There’s been quite a shift in the recruitment industry recently that places a candidate’s disposition above all else. Whether hiring for a leadership, technical, business development, support, administrative or customer facing position, recruiters are now looking to “Hire For Attitude And Train For Skill”. Recruitment panelists are keen to advise their corporate clients on the sustainability of having a team with great attitude rather than a team that is technically competent, but lacks people skills. Organizations and enterprises are not independently operating machines with systems, processes and structures. They consist of and are built from teams of people at all levels. The size of an organization is very often described by the sheer number of people working there – “The organization has 700 staff”.
There are numerous soft skills that one should develop and internalize. There are two major skills and others that contribute to effective customer relationship management and a successful customer service career. What are these soft skills that are so important and how can one develop them so that not only are they ‘hirable’, but also pleasant to work with all round?
Listening is often thought to be a natural body function, but active listening is a skill that requires effort. It means fighting off all distractions and paying full attention to the person speaking. These could be external distractions from the environment, from one’s mobile phone or other workmates and colleagues.
Internal distractions pose the bigger challenge and to be a good listener, one needs to be aware of them and battle them off. These are thoughts that often threaten to disrupt the conversation: like the need to interrupt the speaker because you can almost predict what they want to say; the need to bring up a similar example or situation that happened to you that matches what the speaker is describing; or to start to prepare answers mentally to respond to what the speaker is saying instead of really, really listening.
Listening is a muscle that needs to be trained and flexed just like any other. It is important to develop the habit of really listening to then absorb what is being said at meetings, discussions with colleagues and your supervisors and to be more effective at work. Listen to understand and not to hear. Active Listening requires patience, understanding, open mindedness, generosity and tact.
Active listening also involves doing more than just decoding words. An active listener looks out for speech accompaniments like tonal voice of the speaker, the facial expression, gestures and body language. All these aspects contribute to effective communication, a key function of customer service.
Solution-Oriented is used to describe a person who finds solutions to problems. We are very often caught up in lamenting about problems, challenges, dilemmas, situations and circumstances and carrying on about the unfortunate happenings rather than thinking about what to do next. The serenity prayer that has had timeless success focusses on the root of solution orientedness by advocating for acceptance of things that one cannot change, seeking courage to take action to change what one can and appealing for wisdom to know the difference.
Solution oriented people take an active approach towards solving issues. They take initiative to find solutions to various problems that may arise in the course of their work. If all workplaces had teams that adopted this view, both internal and external customer service would be seamless. This approach calls for conducting root cause analysis when things go wrong, to find out the causal factors as a starting place for development of workable solutions. People who think about solutions are well equipped mentally to dig through the symptoms and get to the root of what ails workplaces. This attitude works on having a clear focus on dealing with issues and not personalities. This is the key to success.
People gravitate towards others who display solution orientedness because they know that they are futuristic in their thinking. Thinking about problems in the now and what caused them from the past, leaves a clear space to think about the future both in terms of corrective action as well as preventive forethought. Great leaders have emerged from team members who take on matters that are considered delicate or sensitive and handle them with aplomb.
No one likes hanging around a sour grape. Customer service is about interacting with a customer and giving them a personal experience that should be beyond their expectation. We are not always cheerful and bubbly. Sometimes personal issues bog us down to the point of stress and depression, but life has to go on. A positive attitude allows one to put aside their personal issues and grant their internal and external customers undivided attention. One should identify their individual stress relievers and apply them when bogged down with issues that might affect their performance and interaction with internal and external customers.
Customer service is a function of a business that takes care of a company’s largest investment – the internal and external customer. Anyone in customer service should be reliable and dependable. It is solely reliant on individual work ethic, integrity, honesty and discipline. All these traits make one dependable and an irreplaceable asset in the customer service department. Your boss/ employer should be able to count on you to show up, stay focused, do your job and go the extra mile.
Great workplaces are made of people with personalities that are admirable. It is time to step back and self-reflect and assess if you possess these qualities. If yes, fantastic – now would be a good time to positively influence others to be like you. If not, even more fantastic – now you know what you need to do, so embark on really listening and being solution oriented immediately.