Customer service skills – are they underrated?

I’m sure you’ve all turned to customer support at least once for help – whether it’s a search for information, a complaint, an internet problem, or something else. What experience have you had in those situations? Did the person on the other side understand your problem, solve it, and be patient and pleasant? That feeling you had during and after your contact with customer service is important!

People who work in customer support should have well-developed so-called customer service skills. If they are nurtured and developed, you will feel that the person on the other side is patient with you, listens to and understands you, and even if your problem is not solved, you will feel good

Although we meet with customer support very often, sometimes even several times during the day, we are often not aware of the skills and knowledge of the people on the other end of the phone, chat, or e-mail.

Customer service is the practice of supporting customers before, during, and after the purchase of a service or product. A customer support person helps the consumer/user to find out how to use the product or service and resolve any errors or defects that may occur. Customer service is the backbone of any company. It is a service, which means genuine human interactions are of the greatest importance.

Customer service skills are traits and practices that equip you to address customer needs and foster a positive experience. In general, customer service skills rely heavily on problem-solving and interpersonal skills. Customer service is often considered a “soft skill,” including traits like active listening and communication. Some of the skills are clear communication, critical thinking, creativity, adaptability, negotiation skills, time management, etc.

However, do you feel that the mentioned skills are desirable, even necessary, outside of customer service positions? For example, sales positions, jobs in the hospitality and service industry in general, or in a marketing agency. For example, if you’re a graphic designer meeting with your client about their latest project understanding what good customer service takes can help you.

On the other hand, if you don’t have an outward-facing job, then you might not think it’s important to improve your customer service skills. Well, think again. Throughout your career, you’re likely to experience numerous professional situations that require good customer service skills. For example, you might have to fill in for a colleague who usually handles customer inquiries. Your boss could ask you to participate in a meeting with a client, which means you should be able to field questions and provide information or even to propose a solution to a problem.

Therefore, whether you formally work in customer service or not, you need to have a basic understanding of customer service skills. Whatever your department, seniority or industry may be, you’re responsible for the experience your customers have with your company, which is why you should be concerned with your customer service skills. In addition, sometimes the users are actually your colleagues – and then you also need to have an understanding of their needs, to be able to hear their opinion, and criticism, help them better understand a topic and successfully solve a problem.

How can customer service skills be improved?

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.

Let’s mention some of the customer service skills that can be useful for different professions:

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s emotions and perspective. Have you ever been on the phone with customer service and wanted to shout ‘Put Yourself In My Position!’? You were asking the other person for empathy. When you empathize with another person, you try to imagine how you would feel if you were them. Empathy is a powerful tool you can benefit from in contact with others. It changes relationships for the better, even short-term relationships such as when you are dealing with upset, embarrassed, or angry end-users or other customers. Customer service is more than just solving technical problems. It’s also about building good relationships with customers and co-workers.

Great customer service requires patience in communication when helping others meet their needs. The ability to stay calm and keep from taking things personally will help diffuse tense situations with angry customers, clients, or co-workers.

Active listening
Active listening can help you better understand what your customer feels, wants, and needs. To practice active listening, pay close attention to what the customer is saying, and take note of their body language and tone. Ask follow-up questions to make sure you understand the other side. Paraphrase – repeat what you heard in your own words, to confirm that you understand the other party well. Wait until they’re done speaking to come up with your response.

Clear communication
Ensure you convey to customers exactly what you mean. The ability to communicate clearly when working with customers is a key skill because miscommunication can result in disappointment and frustration. The best customer service professionals know how to keep their communications with customers simple and leave nothing to doubt.
Whenever you are dealing with people frequently on the job, verbal and written communication skills become very important. Being able to effectively communicate your ideas, a company policy or a resolution to an issue helps the customer feel like they are being cared for well and you have their best interest in mind.

Best customer service professionals have a deep knowledge of how their companies’ products work. After all, without knowing your product from front to back, you won’t know how to help when customers run into problems.

Time management
In both customer service and life skills, the ability to manage time efficiently affects productivity at work and can mean the difference between a satisfied customer excited for their next visit or an unsatisfied client waiting to speak to management. Things take time — usually more time than we realize. In order to become an effective team member, it’s important to learn to estimate how much time a solution will take, how much it will cost, and how many other things you have to deal with.

Anyone may develop customer service skills and build customer loyalty as well as foster strong relationships among employees and teams. It is likely you already possess some of these skills or simply need a little practice to sharpen them.

