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ARTICLESCustomer Focus


Business is not what it used to be. There is a sea of change in the manner business is done. The number of people jumping the business bandwagon has multiplied multifold.

Companies dealing in one line of product have started to spread their net and diversify to related or complimentary products or services thus competing with the pioneers. This means more in the market. A chip of the old block wishes to start his own venture, dealing in the same product range. Big or small this means competition.

Fierce competition has also sparked subcontracting and outsourcing to get that advantage over price, product or service. Technology is moving at a meteoric speed. A product launched today finds competition right behind its heels within months or even earlier. Strategies applied in promotion and marketing are common place. They are slowly but surely getting stale.

With such hard battles, what is that one thing that could make a difference between you and your competitor? 

The term soft skills sounds very demure. It seems so docile to make any difference in the jungle of business warfare that, somehow it has never played a significant role in business.

It is only a minority of businesses that have a clear focus on the sole money earner in any business - its customers. They have stood by their philosophy of service and have given due importance to its customer. The balance majority are till date complacent about satisfying customers with what they have to offer, than what the customer expects for his satisfaction. They are busy developing their focus on the customer and not on fostering customers focus on their company.

Today one is spoilt for choice. You can buy a product of the same range and similar features from 15 different manufacturers with a price difference of a few cents. Why should the customer then come to you again and again? What is it you can offer that others cannot? What would lure the customer?

It is that wonderful experience with you. It is your responses that make his experience worth remembering and raving about. Responses that send various messages of efficiency, attitude, character, speed, professionalism, honesty, warmth and many, many more positive signals that a customer could value and appreciate in addition to the product purchased.

Soft skills could be Excellent telephone manners ; Effective communication ; Strong work ethics ; Commitments ; Positive attitude ; On time performance ; Relationship development ; Personality development ; Motivation and self esteem ; Problem solving ; Good team player ; Complaint handling and more similar skills that enhance a customers experience.

Lets 'take the example of Jack and John who are both in sales.
Jack is master at his work. He is highly qualified with very good technical know how. He has thorough product knowledge. He has solutions on his finger tips.

John on the other hand has come up the ranks.  He has worked in different positions starting from the bottom. His product knowledge is all from experience. He normally checks out solutions before getting back to the customer.

General observation showed that customers flocked to John more than Jack. Obviously individual sales figures reported John to be ahead than Jack.  Closer study revealed that customers preferred dealing with John than Jack.

Though Jack was good at work he got easily irritated with some questions from customers. They were silly questions according to him. This made customers feel small. He was also not thorough with procedures hence, a bit slow in processing papers.

John coming up the ranks was thorough with procedures hence, processed papers fast. He always had a smile. Not being technically savvy, he displayed more understanding and patience with customer queries. He was always honest in confessing his shortfall and assuring that he would check and get back. He reverted on time and always suggested alternates for the customer to choose from. Customers could relate to John and were comfortable dealing with him.

You could be the best in your profession but it is the customer who decides that, and he can do it only through his experience with you.

Ironically when you speak of soft skills you'll find that each and every person is aware of it but, not many consciously practice it. Well, the solution would be to get a right mix of soft skills along with core skills. This, can be achieved when institutions arm each and every individual stepping out in the world of employment or business with refreshers on the basics and add-ons as per current customer requirements and market trends. 

For, it is soft skills that win hard battles.



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