In the Media - Going Soft: The ‘Durable’ Skills You Need to Keep Your Customers Happy

Rizz may be the word of 2023, but mine would have to be AI.

With the huge leaps that artificial intelligence, and in particular ChatGPT, has taken over the last 12 months, we’d all be forgiven for thinking we were about to be automated out of a job.

The good news is that, when it comes to customer service and the ever-changing needs of consumers, as our latest White Paper attests, there is still very much a place for people skills.

Indeed, the demand for them is growing. Once termed ‘soft’ skills, qualities such as the ability to communicate effectively and show compassion and empathy have been rebranded as ‘durable’ and essential to achieving success in today’s business world.  

Expert opinion

Consumers want to feel listened to, valued and understood, and in a competitive market with so many options available, they won’t stick around if those needs are not met.

Don’t just take my word for it – various customer experience experts have carried out their own research and arrived at the same conclusion.

“The things we say over the phone, face-to-face or via online channels such as live chat or social media can make the difference between a customer feeling validated or under-valued,” telephone answering and live chat specialist Moneypenny says.

A report by data company IPSOS – ‘The forces of customer experience’ – also highlights the benefits of building a relationship with your customers: 

“When a customer is emotionally attached, they are far more likely to express a preference towards the brand, much more likely to recommend the brand, and significantly more likely to stay with the brand in future.

“Emotionally attached customers are more likely to be forgiving, which can lead to reduced rates of complaining behaviour.” 

Skilling up

While businesses spend a lot of time and money getting the phone to ring or email to ping with prospective clients, many do not put enough emphasis on what happens next.

That first interaction is often the difference between a consumer becoming a customer or client or going elsewhere, so it pays to make sure your people have the right skills.

Role play is a useful tool which allows staff to put themselves in the shoes of the consumer. By getting them to act out realistic scenarios, they can better understand how to handle them and in line with company values. Not everyone may feel comfortable taking on the role, but analysing examples of tricky customer interactions and discussing how they would respond is also helpful.  

It is natural that some people will be better than others and so job shadowing, observing how others deal with certain situations, may help less confident colleagues hone their soft skills. Pairing new hires with coaches or mentors who can show them the ropes also sets a good example at the outset and will hopefully head off any potential issues.

Training via presentations, online courses and literature is also valuable but, in my view, there is no substitute for the hands-on methods outlined above and it should run in conjunction with rather than instead of these. 

Rizz? You’ve either got it or you haven’t. But soft skills can be taught or improved upon and if you’re willing to invest the time and effort then you and your customers will reap the benefits. 

Fail to take this seriously and you may find yourself a victim of ‘de-influencing’ – another contender for the Oxford University Press word of the year – as consumers take their business somewhere that does.


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