With focus and determination, you can work to enhance the skills you need to be effective at customer service. Problem-solving abilities, communication skills, and optimistic thinking are traits that, when consistently practiced, can help you be an efficient attendant and a great co-worker. Consider the following suggestions to improve your customer service job skills.

  • Ask for feedback from colleagues and listen closely, as they can provide insight you may have missed in a self-evaluation.
  • Also, ask for feedback from customers or clients. Keep track of your feedback, and reflect on it with each new round to get an idea of your improvement.
  • You can practice skills like active listening 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.
  • Look for ways to practice your skills outside of work by volunteering or seeking continuing education courses or training.
  • Don’t forget that every new experience with people can be a field where you can develop and improve these skills.

How do HR recruiters screen customer service skills?

So, since these skills are widely applicable and desirable in various professions, recruiters attach great importance to them. It is not always necessary that these skills are stated in the job requirement, but the fact is that they are desirable. Also, service delivery skills can be an indicator of the ability to successfully establish relationships with people and professionalism in performing work.

Recruiters, therefore, pay attention to these skills during the entire process of recruiting and selecting candidates. They are quite noticeable already at the first contact when the candidate responds to an email or phone call. Then, during the interview, we can notice how attentive and active the candidate is as a listener, in what way and how clearly he communicates, and even how he shows empathy. Also, based on certain situational questions, the way a person solves a problem or manages challenging situations with clients can come to the front.

To sum up everything

During our careers, it is almost impossible to avoid interacting with people. In addition to handling customers and clients, we must also be able to work as a team. You will be dealing with all kinds of people with different personalities. With a heterogeneous group of individuals, there are bound to be differences. Having customer service skills allows you to troubleshoot and resolve issues in a professional manner. This holds especially true for high-tension situations.

The effort to develop your customer service skills can only become your relationship strength and a great asset in any business context you find yourself in.

The key to successful cooperation between the client and the HR agency

From the perspective of a recruiter working in an HR agency, I am aware that it is not always easy to meet all the client’s expectations. Especially when in the selection process several people decide which candidate will be employed. On the other hand, from our recruiting side, it is important to get as much information as possible from the client about expectations from a new team member, in order to get a clearer picture of what kind of person they would like to hire. What are the competencies, skills, and personality characteristics and what kind of experience does the client want to see in the candidate? What is the company culture like? What values ​​are appreciated? Are the working hours flexible? What benefits does the client offer? These are questions to which the recruiter must have an answer. Otherwise, he will not get a good response from the candidates – if he does not know the basic information about the company for which he is recruiting people, then he will not succeed in establishing a relationship of trust with his clients – candidates. Also, it is important for recruiters to agree with the client what the dynamics of the selection process will be – at the moment when we present a candidate whom we consider to be relevant, who will interview the candidate on the employer’s side, whether they may be planning to perform some additional testing, how many rounds of selection there is, etc.

However, even when everything is well planned, the selection process is dynamic, and unexpected situations may arise along the way. I believe that the recruiter and the client can together solve all challenges and successfully fill the position if they establish a solid relationship. Therefore, below we talk about the key features for successful cooperation between the recruiter and the client.

Transparent communication

Trust is a mutual process. So, to build trust, we must show trust. And it is built on the foundations of transparent and honest communication.

Do you also work best when you have all the relevant information in front of you? It often happens that some information in the initial briefing is ignored, skipped, or not shared because it is not considered relevant. All information is relevant! It is important for a recruiter to understand the bigger picture in order to navigate within that framework and create the best strategy for finding candidates. Also, we need to talk about problems and challenges. Maybe we can overcome them more easily together. In addition, it is very bad if the candidate is the first to get information that does not benefit the company, and the recruiter does not know anything about it. On the one hand, the mutual trust between the HR agency and the client is broken. On the other hand, in the eyes of the candidate, the reputation of the client, as well as the HR agency, is damaged.

Open and honest communication and trust are the umbrella terms without which successful cooperation cannot be achieved.

Effective communication

In addition to transparency, effective communication is also important. The most common wish of the client at the beginning of the process is that the employment process is completed successfully and quickly. In this regard, it is important that both parties share information quickly and accurately, especially when communication occurs exclusively via email.

Usually, when contacting the candidate begins, unexpected questions arise that were not mentioned in the initial brief. Furthermore, various challenges may appear during the selection process (candidate withdrawal, client-candidate interview schedule mismatch, selection criteria change), and in these situations, it is important that both parties react quickly and find solutions.

