17 Customer Service Skills: Definitions and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 18 December 2022

Published 20 January 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Customer service skills are traits and behaviours that equip you to address customer needs and foster a positive experience. In general, customer service skills rely heavily on problem-solving and communication. Customer service is often considered a “soft skill,” including traits like active listening and reading both verbal and nonverbal cues.

What is customer service?

Customer service is both a type of job and a set of job skills. As a job, customer service professionals are responsible for addressing customer needs and ensuring they have a good experience. As a skill set, customer service entails several qualities such as active listening, empathy, problem-solving and communication. Customer service is used in many jobs at every level.

While traditionally you might think of customer care as a service from a business to a consumer, it is also applicable within a business. For example, you may be in a role that provides services to other, internal teams. In this case, you would want to ensure that you understood and were able to meet their needs.

Related: What Does a Customer Service Representative Do? (With Skills)

What are customer service skills?

Customer service skills are the set of behaviours you rely on when interacting with a customer. They can also be useful when following up after an initial conversation. For example, if you work as a virtual assistant for a technology company, you may need to help customers troubleshoot problems with their devices. To accomplish this, you will likely use several different skills:

  • Communication. You will need to be responsive in a timely manner. You will need to communicate with them in a clear, easy-to-understand way to solve the problem.

  • Empathy. Your interactions may begin with someone who is frustrated or unhappy. It is important that you understand and identify with the feelings of others and communicate accordingly.

  • Patience. Clients and customers might ask several questions, be unhappy or ask you to repeat instructions several times. Patience is important to keep the conversation on track, remain personable and provide a positive experience.

  • Technical knowledge. To effectively solve problems, you will likely need to know a bit of technical or industry knowledge to help them resolve the issue at hand.

After your conversation, you will likely use active listening skills to record action items and complete any follow-up tasks. Effectively working with others will require different skills to help create an effective solution for everyone. You can also easily apply skills like these to situations with colleagues, as well.

Related: Interview Question: "What Does Customer Service Mean to You?"

Why are customer service skills important?

For many businesses, people working in customer service roles or using customer service skills are the human face of the company. These businesses rely on employees who can create a positive dialogue with customers, helping to foster loyalty and a good reputation.

If you are in a customer service role, common in industries such as food and beverage or retail, a large part of your success might be attributed to your ability to provide positive experiences to customers. Learning and developing traits that make a strong customer service worker paired with on-the-job experience can help you advance in your role.

Related: 12 Good Customer Service Examples

Customer service skills list and examples

Although customer service is often seen as a skill in and of itself, there are many associated skills that support strong customer service abilities.

Necessary customer service skills include:

  1. Active listening

  2. Adaptability

  3. Attentiveness

  4. Conflict resolution

  5. Creativity

  6. Decision-making

  7. Dependability

  8. Effective communication

  9. Empathy

  10. Friendliness

  11. Knowledge of your product or service

  12. Open-mindedness

  13. Patience

  14. Quick thinking

  15. Reading physical and emotional cues

  16. Responsiveness

  17. Timeliness

Many customer service skills are soft skills. As you help learn how to more effectively communicate, make decisions, think independently, and expand your understanding of empathy, you’ll find you can more easily relate to and assist others. Employers value people with strong soft skills because of how well they can interact with both customers and colleagues.

How to improve your customer service skills

Anyone can benefit from improving their customer service skills. Being a good communicator, having empathy and actively listening, for example, will help you be a better employee and colleague overall. Additionally, expanding your technical knowledge and skills will make it easier to provide service to others.

Here are several ways you can improve your customer service skills:

1. Ask for direct feedback from customers and colleagues. If allowed by your employer, ask customers to provide feedback on the service. This can help you understand whether you are providing a great experience for customers on a daily basis. Avoid taking any negative criticism personally. All customer feedback is important, even if it isn’t positive.

You may want to consider asking for feedback at regular intervals, such as quarterly or annually. Keep track of your feedback, and reflect on it with each new round to get an idea of your improvement.

2. Ask a manager for feedback. Managers are often responsible for observing how employees work with customers. As such, you may want to ask a manager for feedback on your customer interactions. If most of those interactions happen over email or other digital means, it might be helpful to forward or print out your communications for your manager to highlight your strengths and areas for improvement.

3. Read customer feedback reports. If your employer provides customers with service feedback forms, take the opportunity to review them if available to you. Reviewing customer feedback may give you a different sense of your current customer service abilities than what you’ll get internally from management or colleagues.

4. Practise new skills. You may find it helpful to practise your customer service skills. You can practise skills like friendliness and patience with everyone on and off the job, including colleagues and customers. You may also find that improving your knowledge of the service or product your employer offers improves your ability to resolve issues with customers.

Improving your customer service skills can help you move from providing good customer service to great customer service. Good customer service results in customers who are pleased with the service they received, but who may not go on to provide feedback or reviews for you and the company. Great customer service, however, can encourage customers to give you positive reviews and make them more likely to share the story of their positive experience with others.

How to highlight your customer service skills

You likely already possess many of the customer skills employers need. You can highlight those skills on your resume, cover letter, during interviews and on the job.

Customer service skills to include in your resume

If you’re applying for jobs that require customer service as a primary duty, provide a few examples of your customer service skills in the “skills” section. Include both the soft skills you possess, such as responsiveness and problem-solving, as well as hard skills and product knowledge required to provide effective service. For example, your “skills” section might look like this:

Customer Service Skills: Proficiency in Zoho | Efficient problem-solver | Patient | Consistent

Customer service skills to include in your cover letter

In your cover letter, you may want to mention specific examples of when and how you used your customer service skills. For example, if you worked as a hotel manager, you could write:

During my time as a hotel manager, I ensured all customers had their needs met within minutes. Particularly during the changeover period between check-in and checkout, occasional problems would arise where some rooms did not get cleaned in time. When this occurred, I always ensured that guests rooms were cleaned immediately and within minutes, and offered complimentary items to help rectify the mistake.

Related: How to Write a Cover Letter

Customer service skills for job interviews and on the job

As you proceed to job interviews, you will have the chance to showcase your customer service skills by arriving on time, responding clearly to interview questions, maintaining eye contact and presenting a friendly demeanor.

Customer service is an important part of every business. Creating positive interactions in the workplace can help ensure your company continues to draw both new and repeat and customers, and help develop a cohesive relationship with colleagues. Utilising customer service skills will be essential in your job search process and as you advance in your career, whether you apply them with external clients or internal colleagues.

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