Whether you’re interacting with customers face-to-face or over the phone, being able to effectively communicate and build rapport with your customers is key to providing a positive experience.
As the overwhelming majority of customers, or 96% to be exact, believe that customer service is a make-or-break factor when it comes to loyalty, it’s no surprise that excellent communication skills are vitally important for customer service professionals.
In this article, we’ll explore the importance of communication skills in customer service and the various types of customer service communication skills needed for success in the hospitality industry.
What are communications skills for customer service?
Communication is more than just words. It’s the ability to use verbal and non-verbal cues, such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, to engage with customers in a professional manner.
To be successful in customer service, it’s important to have a thorough understanding and mastery of different communication techniques.
Why communication skills are important in customer service
Communication skills enable professionals to build a customer relationship, respond to their inquiries quickly and effectively, and provide them with a positive customer experience. Specifically, strong communication skills:
- Help you connect more deeply with customers
- Facilitate understanding of customer needs
- Enhance customer satisfaction
Encourage customers to return for repeat business as after a positive customer service experience, 52% of customers are likely to return and purchase again
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Why communication skills are important in hospitality customer service
An overwhelming 99% of customer service professionals agree that communication skills are important in their profession, and this is even more crucial in the hospitality industry.
This field requires an enhanced level of communication skills due to the many interactions and conversations that take place between the customer service team and the guests.
As a result, customers place a higher emphasis on their overall customer service experience, which makes it all the more essential for professionals in this field to undertake training in communication skills.
What are the most important communication skills for customer service in the hospitality industry?
The most important communication skills for those pursuing a career in hospitality include:
- Listening actively
- Being empathetic
- Having a positive attitude
- Speaking clearly and concisely
- Having a thorough knowledge of hospitality industry products and services
- Being able to handle complaints professionally
- Staying calm under pressure
- Understanding customer needs and expectations
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Verbal communication skills
Good verbal communication allows hospitality customer service professionals to successfully communicate with guests, answer questions, and address concerns. Several aspects of verbal communication should be taken into consideration.
Tone and pitch
Tone and pitch refer to the emotional quality of a conversation. It can affect how people perceive you and your hospitality business.
To ensure that you come across as professional yet friendly, try to maintain an even voice with a moderate pitch throughout conversations. There should be an emphasis on speaking slowly, clearly, and concisely.
It’s important to use clear language so that customers fully understand what you are saying and why. Additionally, using appropriate language can help you build rapport with customers, develop trust and create an overall positive experience.
Here are a few strategies you can use:
- Try to keep your vocabulary simple
- Show respect and courtesy by avoiding slang, bad language, or inappropriate jokes
- Be direct and to the point
This involves fully concentrating on, understanding, and responding to what someone else is saying. It requires paying close attention, avoiding distractions, and not interrupting while the other person speaks.
Active listening is important because it helps build relationships with customers by showing them that you value what they have to say and are actively engaged in the conversation.
So, make sure you:
- Ask questions to ensure you understand what is being said
- Repeat key points to confirm understanding
- Avoid distractions while the customer is speaking
- Resist the urge to interject or offer solutions before fully understanding the customer’s issue
Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings or experiences. It involves being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and truly understand what they’re going through.
Being empathetic is an important part of customer service because it shows customers that you’re listening, understanding, and caring. It can help build rapport, create trust, and make customers feel valued.
A few ways to show empathy include:
- Using active listening techniques
- Expressing concern and understanding
- Acknowledging how customers feel
Written communication skills
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Written communication is an important part of being a customer service agent and involves sending written messages to customers, such as emails and letters.
Written communication can be used for a variety of purposes, including providing information about products and services, responding to inquiries, and addressing complaints. Here are a few components of effective written communication.
Written customer communication should be clear, concise, and professional. Additionally, it should reflect the desired tone of the message as well as the company’s brand.
