Customer Experience News & Trends

How to build soft skills and deliver the ultimate customer experience

People — not process and technology — have the biggest impact on customer satisfaction. Improve your people’s soft skills and you can substantially improve the customer experience.

Sure, customers want and use service channels that don’t require as much human interaction. But when the issues become complicated or the relationship runs deep, customers still need and want to talk to someone inside a company.

Are your service pros ready with great communication skills? They need to be able to think on their feet, make fast decisions and read and respond to customers’ emotions.

Those are just some of the soft skills vital in good customer experiences and stronger relationships, according to Blake Morgan, author of A Practitioner’s View.

Here are tips on how to hire and train for better soft skills:

1. Focus on communication

Most companies want people with service experience to help their customers. Good idea.

But a better idea is to look for people with good communication experience. You can almost always train employees in the ins and outs of your company, products and services. But strong communicators who can adapt to language and cultural differences are a gem in customer service situations.

One way to identify good communicators in the interview process: Ask them to quietly read through a few paragraphs of technical instructions then explain to you what to do in plain language. People who can break it down to an understandable level, plus keep it simple and conversational, are strong candidates.

2. Expand the interview

The people who deal with customers one-on-one often need to stay cool and collected in stressful, demanding situations. You can pick out those kind of people if you have candidates chat with people at different levels of your organization, not just HR and direct managers.

See how they interact with and respond to people in the upper management and would-be co-workers. People who can maintain a positive, professional demeanor in any setting and with any potential colleague will be able to do the same with customers.

3. Look for and train to build confidence

Because customers want answers they can trust, you need confident employees delivering those solutions. Good customer service professionals speak with confidence. You can recognize confidence in interviews by how they talk about themselves and their accomplishments. They take credit where it’s due and share credit when it’s appropriate. They talk about the work they put in to reach goals and get results, not just about the accomplishments and how those accomplishments made them look.

Beware of people who fill sentences with weak words such as “I think …” and “I guess …”, and fillers such as “um” and “like.”

And offer continuing training on grammar and professional writing that includes social media, email and other correspondence so they can stay sharp communicating with customers.

4. Build a soft environment

You can’t expect front-line employees to excel in soft skills if they work in a rigid, process-oriented, scripted environment.

Yes, employees will always need to follow rules and procedures that are in place for their safety. But if you train them well enough, they should be able to be flexible enough to create experiences customers will love. And if you create a relaxed environment — where employees learn from mistakes rather than get chastised for them — they’ll be less stressed and more ready to deliver great service.

5. Promote patience

Scripts, call time adherence and quantity expectations may deliver numbers you want to see. But they won’t deliver great experiences customers expect — and customers won’t come back for that kind of experience.

Service professionals need to show customers patience by listening closely, proving they understand with clarifying questions and explaining solutions thoroughly.

Give your employees the time to give customers their full attention and professional courtesy.

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