3 overlooked soft skills that set your customer service apart.

When it comes to customer service, soft skills are the keys to success. Working with people requires a certain level of emotional intelligence and people skills. While these skills can’t be quantified the way “hard” skills can, they are no less impactful. If you Google “soft skills” you’re results will probably include things like teamwork, communication, and problem solving; all important skills for success. But these aren’t the only valuable soft skills, especially when it comes to customer service.

Here are the three often forgotten, but no less valuable soft skills that will help take your customer service game to the next level, and leave customers (and coworkers) thoroughly impressed!

Conflict Resolution

While conflict is uncomfortable, it’s also an important part of how we improve communication and deepen relationships with others. After all, true growth doesn’t come without a little bit of discomfort! Most commonly, conflict in customer service scenarios stems stem from a lack of knowledge, miscommunication, or a misunderstanding. Conflict resolution is the ability to handle these misalignments with a level head, emotional control, and a strong will to solve the problem. The goal is to be able to take a potentially difficult situation, conversation, or customer and turn that interaction into something positive.

Quick Self-Assessment

How well do you handle conflict? Think about the last time you had to handle a frustrating phone call, someone yelled at you in traffic, or the barista at the coffee stand got your order wrong.

What was your initial reaction?

Did you take the conflict personally?

Were you able to solve the problem?

How long did it take you to recover from the interaction?

Improving Your Conflict Resolution

If you struggle with conflict, you aren’t alone. Handling conflict on a regular basis takes an emotional toll. Luckily, conflict resolution is a skill that can be built with self-assessment and a whole lot of practice. You can start improving this skill by taking the time to think about past conflicts and considering how the conflict arose, your own role in it, and how you perceived it. Then, when you experience conflict in the future, you’ll be more equipped to handle it.

Here are some quick tips:

  • When you’re experiencing a tough conversation, take a few seconds to pause and put it in perspective. Avoid responding with your emotions.
  • Figure out how you best handle stress and equip yourself with the tools to overcome it. Whether you need a stress ball, a minute of meditation or a photo of a kitten, being prepared always helps.
  • Remind yourself before, during, and after the conflict not to take it personally. Anger is a secondary emotion born of frustration or sadness, and determining the root cause of your frustration can go a long way in helping to resolve it.

Patience

It is well understood that customer service takes patience, yet in this fast-paced world where customers expect instant communication and resolutions, it can be difficult to maintain. Patience is the ability to control your emotions and proceed calmly when facing difficulties or delays. Possessing a high-level of patience helps you reduce stress, make better decisions, and empathize with others. If you can maintain your patience during hard conversations, everyone is more likely to leave the conversation satisfied and stress-free.

Quick Self-Assessment

When you’re in the middle of a tough conversation do you:

Interrupt the other person or wait until they’re finished?

Do you listen to what they’re saying or try to make your point first?

Do you find yourself getting angry or can you master your emotions?

Improving Your Patience

Building this skills takes time, and it’s important to give yourself some slack if it takes a few tries before you find success. The great part is there are lots of opportunities to practice patience in your everyday life! Next time you feel yourself getting frustrated in a long line or in traffic, take a deep breath, relax your muscles and consider why you’re feeling impatient. Push the stress out of your body and manage your emotions. The more you think about it and the more you try, the better you get. This everyday practicing of patience will roll over into your workplace and how you interact with others.

Critical Observation

Critical observation or analysis is a combination of critical thinking and observation/listening skills. It’s the ability to go beyond observing something and move to dissecting, analyzing, and finding a solution—similar to the scientific method. Think of as the ability to recognize the problem, even if it isn’t explicitly stated, then resolving the problem.

Quick Self-Assessment

Take a moment to think about the last time you were helping someone over the phone, in your personal or professional life. Were you able to:

Recognize how the person was feeling?

Interpret those feelings?

Appropriately react to those feelings?

Improving Your Critical Observation Skills

Critical observation builds on the previous skills we have shared. If you aren’t able to manage your emotions, or maintain patience, it can be difficult to view a situation objectively and apply critical observation. Once you’ve mastered those skills, the best way to improve your critical observation is asking questions to determine the root cause of a conflict or a customer’s frustration.

Before road testing this skill with your customers, first try it with a friend or family member. Next time they are upset, take some time to think about how they’re feeling and see what you can do to improve their mood. Listen to an offhand comment about the struggles of moving and offer to help. Then, when you’re on the phone with a customer, you’ll be able to listen for cues that can give you insight into potential roadblocks, helping you best determine next steps. This ability to anticipate and solve problems will help you WOW your customers at every opportunity.

Do you know of any underappreciated soft skills? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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