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Article 12 min read

25 essential customer service skills to develop in 2024

Read our list of the most important customer service skills for cultivating excellent CX, and utilize our templates to seamlessly incorporate these skills into your resume.

Av Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Senast uppdaterad June 11, 2024

While the customer journey and digital marketplace experience massive transformation, one fact remains firm: exceptional customer service skills are irreplaceable. As digital and physical shopping experiences expand, customer expectations for outstanding customer service continue to soar.

In today’s transactional world, the success of a customer experience (CX) strategy depends on digital literacy and tech proficiency just as much as empathy and problem-solving skills. Whether you’re a support agent seeking a new role or a hiring manager searching for qualified customer service representatives, our guide will help you identify what customer service job skills are crucial to business success. Job seekers can also download our resume templates to increase their chances of landing their next customer service position.

More in this guide:

What is customer service?

Customer service is the support you offer buyers—from the first time they visit or contact your business to the following days, months, and years. Support teams can respond to customer requests in person or via phone, email, chat, and social media channels. Customer service teams may also be responsible for documenting interactions and maintaining self-service support.

Customer service and customer support go hand in hand, but successful teams prioritize collaboration and adaptability and follow the principles of great customer service. Businesses with internal customer service training and high hiring standards understand the value of exceptional customer service and that it’s crucial for supporting business goals and scaling teams.

Why is customer service important?

Whether you’re working in sales, support, delivery, or some other position on the frontlines, being personable and forging human connections is essential for success. Bad customer service will break a business, but strong connections can increase customer loyalty and help organizations scale.

Good customer service impacts business growth by:

  • Increasing customer satisfaction and retention

  • Creating lasting customer relationships

  • Encouraging brand advocacy

  • Boosting sales

Genuine customer service agents and strong consumer relationships can help businesses identify and meet customer needs—the forces driving purchase decisions.

What are the key principles of great customer service?

There’s nothing wrong with good customer service, but it’s better when it’s great. Effective customer service management relies on seven principles to provide superior service.

The seven principles are:

  1. Friendliness: Customers expect support agents to be kind and warm.
  2. Empathy: Individuals want to be understood and experience genuine connection.
  3. Fairness: Consumers want to receive adequate compensation when product issues occur.
  4. Control: Customers want to access support on their chosen channel.
  5. Alternatives: If there are multiple solutions, people want the opportunity to make their own choices.
  6. Information: Individuals want answers to their questions promptly or, at the very least, assurance that someone is working on their problem.
  7. Time: People don’t want to wait for help, so businesses must offer several methods to access basic information.

These key principles help agents provide stellar support to all customers.

Let your customer service skills shine

You’ve worked hard to hone your customer service skills. Use our customizable resume templates to showcase your skills to future employers.

25 top customer service skills

Businesses want to hire agents who arm themselves with customer service skills that properly support buyers and help set their organization apart from the rest.

If you’re a hiring manager, look for these skills for customer service when skimming resumes and searching for exceptional candidates. If you’re hunting for a new customer support position, follow along to learn more about the skills you develop to improve an organization’s customer experience.

1. Empathy

Empathy plays an essential role in building customer relationships and de-escalating high-tension situations. A customer service agent must have the emotional intelligence to empathize with upset customers, collaborate with them, and work to find a solution.

Businesses that employ agents with strong conflict-resolution skills should allow reps to make exceptions to certain policies or decisions without extreme oversight. This can result in higher customer satisfaction scores and stronger customer loyalty, both essential customer service objectives.

2. Collaboration

Internal collaboration across teams is a vital skill for successful customer service reps. In remote and hybrid working environments, agents don’t always have the option to walk over to a teammate’s desk to ask questions or brainstorm ideas. Yet the need for collaboration between colleagues and departments hasn’t waned.

With customer experience software that supports integrations with tools like Slack, agents can seamlessly collaborate inside and outside the organization, whether in the office or working from a beach in Hawaii.

