Upskilling the workforce to drive growth through better customer service

Customer experience is everyone’s responsibility, says Armin Hopp.

Reading time: 4 minutes.

Success in today’s global marketplace demands so much more than just responsive product and service development. Today’s market leaders are those companies going above and beyond by offering a much deeper level of customer service.

According to a recent study by Accenture, when companies innovate to deliver differentiated customer experiences, it can lead to a 3 to 7% annualised revenue lift.

Now that traditional customer service has transformed into the concept of customer experience, each individual employee needs to be able to contribute to enhancing customers’ experiences through efficient and effective communication.

As a result of this deeper level of communication with customers, companies will be better placed to understand where they can innovate to win new clients ­– and retain and grow the business of existing clients.

All employees not only need up-to-date vocational skills, but they also need high levels of communication and collaboration skills.

Customer service is no longer the preserve of the customer service department alone. Providing a great customer experience has become the responsibility of every single employee. Organisations are increasingly operating in fluid networks of teams, that are formed and reformed as necessary, replacing outdated top-down hierarchies. This is having a major impact on skills requirements.

In the past, it was not unusual for individuals with specialised, technical skills to be siloed in permanent back-office teams that focused on those special skills. Now, those individuals are increasingly being brought into the light to get more involved with customer service.

All employees not only need up-to-date vocational skills, but they also need high levels of communication and collaboration skills.

Here are some starting points for upskilling the workforce to drive growth through better customer service:

  • To grow your business, first know where your employees stand with their communication skills. Once you have carried out an effective skills gap assessment it is crucial to provide employees with ongoing support for acquiring language and communication skills.
  • Focus on the employee experience. The employee experience is the customer experience, according to Josh Bersin in his report for Deloitte ‘Future of Work – The People Imperative’. In his view, leading businesses are those who prioritise the employee experience. A good way to achieve this is to enable employees to drive their own skills development and follow their interests while meeting business objectives.

Soft skills are key – Bersin predicts there will be more jobs at the ‘’human-like end of the spectrum. Skills and abilities like listening, oral expression, interpreting feelings, coordination, managing time, and social perceptiveness are essentially human”.  

  • Lead a customer-centred approach from the top. Customer experience should not be limited to the customer service department. Over a 10-year horizon, customer-centred companies in the US outperformed their nearest rivals by a 3.1-to-1 ratio, with publicly listed firms returning 1,026% for investors compared to 122% for the S&P 500.

CEOs must take the lead when it comes to driving home the importance of customer-centred management to the bottom line.

  • Live your values. Marketers know the importance of clearly stated values but this must also be reflected in the customer experience. A survey found that 62% of consumers want companies to take a stand on issues such as sustainability, transparency and fair employment practices.

With customers increasingly looking to do business with companies that align with their personal values and beliefs, organisations can and should communicate their values through customer service. According to this study, businesses that prioritise customer experience generate 11% higher shareholder returns.

  • Bring the human touch to customer experience technology. The latest customer relationship management and marketing technologies are doing great things with customer data, predicting behaviour and identifying untapped revenue streams. The most successful organisations will enhance this technology with the human touch.

Customer representatives must be able to communicate effectively with customers and prospects. This demands a high level of language and communication skills, alongside soft skills such as non-verbal and cross-cultural communication skills, collaboration and negotiation skills.

The World Economic Forum’s ‘The Future of Jobs Report 2018’ has found that ‘among the range of roles that are set to experience increasing demand in the period up to 2022 are established roles such as data analysts and scientists, software and applications developers, and ecommerce and social media specialists that are significantly based on and enhanced by the use of technology.

Also expected to grow are roles that leverage distinctively ‘human’ skills such as customer service workers’. The human touch is vital to getting the most from organisations’ investment in the latest customer experience platform.

Beyond that, employees with effective communication and soft skills, ready and able to work hand-in-hand with customers to innovate and grow together, are the best resource the company has.


About the author

Armin Hopp is the Founder and President of Speexx.




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