As a customer service manager, you must develop your interpersonal skills in order to be effective in dealing with customers and leading your team. In this lesson, we’ll examine key interpersonal skills and ways to improve them.

Interpersonal Skills ; Your Success

Amy has been looking for a job as a customer service manager. She read an ad that listed a number of required skills. The first skill listed was interpersonal skills. She had heard the term. But wondered what are interpersonal skills? Let’s examine what interpersonal skills are and what we can do to improve them.

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Interpersonal skills are skills that pertain to the relations between people. They are vital to your success as a customer service manager. They govern how you interact with people within your organization as well as your external customers. There are a number of skills that are considered interpersonal. In this lesson, we are going to focus on five key skills. We’ll also talk about how to balance some seemingly opposing skills. The five key interpersonal skills we’ll cover are:

  • Written, verbal, and nonverbal communication
  • Listening
  • Assertiveness
  • Tact
  • Empathy

We’ll begin with communication skills.

Written, Verbal, Nonverbal Communication

As a customer service manager, you must have exemplary written, verbal and non-verbal communication skills. We’ll address these individually.

When writing, be careful to avoid sarcasm or humor. What you find funny or intend in jest the reader may misconstrue to be offensive, derogatory, or dismissive. Write clearly, concisely, and use easy to understand language. Avoid jargon and acronyms unless you explain their meaning.

As Amy reviewed her materials on written communication, she recalled receiving an email from a co-worker about some treats that had been delivered to the break room. The co-worker wrote in the email, ‘Don’t eat these if you need to watch your weight.’ Another co-worker was deeply hurt by this remark. The co-worker writing the email made the remark in jest, but you can see how it might hurt someone’s feelings.

When communicating verbally you should use skill-level appropriate language. Don’t speak in a condescending manner. Avoid acronyms or jargon when speaking with customers and new employees. Humor and sarcasm should be used sparingly. Just as in the email scenario, when you attempt humor at the expense of someone else, it can result in workplace tension.

Use body language to enhance the communication. Make eye contact. Don’t fold your arms or turn away from the person with whom you are speaking. Try to place yourself on an equal physical level with the person you are talking to in order to avoid looking down to them when speaking.

Active Listening & Assertiveness

When Amy thinks of listening, she is reminded of a mentor she had at her very first customer service job. Each time someone would present a problem to her mentor, the mentor would carefully listen then repeat the problem back in her own words. She would follow up by giving the person a specific time in which she would respond.

People want to know that you hear them and understand them. Active listening is a good way to improve your communication with others. When employing active listening, first, listen without interrupting. Let the person you are talking with complete their thought. Secondly, repeat back what the person has said using your own words. This will show that you really heard and understood what they said. Lastly, make good eye contact. This helps the other person feel connected to you.

Assertiveness is being confidently aggressive or self-assured. This means you are not afraid to express your opinion, speak up when you have a suggestion or step in to prevent something bad from happening. It doesn’t mean that you steam roll over others. It does not mean that you are overly aggressive with customers, employees, or other co-workers. It means that you are confident in your knowledge and ability. You do not sit idly by when you have something positive to contribute.

Once Amy was in an employee meeting. The meeting was called to address specific policies relating to use of company email for personal business. The meeting descended into name calling and finger pointing. To get back on track, Amy politely raised her hand and reminded the meeting chair and the participants of the purpose for the meeting and requested that they get back on track. This is a good example of assertiveness.

Tact ; Empathy

Balancing assertiveness with tact will increase your effectiveness as a customer service manager. Tact is knowing how to say things in such a way that you do not offend the party with whom you are communicating. It also means that you can navigate a delicate situation with poise and confidence. Basically, tact is knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to say it in such a way to not upset others.

Amy remembered watching a supervisor interact with a group of employees. She was impressed by the way he was able to address disciplinary problems in a group setting without upsetting anyone. He chose his words carefully and delivered the information in a way that was informative and not offensive.

Empathy is an interpersonal skill that makes the difference between being a mediocre manager and an outstanding manager. Empathy means you are able to identify with the other person and see things from their perspective. Expressing empathy with others will foster a sense of trust. This greatly increases the quality of communication between you and the other person.

Amy had a co-worker that was caring for her sick husband and working full time. She would often be cranky at work. Amy understood the co-worker’s circumstances, so she offered help with work projects. The co-worker was appreciative of Amy’s empathy.

Lesson Summary

After researching interpersonal skills, Amy felt confident she was qualified for the job and submitted her application. Two weeks later, she was hired. She uses her excellent interpersonal skills to excel in her new position.

It is important as a customer service manager that you learn to balance seemingly opposing skills such as assertiveness and tact while practicing good communication and listening. Doing so will help ensure your success and the success of your team.