Leadership and customer service are often viewed as different departments and skills, but they are more closely related than you might think. Your customer service team’s leaders are the people who guide and coach your customer service reps toward success — which is critical. After all, they work directly with your customers, and their performance directly impacts your organization’s sales and brand reputation.

To improve the effectiveness of your customer service training programs and develop strong leaders, here are six soft skills to integrate into your programs:

1. Communication Skills

It’s always been true that business leaders must be able to effectively communicate with both their team members and their customers. However, modern leaders must be able expertly navigate more advanced communication challenges than ever before.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, communicating effectively is one of the most important skills for global leaders. This capability includes intercultural communications and the ability to communicate virtually. As the global workforce continues to grow and the way we work and interact with each other continues to become more digital, leadership development programs must focus on the various aspects of effective communication. Customer service leaders who complete these programs will be able to improve the performance of their teams, thereby improving customer relationships.

2. Creativity

Creativity is one of the most in-demand soft skills. In fact, a recent LinkedIn Learning report named creativity the No. 1 soft skill to learn in 2020.

Current trends, events and advances in technology impact the way we work and interact with each other. Companies in nearly every industry are changing in order to adapt and gain a competitive advantage, which is one reason creativity has become such an important leadership skill. Customer service leaders need creativity to drive innovation and collaboration on their teams, to think outside of the box, and to develop new solutions and approaches as challenges arise.

3. Cultural Awareness

Learning experiences that help developing leaders gain cultural awareness are highly valuable in the modern workplace. Customer service leadership training that builds a greater sense of cultural awareness has a huge organizational impact.

These skills help in a couple of key ways. Firstly, it is not uncommon for customer support teams to be distributed around the world. Leaders who have a high level of cultural awareness will be able to promote an inclusive culture that drives both innovation and productivity. Cultural awareness is also a useful customer service skill that can help improve the quality of customer interactions, preventing customer frustration and increasing customer satisfaction.

4. Networking Skills

Having the ability to network is also an essential skill for modern leaders. Customer service leaders must be able to project credibility and develop relationships with potential partners, including in other departments within their organization. For example, many organizations are expanding globally. In these organizations, customer service leaders will need to be able to effectively communicate and network with new colleagues or partners in new regions.

Here is another area where cultural awareness is important. When leaders have both a strong cultural awareness and the right communication skills, they will be able to network and develop partnerships more effectively, which sets up your organization for future success.

5. Conflict Resolution

Customer service is one of the top differentiators consumers consider before making a purchase, and providing a great customer experience is essential in today’s competitive market. But, it is not enough to provide great service for happy customers; it is also important that the customer service team and its leaders know how handle difficult customers.

As a result, conflict resolution and mediation are an important skill to include in customer service leadership training. Having the ability to turn customer complaints around quickly is useful in more ways than one. This skill will help leaders improve customer experiences, increase sales and improve your brand reputation.

6. Coaching and Motivating

Having the ability to effectively coach and motivate a team is skill that can make all the difference when it comes to employee performance. Many new leaders struggle in the transition from an independent contributor role into a leadership role, and learning effective coaching strategies will help them inspire and motivate others and encourage and guide the professional development of their teams.

A Final Note

In a time when customer experience is a key deciding factor for buyers making a purchase, it is in your organization’s best interest to equip your customer service leaders with the right soft skills. Their leadership directly impacts the skills of your customer service representatives, who play a key role in customer relationships and sales.

Therefore, one of the best ways you can improve the skills of your leaders is by providing them with soft skills training. There is a soft skills gap in the current talent pool, and addressing this gap in key areas can provide your organization with a competitive advantage.

Communication, creativity, cultural awareness, networking, conflict resolution and coaching skills will improve both internal interactions as well as customer satisfaction. They will also help leaders navigate change and inspire, motivate and drive innovation throughout your entire customer service team.

To learn more about developing future leaders, read this e-book: “High Potential Leadership Programs.”