Customer care: the hard business skill with a soft edge
You might think sales skills and negotiation are about making or saving as much money as possible. However, that is only possible and sustainable if employees attend to customer care. These days it is all about helping a customer to make a decision that is right for them, making sure they feel well treated by the company, and making them want to do more business.
These skills are necessary in every customer-facing position, but are equally relevant in other, less obvious roles. For example, in the police force investigating officers will need customer care skills when talking to witnesses. In logistics, a distribution manager will have to juggle resources to make sure that operations run smoothly, which is likely to involve negotiation.
What’s involved here is:
- Commercial awareness
Customer care examples
This skill is another one that is more likely to be tested with practical exercises. At an assessment centre it might be one of the competencies that are tested when you are working on a group exercise. For example, you may be asked to solve a theoretical problem with a client. By incorporating customer care into your plan you will be able to show the assessors that you are thinking of the long-term, not just the immediate challenge.
Alternatively, it might be measured in an interview. For example you might be asked to sell something – like a paperclip – to the assessor. In such tests you have to identify a reason why the other person needs a particular product. You are also likely to be asked what you would do if a client has a complaint, or returns goods, claiming they are faulty.
How do I show off my customer care skills on a job application?
Do say: ‘I was dealing with a customer who couldn’t decide between two choices. I helped them to pick the option that was best for them and sold them the appropriate support package as well.’ – Here you are demonstrating customer care as well as the fact that you have an eye for a sale.
Don’t say: ‘I dealt with a particularly annoying customer by keeping my cool and got them to buy the most expensive product. They might not come back, but it’s no loss to us.’ – Actually businesses do care if you lose customers, even the annoying ones. Some might appreciate the fact that you’ve made them more money, but without the focus on customer care this only shows that you are thinking about the short-term.
How to develop customer care skills
A good way to develop customer care is to do some part-time or holiday work in a customer services call centre. This will give you a good insight into the variety of different issues and the different levels of frustration and annoyance that can come up. You might also find jobs on campus with IT or library support services. These may be a little more hands-on, although they can require specific skills and knowledge.
In fact, any job where you regularly come into contact with the public is likely to help you build up these skills. Someone stacking shelves in a supermarket would expect to occasionally direct a customer to the right aisle for a product. Asking whether they need any other help is a good example of customer care.
Another really good way to develop up these skills is to become a representative. There are usually opportunities to become a course rep or halls rep right from your first year. These roles are usually under-subscribed, but are essential in helping the universities reflect the needs and wants of the student body.