The Soft Skills Essential to CX Success
Soft skills can be challenging to define. They’re the intangible “people skills” that make us more likeable, approachable, communicative, and better critical thinkers. For Customer Experience and Service success, soft skills are essential to building and strengthening rapport and relationships with customers. Not only are they important for connecting to customers, but soft skills have a direct impact on KPIs such as NPS, CSAT, CES and CLV. They are the attributes that will keep your customers coming back and keep your employees happy and engaged. Below we have outlined five soft skills to promote in your teams to improve your CX strategy and outcomes.
Empathy is simply the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Customers are likely to feel more supported if they feel that the employee they are communicating with truly understands how they are struggling. By putting oneself in the customer’s shoes, an employee is better equipped to manage a customer experience by relating to the frustrations or concerns a customer may be feeling. It will help them to communicate better and more effectively solve problems. Language choice and tone can make or break an interaction. By saying “I understand how frustrating that can be” or “I will do anything I can to help you,” the customer will feel that they are communicating with a real person, not just someone following a corporate script.
When a customer is confused or frustrated, the last thing they need is someone rushing them or rolling their eyes. Particularly in contact centres, service agents can be expected to meet quotas in terms of the number of customers they serve, but this isn’t always a good idea. If a customer is rushed and doesn’t get to ask everything they wanted to, it is likely they will be in touch again (resulting in low first call resolution) or that they won’t use your services because they didn’t feel they received a sufficient amount of support.
Staff appropriately so that whether it’s a contact centre or a shop floor, customers can be served efficiently or be supported in their challenges without it causing problems. If an employee is aiding a customer who needs more assistance than usual but sees a queue growing, she is going to become stressed and all of the customers will be frustrated. If she has the support of other colleagues around, the burden is shared and she can effectively practice patience (and empathy) to enhance CX.
Having a competitive environment, where employees rarely collaborate or help each other is a toxic and ineffective way to serve customers. Setting targets for individuals rather than teams can actually be counterproductive as some individuals will soar, but leave their colleagues behind. Employees need to be encouraged to support each other, share key learnings and communicate. Team members need to feel confident that it is ok to ask for help and to help others as often as needed. Train your employees to work together to address customer problems or concerns, rather than in siloes.
Teamwork also needs to be built across departments, which will facilitate collaboration, understanding and a warmer working environment which together will ultimately benefit your customers and bottom line.
Customers want to see that the business they are dealing with is authentic and genuine in its messaging, products and services. When a brand can communicate its differentiating identity, customers will be able to relate and develop loyalty to the brand over its competitors. Rather than a “smoke and mirrors” approach to customer acquisition, customers appreciate genuine and honest communication. Whether it’s a commitment to the environment or to family values, an organisation must carry that purpose across all channels and touchpoints so that the customer can see that a brand isn’t just “talking the talk.”
Authenticity also corresponds with honesty when it comes to CX. If a customer has a query about a shipment and are told that it will be out for delivery today, but really it won’t be out for delivery for two days, their trust is broken and they won’t be likely to return. If you apologise, explain the delay, and give them an honest answer, they will be a lot more understanding.
Customer feedback is one of the most critical tools for promoting positive change within an organisation. It’s not just that “the customer is always right,” but the customer will have an objective view of your business, allowing them to identify areas of improvement that members of your team could easily miss. Accepting and actioning constructive criticism and feedback is a crucial, albeit difficult, soft skill to practice daily. In addition, listening internally to what employees are saying and experiencing is also important to achieving CX success. If your employees are struggling or finding that something is inhibiting them from effectively doing their jobs, it needs to be addressed so they can deliver for your customers.