If you think that employers are looking for the best applicant for a customer service job, think again. That statement flies in the face of most job-search advice. You would think that the applicant with the best qualifications would be a natural for the job. Someone with the perfect match of experience, education and skills. Employers are looking for certain attributes, but the “best” person for today’s job may not be the one who ends up getting hired.
Customer service is all about listening and understanding what the customer needs. It’s the ability to ask the right questions, analyze the problem from the customer’s point of view and then come up with a solution that will make the customer happy and still be within company guidelines. It’s a delicate dance between meeting customer expectations and working within acceptable limitations. Add to that the ability to foster ongoing customer relationships, build customer and brand loyalty, upsell services and maintain a positive attitude. A customer service professional with those attributes should qualify as the best in anyone’s book.
So what does this mean to someone looking for a customer service job? Do you need to “dumb down” your resume or discount your superior skills in your next job interview? Not at all. But the methods of delivering customer service are changing. A recent article in Inc. Magazine, "Don’t Hire the Best Person for the Job," warns that today’s customer service job won’t be the same tomorrow. An employer would be better off hiring someone with good skills and the flexibility and eagerness to learn and change with the job. New delivery methods will require different skills.
- Phone – With texting and emails dominating the way we communicate, not everyone has the ability to interact effectively with “real people.” Can you carry on a friendly conversation and ask the right questions? The ability to personalize service is more important than following a script.
- Email – someone has to acknowledge email requests. Many companies use their websites to connect with customers with service issues. The ability to use a variety of email formats with all the features is a necessary skill for the future. You’ll need to be able to write a courteous response that shows that you understand the problem and offers a solution.
- Live Chat – This is a popular way to handle customer service requests. It requires a different set of skills and the ability to learn new platforms. Live chat mimics the phone conversation, but here, your ability to write well to gather information and then communicate a solution is critical. You need patience and an excellent grasp of product or service knowledge to help someone on a live chat. You also have to be able to access technical information quickly to help solve a problem.
- Remote Access – Some companies use remote access to help a customer who just doesn’t have the technical expertise to follow simple or complicated technical steps online. Some customers are still trying to figure out where the “on” button is. IT experience with different operating systems and how they interact with the company’s computer systems will be essential for some future customer service positions.
- Skype – Lights, camera, action. Some people still like the personal touch, and Skype will provide the ability to have that in-person experience with a customer service representative. Besides the technical expertise, the customer service agent will have to be able to multi-task, listen, talk, use on-screen applications and do it all with a pleasant appearance and a smile.
Even these service delivery methods will change and new ones will be added. The best applicant today will be the one that has the skills and experience for today’s face-to-face and online service applications, with the ability to learn and grow quickly to keep up with the future.
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