Also, the largest number of candidates participate in several job vacancies at the same time, and feedback on the status of the selection process is important to them. If the client or recruiter does not respond with relevant information, it is very likely that we will lose that candidate.


Feedback is generally intended to improve a particular behaviour. That’s why feedback is important to us after a client interview a featured candidate. Based on the feedback we receive from the client, we can verify whether we have fully understood the client’s need, as well as where there is room for improvement.

Recruitment and selection is an unpredictable process, and during that process, it may happen that changes occur in the company that wants to hire a candidate, due to which the recruitment could be suspended or suspended until further notice. Changes can be organizational, changes in priorities, consideration of an internal candidate, and the like. It happens that in those situations, the feedback fails, and the recruiter stands in the dark for a while without an explanation. It is also important to share these changes so that the recruiter can be transparently positioned in relation to the candidates.

Plus, by sharing feedback, we learn about the client and understand how the client thinks and what values ​​cherishes, which improves future cooperation.

Advisory role of the recruiter

The key role of the HR agency is to advise the client during the decisive points of the selection process. The framework in which the process will take place is determined by the client following the planned goals and possibilities. An HR consultant, as an expert in the field of recruitment and selection and a market expert, should have the freedom to advise the client on how to change the criteria, adjust the budget and benefits, perform on the market, reach an agreement with the candidate, and the like. The client and the HR consultant are partners, and the consultant’s goal is to help the client understand the state of the market and the framework it offers, as well as to present the client in that market in a relevant way. In this case, the client’s trust and willingness to adapt to the market situation, i.e. his flexibility, comes to the forefront.

We mentioned that the process of selection and recruitment is a dynamic and changing process, especially in the circumstances of constant changes in the market. It is extremely important to be aware of this and to adapt accordingly. Clients appear with their starting points – required competencies from candidates, experience, budget, benefits they offer, etc. However, if the situation on the market is different, the recruiter will advise that some requirements be adapted to that situation. For example, it happens that candidates who own all the desired characteristics are rare or that the financial expectations of candidates who possess all or almost all the desired characteristics are far greater than the client’s budget. In such situations, it is extremely important for the client to be flexible and to be ready to meet the candidates.

Therefore, the HR agency should be the client’s external team, since we are working towards a common goal. Although we together come up with a plan at the beginning, what matters is the kind of relationship we build with each other. It is equally important that both parties put similar effort into the partnership.

And in the end, the essence comes down to the characteristics of every good relationship – communication and listening, feedback, trust, and flexibility.

My experience: Demonstration of power during the job interview

A situation that I recently experienced myself in the process of looking for a job, and which I had heard about before from personal experience from various sources, from the stories of friends and acquaintances, and about which I read as the topic of weekly columns, psychological manuals, and various blogs, inspired me to write this blog.

It is about the phenomenon of demonstration of power, i.e. the presented values ​​of the company during the interviewing of job candidates, and finally, about the lack of positive direct communication. Can you guess what I’m talking about?

Namely, based on a good recommendation, my well-written CV ended up on the “big and important” director’s desk of a successful company, to be read and considered (I hoped), so that I might be invited to an interview. Fortunately for me, I was invited, and very quickly.

I was very pleased that such an opportunity presented itself to me because I considered that “big and important” also means capable, innovative, inspiring, and everything that logically goes with that. Armed with a positive attitude, freshness, and “good energy”, I appeared ten minutes early in the center of that well-known company and was asked to wait until the Director’s Personal Assistant came to pick me up.

And while I’m sitting on the sofa and renewing what will be my “key points” in the conversation, I see a younger woman, dressed for business, approaching me, and I smile because I realize that this is the person I’m waiting for, but at the same time, I notice how her facial expression doesn’t change as she walks towards me, that she is very strict and “cemented” on that face. Now the young lady is in front of me, but she doesn’t say good day or anything like that, nor did she smile at me, but with an unchanged stern expression asks me if I’m That and That? I confirm that I am, “Good day, how are you”, I say, and I only get the instruction “Follow me”. And I follow her. The first “touch point”. We all know how important the first impression is, and how, among other things, it is an important transmitter of the company’s value and an indicator of the climate that prevails in it. My thoughts stimulated by such a first interaction are naturally diverted from the positive, my expectations change as I walk through the corridor, and now I estimate that the price here is some rigid strictness, “great importance”, and kindness and immediacy probably do not share a priority place on “know-how” lists. OK.