To develop an effective writing style, you can focus on:
- Keeping sentences concise and avoiding complex language
- Being polite, courteous, and professional in your choice of words – be aware of your tone and avoid using slang, cliches, and unnecessary jargon
- Making sure you include all the necessary information
What are some common mistakes to avoid in written communication for customer service?
While there are many common mistakes to avoid in written communication for customer service, some of the most important ones include:
- Making incorrect assumptions
- Writing too much
- Not addressing the customer by name or using a generic greeting
- Sending a generic response without personalizing the message
- Failing to provide clear directions or solutions
Grammar and spelling
It’s essential to use correct grammar and spelling in all customer service messages as it demonstrates professionalism and attention to detail.
Make sure that you double-check your work before sending a message, as errors can lead to confusion or put customers off. You could use a spell checker, read your message out loud to detect errors, or ask someone else to look over your work.
Some common mistakes to look out for include:
- Misusing homophones, e.g. their/there/they’re
- Incorrect use of apostrophes, e.g., its/it’s
- Mixing up commonly confused words e.g. accept/except
- Writing typos, e.g., confusd instead of confused
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Formatting is another important component of written communication for customer service. It helps to make the message easier to read and understand.
Strategies for effective formatting include:
- Using headings or numbered lists to break up text
- Highlighting key points to make them stand out
- Keeping the message concise
- Avoiding large blocks of text and adding spaces between paragraphs
Non-verbal communication skills
Non-verbal communication can be just as important as verbal and written communication in customer service and includes a variety of cues.
Body language is a powerful non-verbal tool, as it can help to express emotions and give messages without words. For customer service, it’s important to focus on open and welcoming body language, as this can make customers feel more at ease.
You can do so by smiling and making eye contact, maintaining an open posture, such as arms uncrossed, leaning in when listening, and nodding to indicate understanding.
Maintaining eye contact with customers is important, as it helps to demonstrate that you’re engaged in the conversation and interested in what they have to say.
Keep your gaze friendly and respectful – avoid staring or looking away too often, as this can make customers feel uncomfortable.
Facial expressions can convey a range of emotions to customers. A warm and friendly smile is always welcomed, but don’t overdo it. You should also be aware of your other facial expressions, such as furrowing your brow or looking confused.
While you may feel a certain way when dealing with difficult customers, it’s important to try and keep positive facial expressions to make customers feel more relaxed.
Overcoming communication barriers
In some cases, it can be difficult to communicate effectively with customers for a number of reasons.
If you’re communicating with a customer who speaks a different language, it can be a challenge to understand each other. It’s important to remain patient and polite and avoid using jargon or complicated words that the customer may not understand. If possible, try to get another staff member who speaks the same language as the customer.
Different cultures can have different ways of communicating, which can make it difficult to understand each other. Make sure to remain respectful and understanding when interacting with customers from different backgrounds.
Most importantly, avoid making assumptions or generalizations about their culture. If you’re unsure how to communicate with someone, ask them if there’s a certain way they would prefer to be communicated with.
How can cultural barriers impact communication in customer service?
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Cultural barriers can create communication challenges in customer service, as different cultures may have different ways of communicating and understanding information.
Bad customer service caused by this can lead to confusion or misunderstandings between the customer and the employee, resulting in a bad experience for the customer.
Emotional barriers can arise when a customer is feeling upset or frustrated. In these cases, being calm and patient is key.
Don’t fall into the trap of getting defensive or arguing with the customer. Instead, focus on understanding their feelings and assuring them that you’re there to help.
Effective communication in customer service is essential for providing a positive experience for customers.
By being aware of verbal and non-verbal communication techniques, as well as overcoming potential cultural and emotional barriers, you can ensure that customers feel heard and respected.
Now that you have a better understanding of communication in customer service, the next step is to start creating your hotel business plan to kick-start your hotel management career. You can also read our “is hospitality a good career?” and “why work in hospitality?” blog posts to learn more about this rewarding career choice
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