Improving Customer Service with Soft Skills

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“You called the right place! How can we make you smile?”

See how easy it was to catch your attention with a simple greeting? You would be surprised how often a simple acknowledgment of the customer will improve an online review. When working in the home service industry, customer service is your brand. It’s what people remember about you long after a job is completed. It’s the thing that can help drive your business to the next level.

As service providers, it is important to realize that, in today’s world, communicating with your customer directly, has become a necessity. With people finally getting a chance to converse face-to-face after a long period of strict social distancing guidelines, the customer wants to get to know you. No longer can we as service providers hide behind the bag in 2021. Which means it’s the perfect season for sharpening our soft skills such as controlling voice patterns and body language now that we are spending more time face to face. These skills are vital when communicating with customers.

Communicating with a customer is about building professional trust. When a customer feels that you have listened to them and understood what they need, they trust that you can accomplish the job and that expectations are clear. That is when the skills we’ve mastered as service providers come into play, and we follow through with what we promised our customers. This allows your team to ask the customer for additional and referral business, as well as that five-star review that will help create credibility online.

The Wow Factor

The No. 1 rule of any service provider is to go above and beyond expectations. We call this the “wow factor.” The wow factor is doing something extra without expectation; meaning don’t tell the customer you’re going to do it as part of the job. Instead, tell them you did it to say, “thank you.” These don’t have to be major jobs either. It can be as simple as changing air filters when repairing an HVAC unit. The key to this is to start the job the customer paid you to do, add something extra to the deal and then let the customer know at the end. Effectively communicating this is also paramount. Don’t make it look like the extra job was a hassle. Use proper body language and tone to show the customer you were excited and happy to do the job. The technician needs to list this “wow factor” on their invoice at full price then discount it off showing the customer that you are saying “thank you” by going ahead and covering that expense today.

The Good, The Bad, The Lost Customer

It’s funny. Research shows us that the No. 1 reason a customer leaves any company and finds a replacement is a lack of customer service. When there is poor communication, the customer doesn’t feel that he or she has been truly heard. Customer service is about communicating with the customer in a simple form and ensuring they know you’re listening. Using soft skills to keep the customer engaged is key. Not only will it reaffirm they are your No. 1 priority, but it will also help avoid potential conflicts with the customer. If they feel listened to and acknowledged, they will become customers for life and begin to send referrals your way.

The Golden 3

So, after all this discussion, you are probably wondering what are the most important soft skills a service provider should understand and master to improve customer service and satisfaction. In my experience, there are three:

  • Listening to the customer: Listen to the customer’s whole question before thinking about how you are going to respond. If a customer finishes their entire question and you already know the answer, then there is a good chance you didn’t actually listen. One thing that we have learned is most field staff stop listening to the customer in the first 10 words that are said. Most customers don’t say what they mean until the last 10 words. So, oftentimes technicians think they are working in the right direction, and they’re working on the completely wrong thing. Following this rule helps ensure all parties’ expectations are clear.
  • Skillset training, both technical and communications: We are creatures of regression. We automatically lose things that we don’t practice or sharpen. Making sure you are setting time aside as a company for all your field staff to sharpen their technical and soft skills multiple times a week (even if it’s only 15-30 minutes) helps to limit their loss of knowledge.
  • The ability to shut up: This is probably the most important skill a field tech can learn. When you ask a customer a question, STOP and wait for their response. When a technician asks a question, they tend to get uncomfortable with the silence. So, the tech ends up asking another question to break the silence, which in turn completely breaks the customer’s train of thought. It’s important to know that when you ask a question and then SHUT UP it may be uncomfortable for you, but it’s not for the customer. It doesn’t register as silence to the customer because they are still processing the information you just presented. So, learn to shut up and let them finish their process…respectfully.

If you can follow these three simple rules and processes, I’m confident you will improve your customer service skills and help retain customers while gaining some new ones, too.

Matt Koop is Vice President of Training and Implementation for The New Flat Rate, a home service menu-selling system designed to put profit directly into the hands of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC contractors. For more information visit or email

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