Field service managers understand that stellar customer service is essential to growing revenue and improving customer loyalty. And that starts with the technicians on the front lines, who are often a company’s only face-to-face interaction with customers. But can those skills be taught? Absolutely, says Jodi Beuder, customer experience advocate at Impact Learning Systems. Field Service Digital spoke with Beuder about how managers can train their techs to provide better service and why empathy and creativity are two important soft skills to increase service revenue and customer satisfaction.

What soft skills do frontline employees, such as field service technicians, need to provide great customer service?

Painter4-DeathToTheStockPhotoBeuder: The number one skill is a positive attitude, which makes the biggest difference. Body language, facial expressions and enthusiasm tell a customer whether the technician is truly there to help. Whether it’s a $1 million medical device or somebody’s home cable box, technicians must show that they’re happy to be there and that they want to make the customer happy. That sort of attitude rubs off and builds customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Communication is another important skill. It starts with the basics, including articulate verbal skills and proper grammar. You can earn a person’s trust based on the way you speak with him or her.

Good communication requires that you be a good listener, too. Listen to what the customer has to say and even repeat the concern to show that you’re listening. Take notes. Be attentive.

Any other essential skills?

Empathy is important. Field service technicians spend the majority of their time fixing problems: something is wrong, the customer is not happy and they need it fixed now. Their workday could be interrupted, and that interruption means lost revenue. Show customers your concern for their issue, that you’re being proactive and that you’re there to help.

A soft skill that few people talk about is creativity. That doesn’t mean knowing how to draw but learning how to creatively adjust to every situation. Every call and interaction will be different. As a service representative, be creative in how you react to the customer.

Some people don’t think soft skills can be taught because they are behaviors. But they can be taught because technicians can practice those skills.

Any tips for managers to teach their techs the soft skills necessary to provide great service?

Before conducting a training course, managers should ask their employees for input about individual performance gaps and shape the training around those gaps. That will make training more effective because it allows technicians to provide input on their personal career performance.

Managers should go through the training process themselves to show that they take the training seriously, and that they expect employees to take it seriously too. That helps a lot with employee buy-in.

How can managers help their techs practice customer service soft skills?

Following the training, managers should share success stories. I suggest that managers meet with their technicians one-on-one to give specific feedback about things that each technician did well. Managers should also consider doing ride-alongs with technicians. These are great opportunities for one-on-one coaching sessions. Managers shouldn’t step in front of the technician, but they can review the technician’s interaction with the customer and encourage him or her with feedback.

It’s important that field service technicians understand that they are one of the few face-to-face points of contact between the customer and the company. They are brand advocates and they are critical to the company’s success. If the service goes well, and if the technician was polite and did his or her job, that customer will come back time and again.