

For example, at grocery and department stores there’s typically a counter marked “customer service” staffed by people who handle returns and complaints. Employees’ main role is to effectively solve problems and keep customers satisfied.

Other jobs might have a different primary function, but still require customer service skills. A restaurant manager, receptionist or sales rep aren’t hired primarily to deal with grumbles and requests, but if they don’t have the soft skills associated with customer service, they won’t be successful in their role.

Skills Plural

Customer Service involves a set of skills and the ability to choose the right ones depending on the situation, much like a craftsman choosing different tools depending on the job.

Strong Communication

Most people have had the frustrating experience of trying to explain to a customer service rep what they need and just not getting through. One or both sides lack the communication skills needed to deliver a clear message and work through problems to a resolution.

People who are good at customer service have the ability to understand what the consumer or team member is saying, converse in easy to understand terms and rephrase or paraphrase where there’s confusion.

Attentive Listening

People with solid customer service skills give the speaker their full attention and focus all their senses on what he or she is trying to communicate. They’re engaged, non-defensive and non-judgmental.

They make eye contact, repeat back statements to clarify, ask open-ended questions and allow the speaker plenty of time to articulate their concerns. Active listening goes a long way toward diffusing potential conflict because the consumer or team member feels “heard.”

Problem Solving

Problem solvers pinpoint the problem, brainstorm solutions, evaluate options, implement the plan and evaluate results. If their first try isn’t successful, they start over. They’re quick thinkers, and they’re not intimidated when they face an unexpected challenge.


Most people try to solve problems themselves before they reach out for help. Once they exhaust DIY options and contact support, they’re already frustrated. They might be angry because things aren’t working right or embarrassed to admit they don’t have the knowledge needed to find their own solution. Frustrated individuals aren’t always friendly.

Good customer service representatives and people with the soft skills of customer service listen and react with patience. They don’t take bluster personally. They’re also not in a hurry to just make the individual go away. Their main goal in that moment becomes finding lasting resolution. Sometimes that means teaching the customer or staff member what they need to know to avoid that type of frustration next time.

People with good customer service skills might need to help a certain number of people in a day, but they never seem to be watching the clock. Every interaction is personalized and focused on the individual they’re currently helping.

Friendly and Empathetic

Good customer service representatives and people who demonstrate this soft skill communicate with warmth and empathy. They are able to identify with customers who are in a hurry, frazzled, irritated or confused. They make an emotional connection when they speak with kindness and sympathy, then they use positive language as they work toward a solution.


There’s no replacement for knowledge when it comes to customer service. You can be super nice and eager to help, but if you don’t know how, the problem will continue to exist. Customer service involves knowing what your company offers and, when it breaks, how to fix it.

Having extensive knowledge also creates confidence. Consumers or staff immediately sense you aren’t going to be thrown off by their request. You’ve seen it all before and you know how to solve their problem, so their frustration will be over soon.

Acting Abilities

Sometimes even if you fix the problem, replace the product, refund the money, offer freebies and do everything else at your disposal, the person you’re dealing with still isn’t happy. When they keep expressing their dissatisfaction, when they’re rude and combative, people with customer service skills are able to be diplomatic, even when they don’t feel that way inside.

Hiring Customer Service Unicorns

If you own a business or are in charge of hiring, you already know how hard it can be to find employees with customer service skills. Brelsford Personnel has an extensive database of pre-screened candidates. We can connect you with new hires who create a positive view of your business at every interaction. Tell us what you need when you get in touch.

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