Skills needed to start your customer service career

The requirement "excellent customer service skills" often seems vague to applicants, and can vary from company to company. Here, we've broken down the basics when it comes to good customer service skills and practices.​

As industries continue to expand, the need for specialists knowledgeable about those industries — and able to convey information to customers and clients effectively — will increase. Many of these new jobs list "excellent customer service skills" as a vital qualification for hiring.

As industries continue to expand, the need for specialists knowledgeable about those industries — and able to convey information to customers and clients effectively — will increase. Many of these new jobs list


Customer service specialists spend the majority of their time interacting with customers, fielding questions, comments, and complaints. As such, communicating effectively as a customer service representative is a necessary skill. In addition to speaking clearly, calmly, and politely — maintaining a balance of professionalism and friendliness — here are some different areas to focus on improving your communication skills:

Telephone etiquette: many companies field customer service queries, especially complaints, over the phone. Helping customers on the phone is harder than many think, however, since you can't gage a customer's reaction with physical cues. Learn to speak confidently and clearly over the phone, making sure to enunciate every word in case of poor connections. Balance incoming calls by managing your time effectively with each customer over the phone. Choose your language and words clearly to avoid misconceptions or having to explain things multiple times.

Cultivate positive language customers are more likely to return to a business or use a product again if they receive excellent customer service. Customers don't react well to negative answers or phrasing; instead of beginning sentences with "but," "actually," or "unfortunately," to give a response, jump straight to the facts and come up with a solution-based statements that take as much responsibility off the consumer as possible.

"Read" your customers people react to different attitudes, phrases, and moods in varying ways. Cultivate your perception of these changes to figure out what a customer needs or is feeling without the need for them to say it. This will personalize your customer service tactics and make you more relatable to the individuals you're helping.


An important component of good communication is effective listening. Good listening goes beyond your ability to repeat what a customer just told you — it involves digging deeper to figure out what a customer is really feeling and how you can help.

Patience: you may interact with a lot customers who have the same question, comment, or complaint. Though this may seem tedious, try to compartmentalize each reaction. Take the time listen to them and give them the individualized attention they deserve. Also, don't assume you have the answer to a question before they've finished asking it — interruptions waste time and can anger customers, as can the wrong advice.

Empathy: truly listening to your customers and working to understand what they need is an act of empathy. Empathy means putting yourself in a customer’s shoes: why is someone feeling confused or frustrated, and how can I help? After all, customers and clients don't call unless they feel they have to. When you start to understand why a customer is calling, you'll be better equipped to give them the right information.

Knowledge and merchandizing

Of course, even the best listeners and communicators are useless if they don't know about a company's products and services. Become knowledgeable about all of the goods and services your company offers in order to give the best advice to customers; after all, nothing is more irritating to a customer or client than a customer service specialist without a good answer. In the event that you can't answer a question, know who can—direct a customer to the right representative and ask them to follow up with you if necessary.

Building your skills

It's important to have the customer service basics down before jumping into your career as a specialist who interacts with customers. CareerBuilder offers a short course for customer care representatives that was developed in collaboration with industry experts. Upon completion of the course, CareerBuilder will also help you secure job interviews with employers in your area.

This course covers topics such as how to interact with customers, how to properly manage inquiries, and how to take ownership of your career—skills that will not only make you more competitive in the current job market, but also set you up for continued success in your customer service career.

Additional information for updating your resume:

Where to go from a customer assistant position

4 tips for the perfect customer service resume