Improve Soft Skills Training with a Popular Psychology Technique

Improve Soft Skills Training with a Popular Psychology Technique image reflectivelisteningreflectivelisteningIf you manage employees who are on the front-lines of customer service, undoubtedly you have come across certain employees who are competent with their technical skills, but may be lacking in their soft skills – namely, their interpersonal skills that directly affect how they interact with customers and colleagues.

The truth is that most of us could use help with our soft skills. How often do you feel that you are truly listening to clients, customers, your employees, or even your spouse or friends? In the workforce, and particularly in the field of customer service, soft skills training can be one of the most important ways to increase customer satisfaction.

So let’s define “Soft Skills Training” exactly…

According to Wikipedia, soft skills “are personal attributes that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance and career prospects. Unlike hard skills, which are about a person’s skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to a person’s ability to interact effectively with coworkers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace … It has been suggested that in a number of professions soft skills may be more important over the long term than occupational skills.”

That all sounds important, particularly in positions requiring high-levels of customer service. But you may be wondering – how can you develop effective soft skills training programs for your employees? Does it require a psychology degree?

Well, maybe not a psychology degree, but definitely some psychology skills…

A common concept used in soft skills training is the concept of empathy – the ability to recognize emotions from another person, and in doing so, be able to respond from a place of understanding. In customer service positions, empathy is an important skill to develop, as it requires that the employee truly listens to the customer – hears the customer’s frustration, listens intently, and helps develop solutions that can solve the problem.

To develop empathy skills one step further, psychologists who subscribe to the theory of “person-centered therapy,” developed by Carl Rogers, use a skill called “reflective listening.”

In reflective listening, the listener not only uses empathic skills, but restates to the speaker the problem that was stated by using phrases such as “So you feel …”, “It sounds like you said …” and so on. The concept is fairly simple, and it’s surprisingly powerful. Moreover, by practicing reflective listening, it allows the speaker, or, in our case, your customer service rep, to more effectively practice empathy; empathy becomes more natural since it becomes an active part of the conversation, not merely a mindset.

Reflective listening is a skill that can be developed through practice and soft skills training, and furthermore, it helps the customer confirm his or her position or feelings because the rep is reframing the statement. It can be used in any conversational setting, and it’s especially powerful in situations where a customer is upset and seeking solutions from a customer service department. When the customer service rep responds using reflective listening skills, the rep effectively conveys to the customer that he or she understands the problem – and is not simply reading from a script to address the issue.

You may be wondering … what does reflective listening look like?

Sometimes, the most effective way to learn a skill and get a point across is to see it put into practice. This clip, from the TV show Modern Family, humorously shows the positive effect that reflective listening can have in conversations. Granted, this instance shows a married couple, but we promise you – put the soft skill training method of reflective listening into practice with your employees and customers, and we bet you’ll see results!

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