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4 Ways to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills

Posted on October 12, 2016 by Phyllis Gillman in Customer Service

phyllis vertafore customer service problem solving expectations

On a general level, customer service is about meeting the needs of customers and, ultimately, ensuring customers have a positive experience with your company.

A crucial part of creating a positive experience for customers is being able to address the issues and problems they are facing and provide a solution as fast as possible. In fact, one of the top two reasons for customer loss is the “failure to solve a problem in a timely manner,” according to the Customer Experience Impact 2010 report by Harris Interactive and RightNow.

From my perspective, I also think that one of the greatest things about being in customer service is being able to brighten a customer’s day by helping them get on with their day!

But how does one become a good problem solver?

Let’s begin with the simple definition of having problem solving skills. One definition I like to use is from Pamela Skilings who describes it as: your ability to identify issues, obstacles, and opportunities and developing and implementing effective solutions.

So, let’s start with being able to improve your identification of issues, obstacles, and opportunities:

1.   Read between the lines. Sometimes identifying the problem is easy, but at other times, it isn’t. When a customer does not clearly articulate the issue or problem they are dealing with, you will have to use context clues and ask specific questions to form the complete picture.

2.   Repeat the problem in the customer’s language. Try not to assume you know what they are talking about, be sure you know - the last thing you want is to misunderstand the problem right from the start. The best way to do so is to recite the problem back to the customers using language they use and understand. Sometimes, we automatically use industry or company jargon when speaking with customers, which isn’t always the best way to communicate or resonate with them.


Finally, let’s tackle how to implement effective solutions:

1.   Build your knowledge base. Adding to what you know about the services or products you offer can help make your interactions with customers more efficient. When you don’t have to direct customers to someone else to solve their problem, the faster their interaction with you is and the happier they’ll likely be!  

2.   Solve the root problem, not just the immediate issue. There may not always be a root problem in every case, but if there is, focus on addressing and solving it. If you do not solve the real problem, the customer may come across issues in the future that could have been prevented. Part of providing a great customer experience is being proactive and keeping them happy in the long run, so take the time to solve the problem causing the problems!

You may already know some of these tips, but putting them into practice in the moment or while you are under pressure can be difficult. Just remember, practice makes perfect!

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As a 29-year customer service veteran in the insurance industry, Phyllis Gillman has spent more than her fair share of time helping clients and customers. In her long stint in the industry, she’s answered over 702,000 phone calls.


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