I recently had a conversation with some friends who, like me, work from home. They are both in the IT field and can quite literally do their job from any high-speed connection in the world. I have worked from home for 25 years, but my work required a great deal of travel as well so I could be face to face with my customers. There is a growing number of people who can truly do 90 percent or more of their work from home as a result of improving technology.
As a regular reader of my blog, you know that most of them are focused on customer service and how we can build loyalty with our customers. However, this conversation gave me pause because it made me realize that our work and workplaces are certainly not what they used to be. This carries over to interactions we have in other areas of our life as well; you can play games without ever meeting your opponents, you can root for teams that are not teams at all (i.e. fantasy leagues). You can “work” and solve a problem or prevent a problem without ever speaking to another person. The interactions many of our current and future workforces have are virtual, they, in fact, live in a virtual world. While this opens a whole new realm of possibilities, it also presents unique challenges to employers who rely on traditional customer interactions and requires a workforce that understands how to communicate.
As an employer, you need to make sure you properly train your teams so they are skilled in the art of person-to-person customer service. The ability to carry on a conversation, in person, over phone or chat, is something that cannot be lost. This is particularly true in our area where face-to-face interactions are the lifeblood of customer service. A recent study on customer service trends found that basic soft skills and customer service skills are listed as one of the biggest deficiencies of the workforce. This speaks directly to the lack of interaction people are exposed to before they join the workforce. In today’s virtual world we cannot assume that our staff understands how to engage in customer communication.
So how do we balance the benefits that our connected world gives with the need to be able to engage with people one-on-one?
- Training is essential and easy to do at hiring; however, we often overlook the need to reinforce that training. Reoccurring training needs to focus on real examples from your business that you can demonstrate to your team. The challenge most businesses face is that leadership does not have time to observe the team and collect the examples needed, so this specific training never happens.
- Your new staff may come to you with many raw talents, passions, and fresh ideas, encourage these. However, recognize you may need to help them move from virtual mindset to an engaged professional that can look the customer in the eye and confidently serve them. Empower them to make every experience memorable for the customer and rewarding for the team member.
- Teach them that a well-balanced life means being able to skillfully interact with others, that is part of being human and it is just good common sense.