Customer service is a fine line between hard skills - the ones that we teach, and soft skills - the ones that are about emotional intelligence and how we make people feel, and which often can’t be taught.
You can’t make someone be nice to people and you can’t teach someone to have an engaging personality. That is why I think it’s imperative to hire for personality, and train skill in customer service focused roles.
Some people have the customer service gene; that love of talking to and helping people, and others don’t. Those that don’t need to work extra hard to deliver great customer service through very deliberate actions each and every day. Some are naturals, and some are not, but we can all seek to improve how we communicate with others. Am I right?
After a career spent serving other people, it can get a bit tiring dealing with people in a customer service role. Brushing up on skills regularly and remembering that you need to care about the customer’s needs is essential to having a successful and happy customer service team, and to giving great customer service.
Given that a lot of customer service involves the soft skills more than hard skills, there is something that can come out in customer service interactions that is often not talked about; the passive-aggressive customer service interaction.
We all know that we need to be nice, that we need to be accommodating and that we need to help guests and customers where we can, but the customer also needs to feel it. Customer service needs to come from a genuine place.
For example, you can be doing all the right things, but your body language and your manner speaks anything but wanting to be there engaging with a customer. You can smile at someone, but unless it is genuine and warm and the other person can feel it, it can come off as disingenuous, and worse than if the person was rude to you.
I’m sure everyone has dealt with a passive-aggressive person. It may have been a friend who is nice to your face but never has your back, a colleague who says they are ok with what you are asking but you can tell they are rolling their eyes on the inside, or a family member who doesn’t return your calls or text messages when they are mad at you.
We all must deal with passive-aggressive people at times, and it can often be worse than someone just telling you something is wrong, or that they’re just having a bad day. This is because you don’t really know what you’ve done wrong and why the person is angry at you.
It is one of the most lethal forms of communication for healthy relationships and for healthy customer service interactions. Passive-aggressive behaviour leaves a lot unsaid and a sour taste in your mouth.
So how do you deal with passive-aggressive behaviour in yourself and your workmates? Well, the first step is to be aware of it, and the second is to call out the behaviour in yourself and in your team.
Customer service is all about making people feel good, and when your vibe doesn’t gel with the words that come out of your mouth, it will come across as inauthentic and fake.
Just my two cents.
Kate Bickford MD & Owner - BK AGENCY: