Memorable customer experiences are hinged on great customer-facing professionals (CFPs). People buy from people. Thus, the CFPs that bring true empathy and personality to interactions win. Research shows that seventy percent (70%) of customers left because of a lack of attention from front-line employees. The number one trait for CFPs is empathy. True empathy happens when CFPs are empowered with knowledge.

In a recent #CXO tweetchat Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, joined us as we discussed people skills in customer experience.

Here’s a summary of the discussion:

What are the traits, skills, and strategies of successful CFPs?

[@KateNasser]: Listening is number one, without it you can’t do the job at all.

[@ValaAfshar]: Perseverance is a key customer service trait—the ethos: ‘it’s our problem, until it’s no longer yours.’ Customer facing employees’ attitude is as important (perhaps more) than aptitude—a passion to serve is key.

[@RichardRShapiro]: Customer service is all about helping people CFPs should have a history of volunteering, coaching, etc.

What role do people skills play in exemplary customer service?

[@KateNasser]: People skills are the outward expression of care. It builds trust.

[@KimJosephs]: Strong people skills, in most cases, are more important than expertise on actual products or services.

[@thecxguy]: The necessary “people skills” for CFPs are patience, listening, patience, communications, and patience.

[@ValaAfshar]: Customer-centric companies recognize that front-line employees are your brand champions.

What are the major obstacles to employees’ delivery of excellent customer service?

[@KateNasser]: The major obstacles are: internal noise/baggage, rigid company procedures, un-empowerment and lack of cross-teamwork. When I train, the number one complaint of CFPs is lack of shared goals with other problem solving teams. This is a big obstacle for customer service.

[@Dschultzszumylo]: Placing the power of customer engagement in the hands of leadership and NOT in hands of the front-line, customer touch-point employees.

[@smoiz]: Bad hires—customer-facing jobs are not for everybody. Companies must hire friendly and train technical.

[@PaulSevcik]: Poor teaming = poor synergy = poor results = poor bottom line = where did my customers/job go?

[Marcio_Saito]: Excessive Scripting. Processes make for robots. Empowerment makes for people.

[@thehealthmaven]: Misaligned process communication and understanding of top line objectives

[@jeanniecw]: Bad processes and siloed organizations!

What tools, applications or steps can companies use to minimize obstacles?

[@KateNasser]: Give CFPs access to your company website. If customers can see it, so must your reps—many don’t! Shared tracking system between all who must work to solve problems and requests, is essential. Technology that integrates with shippers and suppliers so CFPs can see the big picture and give real answers to customers. Companies must also train all CFPs in people skills. Even the naturally friendly ones need time to learn more now that we are so global. A manager who empowers doesn’t control, teaches, doesn’t blame, and inspires, doesn’t sit back.

[@Joetwitloe]: A lot would already be solved if customer service is not lip service. Employees sense genuine care.

[@Michael_Lytle]: Using the right CRM solution is key to minimizing obstacles. Invest in tools and personnel that have the potential to grow and adjust to continuous improvements.

[@DelphiUSA]: Hire people who listen.

[@Jbondre]: Incentives (especially cash ones) don’t work. Let employees feel empowered to help customers.

[@Bikespoke]: If values are only written, find your nearest basket and toss it. It’s the leader who incubates the culture of the CSR.

How can you create extremely motivated employees willingly to go the extra mile to supporting the customer?

[@KateNasser]: All employees want to be recognized, acknowledged, and appreciated, SHOW them your appreciation. Start each shift with “Why are we here?” and then current challenges. Don’t skip first part! Also, quickly and directly address the non-performers. Inspired employees slowly lose heart when you coddle bad attitudes. Tap their daily learning and honor it. “What have you learned about customers that we can use to make service better?”

More tips learned from Kate Nasser:

  • Let them create a team moniker. I do this when I train them. What “label” describes your attitude?
  • Build recognition throughout the company of the value of CFPs. They are often considered lowly peons.
  • Promote/select supervisors based on #peopleskills—not just tenure in job or technical measures.
  • Companies in general overlook value of #peopleskills in promoting to management. Chang this culture!
  • Stop labeling CFP jobs as “entry level.” They are the brand-face to the customer where the customer enters—not the employees.

[@BarryBirkett]: Give employees the right tools and show them how professional success is tied to success in their customer interactions.

[@ThinDifference]: Lead by example. It is essential to align actions with talk.

[@Jabaldaia]: Make them wear the shoes of others and put them to walk the hillside.

[@ManasiKakade]: Hire for the attitude, coach on the skills. Embed the company culture of valuing customer service. Reward exemplary results.

[@Jbondre]: People get satisfaction from helping people. Many customer service departments are geared to minimize cost. Give employees freedom to help, this will motivate them.

[@JoeManna]: I think problem solving and innovation is something that should be rewarded.

Throughout the tweetchat, it was apparent that knowledge plays a key role in empowering CFPs as it’s hard to communicate well if you don’t have answers. Companies must make it easy for CFPs to know and understand customer needs with insights from customer data as it also helps close deals. Thirty-three percent (33%) of unsuccessful deals could have been won if the salesperson had been better informed. Providing information means having the right processes and the right tools. In my experience, poor systems is one of the biggest obstacles to information access. Technology can’t answer a question but it definitely can prevent an answer! At the end of the day, companies must give CFPS a holistic view of the customer so they can know past interactions and preferences and hold intelligent conversations.