3. Communication

To improve the customer experience, agents should be capable of clear written and verbal communication. No matter who they’re speaking to or why, customer service agents need to have a firm understanding of:

  • Which communication channels are most appropriate for each situation

  • Who to speak to for a fast and accurate response to their specific issue

  • When to escalate a trouble ticket and who will address the issue

  • How to be upfront with a customer and strike the right tone of voice

Strong communication skills help agents effectively manage their workloads and connect with customers. Each touchpoint is an opportunity to create a positive experience and make customers happy.

4. Efficiency

It’s pretty common for customer support agents to get swamped with open tickets. However, when an agent is efficient, they can get through more tasks quicker, which benefits the employee and their employer.

Some major benefits of agent efficiency include:

  • Saving money: By improving agent productivity, businesses can reduce operating costs, helping to save money and possibly afford raises and better benefits.
  • Faster ticket resolutions: Seemingly insurmountable workloads can quickly become manageable when agents have strong multitasking skills.
  • Lower average handle time: Agent knowledge, automation, and proactive support options help agents quickly handle customer service interactions.

Many organizations take advantage of automated software and AI to boost productivity. Customer service team leads are now expected to incorporate AI into team operations to increase team efficiency, encourage technology use, and systematize feedback.

For example, the Zendesk Agent Workspace empowers agents to communicate with customers across channels in one unified app, improving resolution times and creating more organized customer service experiences.

5. Adaptability

Customers are everywhere now, including social media, SMS, email, and live chat. That means customer service agents must also be in those places. Adaptability allows agents to deftly switch between communication channels and messaging styles to provide an excellent customer experience.

Adaptable agents can also readily adjust to new market trends and changing customer needs, fostering customer orientation. As the customer service industry embraces emerging technologies, converts to remote and hybrid support options, and prioritizes omnichannel support, this skill is no longer optional but essential.

Here is an example of how you might highlight adaptability within your resume.

An example of a customer service rep resume highlights entry-level customer service skills like adaptability and communication.

6. Speed

Quick customer service tip: Most customers don’t want to wait for a response. To meet customer expectations, agents must adhere to the standard communication speed—whether it’s seconds, minutes, or hours—on every platform they’re using to provide service.

Speed can also relate to how quickly a new agent learns the skills and tools they need to succeed or how fast they can resolve support issues. Both are equally important for customer service.

7. Resiliency

High-performing customer service teams are resilient and don’t let critical customer feedback get the better of them. Resilient agents can take criticism and accept feedback gracefully.

However, this doesn’t mean your agents will like everything they hear. Unhappy customers are a part of the trade, but resilient agents can process and respond to frustrations quickly and effectively.

8. Data centricity

Customer service agents should analyze data and gather actionable insights that help them enhance their performance and prioritize intelligent CX. To improve work habits and customer knowledge, these data insights should relate directly to agent and customer behaviors.

For example, agents can use data to:

  • Understand customer communication preferences, purchasing behavior, and personality.

  • Identify repeat issues and resolve the customer’s problems faster.

  • Assess their own performance.

  • See how they fit into the team as a whole.

As consumers change, so will real-time data insights, allowing businesses to quickly respond to new preferences or trends.

9. Relationship building

A customer-focused culture supports agents in building and nurturing customer relationships. This requires interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. Businesses must arm agents with the context to personalize conversations to build customer trust and rapport.

By following this approach, businesses help agents acquire and finesse the people skills needed for building customer relationships. A strong connection helps customers trust a brand, which increases the likelihood of them making additional purchases or deferring to an agent’s suggestions during an upsell.

10. Intuition

Intuition is one of many essential customer service representative skills required to better understand and help customers. Agents must be able to anticipate needs and pull relevant reference resources from a knowledge base while speaking to customers.

A culture of customer focus and reflective listening is key. Customers don’t like repeating themselves, and they expect agents to have immediate insights and solutions when they reach out. Intuitive agents can sift through the details, identify needs, and work more efficiently.

