Top Ten Traits of Effective Customer Service People

Janice was getting ready to open her new business, an IT consulting company.  She was having coffee with her friend, Elaine, to discuss her new dilemma.

“I want to make sure I have knowledgeable staff.  I want people who can answer any technical question, who can fix any problem.  But, I have run into so many stereotypical IT types that have no people skills; what should I look for in a good employee?”

Elaine answered, “Well, you certainly need someone with the technical skills, but you’re right about the need for good social skills as well.  You know, I was reading an article just the other day that described the top 10 traits of customer service people.  The article had a list that sounded like just the criteria you need.  I have the article right here in my briefcase; let me show it to you.”

1.  Optimism and enthusiasm.  These people expect positive results every time they deal with a customer, and are willing to “hang in there” during the tough times.  This optimism tends to spread to their customers and their coworkers.

2.  A positive mental attitude.  They look on the bright side of problems.  There is a silver lining in every cloud in their sky.  They aren’t idealists, they do face the brutal facts, but they don’t let adversity overwhelm them.  They always seem to manage to come up with a solution.

3.  A competitive spirit.  They are the best, or at least they feel that way.  They strive to succeed at everything they do.  They use competition to motivate themselves to do better.  They know that no matter how good they may be, they know they can always improve.

4.  A sociable disposition.  They like people.  They enjoy interacting with customers.

5.  An inquisitive mind.  They like to solve problems.  They are adept at recognizing and defining problems, and finding the information necessary to come up with a solution.  They don’t wait for problems to blindside them; they proactively seek out solutions to potential problems, not just the current ones.

6.  Organization.  They always give accurate information to customers because they have that information right at their fingertips.  They are up to date on the latest trends and products in the industry.  Their inquisitive minds encourage this need to stay current.  They know that they have to keep this information handy and in an organized manner to be the best in their field.

7.  Respect.  They are able to put their own egos aside and focus on meeting the customers’ needs.  They understand that without the customer, they would be of no use to the company.  

8.  Accurate decision making.  They have mastered the art of gathering all the information they need, and use a logical problem-solving approach to analyze the information before they make a decision that is tied to the company’s overall goals.

9.  Communication.  They make their points in a clear, logical and interesting manner.  They aren’t afraid to ask questions to get to the root of the problem.  They use active listening skills to understand what the customer wants.  They follow the practice of “talk less, and listen more.”

10.  Knowledge.  They know their product well and consistently demonstrate their competency.  This allows them to customize solutions for each individual customer they deal with.

Elaine then said, “Did you happen to notice that knowledge was the last item on the list?  What many employers, especially the successful ones, have discovered is that skills can be taught, but attitude and behavior needs to be there at the beginning.  Management consultant Tom Peters, who wrote the book, In Search of Excellence‚ once said, “The hard skills are easy, the soft skills are hard!‚  You may want to consider hiring the person you want and then getting them trained in the skills they need.”

Bob Wangen is the president of Great Lakes Training & Consulting in DeWitt. He is a Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence and a Senior Member of the American Society for Quality. Great Lakes Training & Consulting assists businesses to improve their performance through employee and leadership development and business process improvement.

This article was written January 2010







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