The personal assistant opens the door to the Director’s office, and now the two of us are standing in the office near the door. The director’s desk is opposite us, so he would be looking right at us, actually me, if he would like to look!

Although the opening of the door was heard, and it was more than evident that someone entered the office, the Director does not raise his head but continued to look at the papers, it seems, and this continues now… I am confused, not only because he did not look at us but also greeted us, but also by the fact his assistant is not saying anything (in my head I should say something like Director, So and So arrived as agreed, or at least Good day). The assistant is standing next to me, and the Director still doesn’t look up. My thoughts impose an idea: he’s important, he’s testing me, or he’s really busy. I do not know. But that’s how I say Good day first! And I stretch my lips into a smile (measured, of course). Even though it’s Good Day, it turned out to be somewhat sound considering the given situation.

The second “touch point” leaves me with a variety of impressions. The director is now busy and I am irrelevant at this moment and now is not the right moment for me and that’s all… there is a very “important” man in front of me (who will use this opportunity to demonstrate his importance and to test a potential “follower” in a certain way), as well as the impression that the Director has no problem rejecting prosaic etiquette.

Good day! And a measured smile. The director raises his head, confirms my presence, greets me, and tells me to sit down, while his assistant is still standing and does not speak, and leaves after the instructions he receives, among other things, to bring me water. I greet her and thank her. I think she also said hello to me at that moment.

The conversation with the Director lasted only a few minutes. He asked me one question about what I did at my previous job because it was a well-known and well-known company in the region. He referred me to an interview with the HR director of the company and I left his office as fastest as I could. Just when the water was coming.

In this instance, the situation improved a little for me, because the HR director was a nice older lady who has probably been working for the company for a long time, quite formal, admittedly, at times it seems as if she is “doing what is necessary”, but who, on the other hand, with spent a whole hour and a bit with me, although at the beginning she emphasized that our conversation would last 30 minutes, and with whom I had the impression that I had talked. When I was leaving, the HR director escorted me to the exit and I thanked her, “It was nice talking to you”, which she did not say back, but politely said goodbye. We will be in touch.

This experience got me thinking. The director certainly wanted to get to know me (because he needs to find someone or to “follow up” on a recommendation), to get some impression, and that is quite desirable and expected. I once read somewhere that when you need to demonstrate the importance, you should not speak for more than two minutes. And it suddenly dawned on me on the way back. Of course, there are many other ways to demonstrate power or to speedily “test” one’s character (although this was perhaps too speedy for even the most judgmental mage).

My conclusion from this experience is that in such situations, you should stick to your own views and principles, and not allow someone else’s approach to confuse us or cause us discomfort. Give yourself space to assess the situation, make an effort to tolerate the uncomfortable silence and “non-reaction”, and finally make an effort to “fight it out” for yourself.

In such business environments, it is probably a pyramid-structured company whose values ​​do not prioritize positivity, openness, initiative, criticality, and flexibility. My “good energy”, freshness, and kindness, were not accepted, nor were they probably interpreted as if I was a good “fit” for this company, and various questions opened up in my head, such as these: Is it positive in such systems immediacy a threat to one’s greatness or is it too expensive, difficult and unnecessary? Does it level or reduce the importance and seriousness? Does it represent disrespect for authority? Can authority be kind and accepting? Even now, I could list many more questions in this regard, but I believe that you understand what I am trying to say, and above all, I understand it myself. Anyhow, choose the work environments you want to work in carefully. Not every company is for everyone, regardless of reputation and external impression.

Types of employment contracts and their impact on employee well-being

By signing any contract, people commit themselves to respect a certain agreement. In many cases, signing a contract seems to be stressful for employees. No matter the company, it is important to understand the rights and obligations that we have by the Law. All the laws and regulations may seem confusing at first, so we decided to give a brief overview of all contract types that exist on the market and help you gain a better understanding of them. Alongside the contract types, we also outlined the main psychological stressors that occur due to different types of employment. Let’s get you ready for your next job interview!

In the beginning, let’s take a look at all types of contracts defined by the Labor Law.

The Labor Law of the Republic of Serbia, among other things, regulates the establishment of an employment relationship between an employee and an employer, as well as the employment contract and all its forms. An employment contract is a document that is valid from the moment the employer and the employee sign it, and it regulates the rights and obligations of both parties.