11. Tech proficiency

Generative AI, chatbots, and other intelligent technologies are beginning to play crucial roles in customer service—and they aren’t going anywhere. Modern support agents must understand how to work with evolving tech tools like AI to be successful and provide more comprehensive support.

Understandably, some people are a bit standoffish regarding up-and-coming technology, as many fear it may lead to job loss. However, according to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2024, 64 percent of CX leaders are increasing their investments in evolving technology. This includes chatbots, which can answer simple or repetitive questions and allow agents to focus on more complex tasks.

12. Digital literacy

As more customer support teams transition to remote or hybrid work environments, digital literacy—or lack thereof—can no longer be ignored. Digital literacy requires technical and cognitive skills to find, access, and respond to online-based queries. It also requires agents to adhere to remote work best practices.

Agents with digital literacy skills can effectively communicate with colleagues and customers and utilize agent workspaces, tools, and additional resources. It’s OK if agents are unfamiliar with a specific database or software, but they should have the cognitive ability to pick up evolving digital tools quickly and incorporate them into their workflow.

13. Proactive mindset

Great agents can anticipate customer needs based on the contextual information stored in files and address concerns before customers even ask. Since they’re often the first to hear about recurring problems, customer service agents need to proactively anticipate issues, research solutions, and recommend changes.

An employee’s proactive mindset and behavior are telltale signs of an agent’s customer support experience and level of engagement. With this skill, agents can successfully eliminate concerns and create a better CX.

14. Problem-solving

According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2023, 72 percent of customers want immediate service—and many are willing to stick with brands that follow through. When businesses utilize tools like IVR software and AI chatbots to speed up processes, agents have more time to focus on and find solutions to complex issues.

A talented customer service rep can use their problem-solving skills to:

  • Listen to any customer problem.

  • Ask relevant follow-up questions to identify the problem.

  • Explain the pros and cons of various solutions to the customer.

  • Utilize available resources to find solutions to issues they’re unfamiliar with.

  • Identify who to speak with for additional information if they get stuck.

15. Product knowledge

Customers expect agents to know the business’s product, service offerings, and policies well. Service agents should also have in-depth knowledge about their company’s industry. When reviewing customer service resumes, hiring managers should prioritize candidates who list prior software and tool experience, demonstrating an aptitude for product, technology, and industry self-education. Past experience handling complex product offerings can also be indicative of a candidate’s suitability for the role.

Here is an example of how you might highlight product knowledge within your resume.

An example of a customer service rep resume highlights mid-level customer service skills like tech proficiency and personalization.

16. Time management

An agent’s ability to use their time effectively shouldn’t go unnoticed. While similar to efficiency and productivity, time management is an important customer service skill all on its own.

Aside from obvious benefits like lower stress levels, more manageable workloads, and faster ticket resolutions, strong time management skills also help agents meet service level agreements (SLAs).

17. Patience

Instead of closing out tickets or ending chats as quickly as possible, patient service representatives are willing to pause, think, and act in the best interests of their customers. Active listening, detailed problem-solving, and compassionate thinking are vital for dealing with angry customers while prioritizing CX.

Calmly meeting a customer’s questions, confusion, and frustration can be the difference between loyal and lost customers.

18. Attentiveness

Attentiveness is crucial for hearing and understanding your customer’s direct and indirect requests. Support reps can identify common areas of confusion and frustration by paying attention to customer experiences and closely listening to their feedback.

While your client may never say your software’s interface is confusing, they may tell you specific functions are difficult to locate. Attentive listeners recognize this feedback for what it is: an indirect request for user experience updates.

19. Ambition

Ambitious agents are earnest, steadfast, and willing to go the extra mile to provide stellar customer service. Too much ambition can cause rifts in professional teams, but too little can lead to mediocre performance and poor customer service interactions.

Tenacious representatives will go beyond the bounds of their job description to positively impact customer experiences. While cultivating this skill can be challenging, mastering it ensures that customer questions and issues are handled thoroughly and accurately.

