British entrepreneur Reuben Singh has revealed that while almost all of the people he interviews for his call handling firm AlldayPA have the necessary technical abilities, very few possess enough social skills.
AlldayPA has interviewed 1,000 applicants in the last 12 months and only one in five candidates demonstrated the necessary softer skills, such as good verbal communication, effective listening and empathy.
Singh blamed the shortage of social skills on depleting examples of good customer services over the telephone or face-to-face, and lamented the ‘breeding’ of a generation that ‘act like automated robots’.
“We have been in business for over 16 years and, in that time, people are getting better at typing, technical skills and reading information, but softer skills have gone into sharp decline,” he said.
“We are seeing the first generation that has grown up with automation entering the workplace. They shop online, talk to friends through social media and even play online games in their leisure time – and, crucially, as a result, have less experience of verbal communication, and are instead becoming overly reliant on digital communications.”
The situation is particularly acute over the telephone, according to Reuben, where a higher level of communication skill is required.
“Increasingly in business, telephone calls are used in more complex situations,” he said, “with many simple customer interactions now handled through email or websites.
“For example, 70% of customers choose to use the phone when making a complaint or trying to resolve a problem. In these circumstances, we find an increasing number of applicants aren’t able to listen effectively, get to the heart of the matter or empathise with how the customer is feeling.”
Singh believes that the real loser in this situation is the customer and that the situation is going to get worse before it improves.
He referred to a study by Oxford University, which suggested that 91% of customer service workers will be replaced by automation in the next 20 years.
“We are in danger of trying to use artificial intelligence when what customers really want is emotional intelligence offered by a real person that can offer both sympathy and support,” he said. “More value needs to be placed on these softer skills, both in education and in business.
“Failure to do so will see a continued decline in levels of customer satisfaction and worsening customer service.”