Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, is a smart, energizing, experienced speaker, coach, and workshop leader. Her work in customer experience, employee engagement, leadership, teamwork, transforms how people think, act, and interact. With 25 years in business and a Masters in Organizational Psychology, Kate has guided tens of thousands to engage in uplifting productive interactions.
Kate, what was your first job and what did you learn about customer service in it?
My very first job was a part-time summer job in city government. Dealing with the public is great training for customer service. I learned that it was my job to adapt to their personality and attitude not their responsibility to adapt to mine.
Speaking generally, in what area of the customer experience do you find that people skills (or the lack thereof) tend to have the greatest impact?
People skills impact every aspect of the customer experience. The people skills of team members working together affect the customer experience. Leaders’ people skills inspire and engage or de-motivate the teams. The people skills of customer interaction have a huge impact. Perhaps the greatest impact comes from people skills in difficult moments. It makes or breaks customer experience.
Some people probably think that you either have people skills or you don’t. Can everyone become proficient at learning and using these skills or will some people always have difficulty?
People skills are very learnable. The key factor is desire to learn and to change behavior. Some people will excel at it more than others — as with any skill — yet everyone is capable. I taught people skills to a classic super techie that others wrote off. When they saw the change in him, they called me Svengali. Yet it was the super techie’s willingness and desire that I tapped!
What seems to be the most challenging people skill for people to learn and put into practice regularly? Why do you think that skill is so challenging?
This is an easy question. The most challenging people skill to learn and use seems to be replacing defensive reactions with simple accountability. It’s critical for re-securing customer trust and delivering outstanding customer experience. I can give you a list of defensive phrases company representatives use while apologizing that sink those apologies!
Are there different people skill strategies to apply based on the channel you are engaged with your customer?
To some extent yes. Face-to-face channel requires extra etiquette since the customer can see your every move. Voice-to-voice (phone) requires different listening skills and tone of voice because body language is absent. Anything written (email, live chat), requires infusing your writing with positive emotion to prevent misunderstandings.
In your own personal experience, have the people skills people bring to customer service gotten better or worse over the past five years?
Tough question. It depends on the people and companies involved. Cultural differences have made people skills more challenging in this global environment. Moreover, some companies have minimized the focus on care and maximized the focus on scripts and metrics — not great for people skills. Still, there are breakout companies who are focusing on emotional connection to the customer and that comes out in great people skills.
To engage Kate Nasser’s keynotes, workshops, and coaching, visit her blog.
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.