Situational Fluency and Customer Service

Jennifer Nietz - Director of Operations


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If you have ever interviewed with me, you will know that I often admire candidates who have worked in both a retail environment and in the food and beverage industry.  But, since most of you haven’t, you are hearing it now.

In these two areas, there are a key set of skills that I believe you learn and get exposed to that really no other job or education experience will provide.

In fact, at a recent conference I attended, they spoke about situational fluency as being a key thing that we should be training in sales.  My big question is: how do you teach situational fluency?  In my opinion, situational fluency is something that you can coach on, but not so much teach.

Let’s put some definition around situational fluency:

“Being fluent means far more than being willing to add something to the conversation. It requires a leader to be committed to learning about the situation and leveraging his or her perspective to create breakthroughs that deliver improved business results.”

So, let’s think about that. I see a couple of key elements – LEARNING, IMPROVED RESULTS, COMMITMENT, and INDIVIDUAL PROSPECTIVE.  All elements that we see in customer service!

In a recent HelpScout article I read about customer service, the author, Gregory Ciotti, goes over 15 skills that matter in customer service.

I would like to highlight 4 that I think can make the biggest impact to teach, coach, or hire on:

  • Product Knowledge: The most innovative and leading employees on your team will have extensive knowledge about your product and be able to describe how it works to a customer.
  • Acting Skills: In the customer service world, we’re often told that the customer is always right. But that doesn’t mean the customer is always pleasant or even polite.  They might even be downright rude—often for reasons that have nothing to do with you.
    Some acting chops are definitely required. The best customer service employees can remain professional even when dealing with the most difficult of customers.
  • Tenacity: Ciotti describes this as “a great work ethic and a willingness to do what needs to be done (and not take shortcuts).” In other words, going above and beyond what’s expected when serving a customer.
  • Willingness to Learn: Good customer service employees are always learning, always seeking more information, and always looking to improve themselves and the company they work for.

So again, the above 4 are a combination of skills to work with your team on in order to address situational fluency or improve customer service.

Also, as you look to hire, these skills are often ingrained in those who have been successful in restaurant or retail (which is why I’m drawn to candidates with backgrounds in either industry).

I will look forward to speaking with you further about this topic and would love to hear your comments. –Jennifer Nietz at jnietz@teamCOACT.com