Four skills to develop in your customer service team in hard times

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If you’re in customer service management, being able to lead your team through tough times isn’t exactly on the job application.

But as we head into a potential economic downturn on the heels of a pandemic, we’re thinking it probably should be. 

The landscape for customer service is changing (again). Going forward, there’s likely to be more pressure, more accountability, and more scrutiny around customer service as an engine for growing the business.

And on the customer-facing side, things are rumbling. 91% of customer service leaders say that customer expectations are now at an all-time high.

Right in the middle of these organizational and customer pressures is your team.

And that’s bleeping awesome. Because not only will you be able to lead your team to contribute more wholly to the business than ever before (with the data to back it up), you’ll do so while delivering the kind of thoughtful customer support experience that can truly set your company apart. And it all starts with helping your team adapt.

Here are four traits you’ll want to develop in your team to excel in a more scrutinized world.

1. A new comfort with upselling 

Budget-wise, many organizations are already feeling a squeeze as we head into uncertain market conditions. That means more pressure on customer service to generate hard value for the business.

But here’s the thing with upselling: if your employees feel like it’s something tacked on to their support duties – it’s probably going to feel equally forced for the customer.

But that changes when you approach upselling from a customer-centric lens.

What upselling should be is helping people find the right solutions. It should feel like a natural extension of customer service – not just about hitting quotas.

And that’s where relationship-building is key. By encouraging your customer service team to focus on building authentic rapport and seeking to really understand a customer’s situation, they’ll naturally identify opportunities to add value without it feeling sketchy.

And on the customer side, it’ll feel more like someone’s genuinely got their back (because they do!) – and less like someone’s being paid for a canned pitch.

2. A flexibility-first approach

As you might already know: the best customer service experiences are responsive.  

You can’t create amazing customer service moments by deploying canned strategies at customers. But by tailoring your approach to suit how customers want to communicate, the same expertise can do so much more for them. 

That might mean talking through an issue or question over voice chat, it might mean cobrowsing and screen-sharing to fully understand what they’re having trouble with. The bottom line is that you want to give them the freedom to be helped in whichever way they feel is most effective at the time.

Not only do customers increasingly expect options when it comes to customer service — it’s even more important to meet them where they are when hard times hit.

When the economy is looking grim and world events aren’t looking any better, many people are feeling anxious and uncertain. They might not want to navigate a chatbot for customer service, or even talk to someone on the phone at all. Or they might want to see someone’s face, and feel a bit of human connection. If your team can be there for them in whatever ways they need, it will make all the difference.

3. More soft skills, better soft skills

The foundation of all great customer service is empathy. (We go into why empathy drives great CX here.)
But when you’re leading your team through rough times, you’ll want to double-down on developing soft skills that help your team members empathize with customers.

For example, helping your team practice active listening can go a long way. Active listening is all about being present and giving full attention to the speaker, along with body language and verbal cues that show you’re paying attention. (This is especially useful given the rise of visual engagement solutions.)
Also, as we mentioned — people may be going through an especially hard time right now – your people included.

Mindfulness exercises can help your agents better deal with upset customers (which is still the leading complaint among customer service agents) and can make a hard job a bit easier. It might be a good time to see if your organization offers a digital wellness platform that you can champion among your team. The increased patience, presence and happiness that follows mindfulness exercises can have a huge impact on customer interactions and team morale.

4. Getting data-obsessed

Up until recently, data in customer service has mostly been relegated to the performance side of things. How did we do? What are our KPIs looking like? 
But there’s an amazing opportunity here to lean into the data-driven customer service team: to give your team access to customer data and use it to inform everything from strategy to individual interactions. Not only will this improve your performance itself at a time when customer service will be expected to prove its worth – but it will help you create some truly fantastic customer engagements.

By incorporating more customer data in your team’s day-to-day, you’re equipping them to better anticipate needs, and deliver a more thoughtful, more personalized experience.
For example, one way to start is by segmenting your customers according to purchase history or engagement levels.

Once you have your segments, your team can start to tailor your customer service to each one. This could be anything from sending out targeted offers to creating customized support experiences. You can also see potential patterns of pain points within groups and tweak your customer journey to accommodate them.


Ultimately, all of these skills revolve around fostering customer-centricity. Especially now, every customer service interaction is an opportunity to convey that someone actually cares about the challenges people are facing.

Glance can help you create moments of human connection that build customer loyalty, speed up service engagements and help your company stand out.

Check out our Guided CX solutions here, or book a demo and let us give you a tour!

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