You Need More than Soft Skills Training to Develop Customer Service Skills

Service people need soft skills training to close the skills gap, add a human element to their interactions, and delight customers with great service. But there’s more to it than that; in addition to soft customer service skills, field service people need to have a proactive, win-win mentality.

The key to achieving this mentality is making the shift from being mostly reactive in responding to customer requests, issues and problems, to being proactive by anticipating the needs of others and taking action to address them. Customers today expect suppliers to proactively engage in helping them address their key challenges and achieve their most important business outcomes. This requires a fundamental shift in thinking and behaving on the part of front-line employees.

Instead of waiting for customers to ask for help, suppliers’ front-line employees need to anticipate where their customers are likely to need help and offer it first. Instead of delivering what the customer has ordered without considering if it is really the best solution to problem, front-line people need to discuss targeted outcomes and propose alternatives. And when the customer is unaware of available solutions to help improve his business, front-line people should make him aware of these solutions. Sometimes, the front-line person even needs to make the customer aware of the problem in the first place.

Here are three customer service skills that best practice companies apply to make the shift from being reactive to proactive:

  1. Understanding the customer’s Big Picture and how you can help the customer achieve it
  2. Discovering ways to make the customer’s life easier and help improve his business
  3. Identifying things you can do to go beyond meeting customer requirements to impress and delight the customer

The next step in becoming proactive is to continuously and systematically look for ways to help the customer, to make his life easier or to improve his processes and business outcomes. You can proactively discover Total Customer Focus opportunities every day in the following ways:

  • Observing and listening to your customer’s stories
  • Anticipating your customer’s problems and needs based on what they are trying to do and from their perspective (their Big Picture)
  • Closing knowledge gaps by providing the customer with information and insights about your products and services as well as trends in technology and their industry and markets

All front-line people have the opportunity to observe the customer in some way and to proactively take action to improve the customer’s experience and relieve his struggles. The key is to remember the customer won’t typically tell you about their problems, simply because they don’t realize that you can do anything about them. And therein lies the opportunity to be Total Customer Focused.

When employees have a proactive, win-win mentality and they understand the customer’s Big Picture, they’ll add value in every facet of their work.