I was in a workshop last week with several hospital Admitting managers and professionals. The discussion was on how we hire the perfect individual for the admitting area. One member of our group said they have to have innate customer service mentality, you cannot train for it. My response was really? I tried to explore this with the group and they did not want to see any other point of view.
In the interests of the exercise I let it go. I then asked others I met at the conference and in my circle of colleagues and the results were mixed. Many say you cannot train for the position and others say resoundingly, “Oh yes you can.” I tend to agree with the latter group.
Perhaps, what you can’t train for are some of the personalities that contribute to the enjoyment of a career in customer service. But just having the right attitude will not deliver the outcome we seek.
I believe that some people are better suited for Customer Service than others, just by nature of their personality. According to research at Kansas State they exhibit traits like:
– Extroversion – Stability
– Conscientiousness – Agreeability
I would add empathy to this list. That is the ability to understand what the other is feeling without getting lost in the feeling yourself. While these traits will make you happier with your career choice in customer service, and while they may be difficult to train for, I am not sure that this is all you need for success in the career.
I started my career in Customer Service. Of the reps in our call center, there were some that were very outgoing and agreeable and some that really didn’t like the customers at all and would mock them when not on the phone with them. Some of these reps were even acknowledged favorably by customers.
These reps were trained on how to interact with customers. For example, an article at the Customer Service Zone, lists 59 skills that will help the customer service interaction. Skills like:
– Acknowledge the Customers needs – Attentive listening – Ability to Apologize
– Arranging Follow up – Expediting – Making Expert Recommendations
– Not taking the bait – Asking questions – Using Telephone Silence
Recently in an article in the Harvard Business Review “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers,” July – August 20101 the authors point out that customers really don’t need to be delighted. They want to have their issues resolved quickly, efficiently, and easily. They also talk about how a UK Based mortgage company trained their CSR’s (Customer Service Reps) to listen for clues to the caller’s personality type. Once identified, they could tailor their reactions appropriately. This strategy reduced repeat calls by near 40%. The last several skills are all trainable including the emotional connections from the UK based Mortgage Company. Not only are they trainable, they are helpful to the success of the customer interaction.
As a personality type, I sit towards the middle of the Introversion vs. Extroversion scale. Yet when the task requires it I can turn on the extroversion to move the relationship forward. I have learned (from Dale Carnegie) how to ask questions to start a conversation for example.
So in answer to the question, Can you train for Customer Service? I have to say absolutely.
Are there personalities that help? Yes.
What makes the difference; training or personality?
My guess is that you, as readers, all have your own views? What say you?
Take Good Care.