The employment contract can be concluded for a specified or permanent period. When the duration of the contract is not indicated in the document, it means that the contract is permanent.

Fixed-term contract

A fixed-term contract is concluded when it is justified by the employer’s need to complete the work within a certain period (up to 24 months at the most). In specific cases this period can be prolonged, such as replacing an employee who is temporarily absent, due to work on a project, with foreign residents until the expiration of the work permit, ect.

Part-time work

The employment relationship can be based on part-time for an indefinite or fixed time with the same conditions as for full-time employees performing the same job. This type of contract allows the employee to perform another job with another employer.

In addition to “classic” employment contracts, the employment can also be established through other types of contracts – a contract for temporary and occasional jobs, a service contract, a contract for professional training and development, or a contract for additional work. Contracts concluded in this form imply work outside employment.

Contract for temporary and occasional jobs

 The contract for temporary and occasional jobs is concluded to perform jobs that do not last longer than 120 working days during the calendar year(eg.  agricultural seasonal work is often defined by this contract).

Service contract

The employer can conclude a service contract for the purpose of performing tasks that are outside the employer’s activities, and which have as their subject the independent production or repair of a certain thing, the independent execution of a certain physical or intellectual work. Therefore, in order to conclude a contract with a person outside the employment relationship, the employer must not perform that work as a primary or secondary activity. For example, freelancers can enter into a service contract with the client.

Contract for professional training and development

As a condition for independent work in certain professions, the student has the obligation to perform an internship with a certain employer. Therefore, it is precisely the contract for professional training and development that defines this type of work outside the employment relationship for people who establish employment for the first time.

Contract on supplementary work

An employee who works full-time for an employer, but needs additional income, can conclude a contract with another employer on supplementary work, but up to one-third of full-time work at the most.

What do the studies say?

Numerous studies show that people react uniquely to different employment conditions. Therefore, people prone to anxiety prefer permanent contracts, while fixed-term contracts evoke uncertainty and cause stress. On the other hand, freelance and fixed-term contracts are more suitable for stable people for whom flexibility is important.

Also, it is important to point out that the latest research by the Institute of Statistics shows that the largest number of employees in Serbia has a permanent contract (out of the total number of 2,192,400, there are 421,700 employees with a fixed-term contract[1]). Although at first glance it seems that the portion of employees with permanent contracts is high, It is still significantly lower than the European Union average.

Bearing in mind that certainly a large number of employees in our country, as well as in Europe, are under fixed-term contracts, it is important to point out how such a situation can affect the stress and well-being of employees.

If you have ever found yourself in a situation where you have a contract for a fixed-term contract, you may be familiar with the feeling of anxiety before the contract expires and the fear of whether it will be extended, no matter how well it seemed to you that you performed during the period. This is exactly what some findings are talking about.

  • Some earlier research shows that employees on fixed-term contracts or temporary workers often fear that they will not get enough tasks or working hours at work and that this will lead to contract termination. Furthermore, employees with fixed-term contracts or freelancers often work overtime and do not turn down jobs out of fear of losing potential opportunities in the future[2].
  • With employees who work on temporary and occasional jobs or on a fixed basis, if the responsibilities are not clearly defined, there may be a conflict of roles, while it has been shown that this is not usually the case with freelancers if they have control over the work process[3]. Conflict of roles occurs when there are contradictions between different roles that a person assumes or performs, in this case, on a professional level. Usually, the conflict is the result of conflicting obligations that result in a conflict of interest.
  • Then, when it comes to the integration of employees into the organization and social interaction, employees who do not have a permanent contract often feel marginalized, especially if they are a minority within the organization.
  • Especially important, the way an employee with a fixed-term contract or a contract for temporary and occasional jobs will feel, and even perceive its position within the company, depends a lot on the person’s personality characteristics and belief in its skills and abilities. Hence, Greenhalgh and Rosenblatt [4]note that business insecurity is a complex subjective feeling, and in a study by Sill, Sora, and Gracia[5], which establishes the existence of a connection between business insecurity and health consequences, they state that business insecurity depends on the development of the skills that employees have and the desire to work.

In the end, it is important to remember that there is not one type of contract or employment that is ideal for everyone. Numerous factors affect the way you perceive employment conditions.

Hope that this review will help you understand the differences the next time you change jobs, but also think about your preferences and choose your work environment accordingly.