Technical skills can be considered the minimum requirements to excel at a certain job but soft skills or the ability to effectively connect, communicate and build relationships will give businesses an advantage, especially at a time when industry patterns have completely shifted. 

Managing consultant of PeopleStrong HR Consulting Trixie Olizon-Silerio defines soft skills as “the intangibles,” since the presence or lack thereof is more difficult to measure but can be felt, seen or perceived. How can these “intangibles” set businesses apart while helping sustain them in the long run? What necessary interpersonal, communication and self-management skills will allow different types of workers today to create a better experience for customers?

For frontline workers

Almost three months of quarantine and most people are still struggling to find their bearings, let alone attempt to venture out of their comfort zones. For Olizon-Silerio, customer service will now be defined through empathy, positivity and kindness, and frontline workers shouldn’t forget that customer experience is still about the customer.  

“A “kawawa-naman-ako” disposition has no place in a frontline job. Instead, connecting with the customer just by a short chat, asking them how their day is going, already goes a long way in building goodwill. I will never forget the cashier who said, “God bless you, Ma’am!” as she bade me goodbye at the supermarket checkout counter, a big reason why I chose to patronize only that same supermarket during the whole quarantine period. Because we are isolated at home, people are looking for positive connections, even in the shortest of transactions. A frontliner should be able to give that to the customer,” she says.

For those working from home

A work-from-home setup forces people to sharpen their communication skills. Olizon-Silerio believes that communication has become a challenge because of the physical distance and the meaning of a message can be lost without the nuances provided by visual cues. The medium plays a vital role in transmitting the right message, and mediated communication can make the process more complicated as it filters out the nonverbal cues during a conversation and affects the dispatch of feedback.

Virtual meetings will never be as effective as face-to-face interactions. We need to compensate by being extra careful with our word choice, to ensure we are not misunderstood. The funny thing is if we want to be understood, we must first seek to understand. We have to listen with intent and listen for intent. What is the other person really saying, what is the meaning beyond his words? We have to be extra sensitive in picking up on the vocal and verbal cues,” she explains.

Communication is crucial now more than ever in remote businesses. This, along with other soft skills workers at home and in the frontline should possess, is key to a business that can outlast crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Combined with the right technical skills, businesses just might be able to guide themselves into a better kind of customer experience.