20. Open-mindedness

Inquisitive and compassionate agents who use inclusive language are viewed as honest, trustworthy, and reliable, significantly impacting customer satisfaction and loyalty. Service reps who ask questions, refrain from passing judgment, and consider multiple viewpoints before making decisions are irreplaceable.

Open-minded agents are willing to be challenged, stay humble about experience and expertise, and freely offer empathetic responses and solutions to all customer issues.

21. Personalization

Knowing who your customers are and what they want can transform good service into great service. Successful customer service management prioritizes the creation of customer profiles so all agents know a customer’s brand history, demographic details, and needs. Use these profiles to correctly spell or pronounce names, provide location-specific services, and tailor communication.

Personalized customer communication can positively impact CX, and more customers have come to expect it. In fact, according to our CX trends Report, more than 50 percent of customers expect companies to use data to customize experiences.

22. Creativity

Offering customers innovative solutions to complex problems entices them to stay loyal and continue asking questions.

A creative and resourceful agent typically takes a classic service interaction from forgettable to memorable. Asking unique but relevant questions, referencing customer interests, presenting out-of-the-box solutions, or offering discounts can delight customers and improve interactions.

23. Upselling and cross-selling

As the first line of defense, support agents may intercept product requests or questions from interested customers. These agents must be able to influence, effectively reason with, and encourage action from interested parties without hesitation.

When an upselling or cross-selling opportunity arises, support agents can tap into their in-depth product knowledge and strong communication skills. With a keen understanding of their customers’ needs, service reps can make product- or service-specific suggestions based on best fit. Alternatively, they seamlessly transfer customers to a sales representative when necessary.

24. Coachability

Coachable customer service reps understand that advice and feedback can come from anyone, including peers or direct reports. They are willing to listen actively and implement feedback into their daily routines and customer interactions. While coachability is a great skill, it doesn’t happen without an open line of communication, approachable management teams, and the willingness to learn.

25. Flexibility

While adaptable customer service representatives anticipate and plan for changes, flexible agents react to and accommodate customer needs immediately and situationally. Flexibility in a support environment is especially useful when there are immediate changes to service software, working environments, hybrid or remote communication methods, and company products or services.

Here is an example of how you might highlight flexibility within your resume.

An example of a customer service rep resume highlights manager-level customer service skills like upselling and cross-selling and product knowledge.

How to build and nurture customer service skills

Whether you’re looking to help your agents sharpen their customer service skills or applying for a customer service job, you can do a few things to build and nurture the essential skills.

As an employer, you can:

  • Host educational webinars and workshops

  • Sponsor a certification or college course

  • Create learning materials for teams

  • Pair new employees with a mentor

  • Use customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys to identify areas of poor service
  • Offer product-specific training

  • Train agents on your business’s customer service software
  • Schedule ongoing performance reviews

  • Continually coach new hires on best practices

  • Create FAQs or an internal help center for employees to reference

As an employee, you can:

  • Ask for and share feedback with your manager and team members

  • Sign up for customer service training courses

  • Attend customer service conferences and events

  • Research your company’s product or service

  • Hold education sessions based on your research

As a job seeker, you can:

  • Sign up for skills certification courses

  • Accept an internship

  • Start with small or local customer service jobs to build your resume

  • Request an informational interview with an expert

  • Identify your strengths and skill gaps

  • Teach yourself the skills you see listed on job listings

  • Review additional customer service skills examples online

Frequently asked questions

Exceed your customer service goals with Zendesk

In today’s competitive hiring landscape, great customer service skills can be a valuable asset for hiring managers and potential employees. From scaling customer support teams to landing the perfect role, every agent needs to develop customer service job skills.

By prioritizing these skills and continually working to enhance them, job seekers can set themselves apart in large candidate pools and advance their careers. And with the help of a complete customer service solution like Zendesk, businesses can identify customer needs, build strong relationships, and provide exceptional support.

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