The first two blogs of this series of four, focused on the advantages of building confidence of front line customer service staff to improve the customer experience and the benefits of harnessing the power of space and rhythm of people moving through customer service environments.
In this blog we explore whether it is time to move away from the traditional ‘communication skills’ development to a different approach. For too long, many customer service programmes have included a huge chunk on questioning skills, VAK, active listening, influencing skills and summarising techniques, etc. Nothing wrong with any of it, it has been the staple of customer service skills development for years and has served us all well. But therein lays the problem. For those organisations, where attendance to classroom based learning is commonplace, this well anticipated agenda hardly sends a wave of excitement to attendees.
Alongside an ever-increasing focus on communication, technology has become a reluctance to truly engage with customers, especially with generations Y and Z. When presented with a choice of making customer contact by telephone or email, many will choose email. I often observe avoidance tactics coming into play by those who obviously feel more comfortable with remote forms of customer contact. So, what level of customer service are these individuals providing when asked to engage with customers face to face, particularly when operating in large customer service environments such as train stations, airports, large retail spaces, tourist attractions, concert venues etc? It is all too easy for those less confident to ‘hide’ and not be visible to a customer who needs support.
How is the infiltration of technology impacting on the ability of, and more importantly, the confidence of people to engage in open conversation, with customers they do not know? Are our customer service agents becoming more confident to engage with customers or less? We think it is the latter. The reduced opportunity to make conversation is impacting on the skills required to do so.
To a certain extent, we would like to take the focus back twenty five years, before sophisticated technology and revisit some of the techniques we were using to develop customer facing teams ‘on how to make conversation with customers’. The learning then simply centered on confidence building, opening topics, trading upward techniques and, how to make other people feel special.
We need to raise awareness of the opportunities and barriers technology poses to effective communication. Customer service development needs to focus more deeply on building the confidence of individuals to not just communicate with our customers, but to connect and create memorable moments; leaving a positive, lasting impression upon the minds of those they meet.