Living and working through the Coronavirus pandemic has put not only technical skills and abilities to the test but also interpersonal skills. The way we work has undergone major changes which we’ve covered extensively but huge changes which have forced us into different routines have required a new way of connecting with colleagues- bringing soft skills to the forefront (York, 2020).
Understanding not only what soft-skills are needed, but understanding why they are of such importance, and further implementing training of these are crucial to business continuity and of course, offering good CX to customers even through all the chaos.
Are your employees armed with the necessary soft skills to deliver exceptional customer experiences?
What are soft skills?
Soft skills go beyond the art of ‘being nice’. They are the non-technical skills that relate to how you work – including how you interact with colleagues, solve problems, and manage your work (Doyle, 2020) and just like learning to speak a new language, picking up soft skills such as; interpersonal skills, teamwork, time management, productivity, negotiating and conflict management takes time and real effort (Nicereply, 2020).
For years, soft skills have been underestimated when up against their ‘hard skill’ counterparts (the teachable knowledge and abilities most often cited in job posts and listed on your resume). They are the skills which are a harder to define and are taken for granted when looking for a great leader, peer, or in some cases, support ‘person’ (Waksman, 2019). While they are sometimes embedded within the personality of an individual, soft skills can also be learnt over time through a series of conditioning and the only way to improve these skills is to continually use them (Nicereply, 2020).
The Importance of Soft Skills for CX
A business cannot operate and will cease to exist without its customers, hence the fundamental need to focus on delivering great customer experience.
If you have put together a list of personal development goals lately, it may have comprised of working on your hard skills, like this:
- Work with data team on CSAT analysis trends
- Increase CSAT score to 95%
The secret to exceptional CX, however, may lie in the art of developing soft skills. This stretches beyond the customer-facing agent. Employees who have no direct interaction with customers still play a significant role in the customer’s overall experience.
The Importance of Soft Skills Training Today
There are a number of invaluable soft skills which have been at the forefront of many managerial discussions in recent months and prior to the pandemic, studies (Mongalo, 2020) suggest that many employees identified soft skills as the type of training that they believe companies need to provide their employees with most. However, despite this need, 51% of employers/ organisations don’t offer soft skill training, or training that teaches essential communication skills.
COVID-19 is giving businesses reason to ramp up this training (among others) quickly. Customers are expecting compassion and empathy when interacting with customer service. Mastering these skills effectively during the pandemic will be valuable investments in development which will transcend the crisis. (Mongalo, 2020).
Ways the Covid-19 Pandemic is calling for a greater need for soft skills in CX
The consumer market has shifted to online interactions for essential and non-essential items. As a result, customer service interactions have increased with a greater need for the eloquent touch of soft skills.
When to Use Tech versus the Human Touch
Emotional intelligence has been demanded by consumers as they navigate through call centres during this pandemic. Businesses have had to establish a fine balancing act between what can be answered via AI/chatbots and when human intervention is required – while avoiding long wait times. Analysing frequently asked questions is the answer to improving and developing user-friendly AI chatbots and self-service pages to help consumers find their answer quickly and efficiently, and lower customer service wait times (Mongalo, 2020).
Crucial soft skills that all businesses should be developing in their employees
The lockdown period has provided the perfect storm to test and develop soft skills.
As organisations begin to realise the value of these skills, a wealth of research surrounding the value of soft skills in good CX has emerged.
We have put together a list of the skills that are most critical for all organisations, seeking to provide good CX, to hone in on.
- A genuine willingness to help– investigating the problem and actively working with other teams to bridge the success gap for everyone in an effort to strengthen the product or service and the company as a whole. Genex Insights offers closed-loop recovery software which allows you to manage complaints in real-time- Speak to a Genie for more information
- Empathy– the desire to really understand where someone else is coming from and what they need to thrive
- Communication– the ability to listen carefully, explain clearly and treat kindly are must-haves in the People Skills toolkit, but there is another type of communication customer service and success teams should have: Cross-communication. You are at the nexus between your customers and your business which puts you in a unique position to gather data, customer sentiment, use, and engagement that everyone else in your business needs.
- Emotional Intelligence– aligned with empathy – this requires you to be aware of other people’s emotions while also being aware of your own emotions and behavioural attributions and motivations for behaviour.
- Integrity– managing expectations by honestly telling customers what they can and cannot expect builds a tremendous amount of trust and sets customers up to have positive experiences when businesses don’t overpromise. Being able to set expectations also builds trust with internal teams.
- Problem-Solving– finding solutions with a willingness to help even if the solution does not immediately present itself.
- Stress Management– the ability to manage stress and direct it towards constructive efforts.
- Listening Skills– honing in on the art of active listening versus hearing by focusing on customer and employee needs and desires with a willingness to understand.
- Leadership– made up of a blend of soft skills such as decision-making, integrity, problem-solving and the ability to teach and mentor which are used to inspire others to act on ideas or customer feedback in order to generate overall success.
- Team Building– the ability to forge relationships across and within departments
- Adaptability– being able to thrive in a dynamic environment and problem solve in new situations.
- Relationship building- In the digital transformation age, organisations that focus on human interaction and relationship-building – both internally among staff and externally with customers, clients, and vendors – will be the ones that dominate in their industries. While nature vs nurture has a large role to play in the art of relationship building, this can be developed by mastering the art of authenticity, curiosity, listening and appreciation.
(DeMere, 2018; DiJulius, 2019; & York, 2020):
Finding a Balance
Finding balance between the hard and soft skills is essential. While hiring candidates who strike this perfect balance is a rarity, a new hire should have the ability and willingness to be taught these skills while aligning themselves within your company culture.
Hire the right person – the right fit for your team and your strategic objectives (corporate and team level). Let the competition deal with the overly qualified “insufferable jerk” or the “brilliant savant” with zero social skills. Soft skills are far too important to the success of your program to leave them to chance (Franz, 2013).
As for soft skills, not only do employers increasingly want to see them, but during the economic fallout of Covid-19 they will be crucial to succeed in a competitive job market.
Because soft skills can be more difficult to quantify and certify, they can get neglected in personal development goals and reviews. Your annual review might focus more on the technology you have mastered and ignore improvement in patience. This imbalance makes it difficult to understand what skills are required to be successful in customer service (Nicereply, 2020). As such, ensuring a balance between hard and soft skills is critical and will be of great benefit not only to the customer’s overall experience, but to that of the organisation as a whole, the culture, as well as the individual’s personal development and career path.
- DeMere, N. E., (2018). Soft Skills are Real Skills
- J., (2019). Soft skills: How to master relationship-building. The Enterprisers Project.
- Franz, A., (2013). Balancing Hard Skills and Soft Skills. CX Journey.
- Mongalo, I., (2020). Three Ways the COVID-19 Pandemic is Shaping the Future of Customer Experience. MarTechSeries. Marketing Technology Insights
- Moore, B., (2020). Utilizing Employee Soft-skills Home Training through the COVID-19 Pandemic. Customer Relationship Management Institute.
- Nicereply (2020). Why Customer Service Teams Should Flex Their Soft Skill Muscles.
- Waksman, J., (2019). Your CX Soft-Skills Might Be Stale: A Refresh. The Startup
- , (2020). Covid-19 Pulse Survey Report- GB and Western Europe.
- York, J., (2020). Hard Times Demand Soft Skills. Welcome to the Jungle.