Developing “Thick Skinned” Customer Service Reps

By Jan Ferri-Reed

Obviously an employee who’s sufficiently thick skinned can deal with demanding customers in a calm manner without taking the conflict personally. But being “thick skinned” requires more than just a calm demeanor. “Thick skinned” employees also possess a range of skills and competencies. These are successful at acknowledging the problem, demonstrating empathy to the customer and finding solutions. But to accomplish those goals your frontline customer service reps must also possess a specific set of skills. The Profiles International Customer Service Profile pinpoints six crucial behaviors for successful customer-facing employees:

1. Trust – This means accepting that your customer’s motives are honorable. Reps who lack a fundamental sense of trust are likely focus on the validity of the problem rather than a solution, making your angry customers even angrier.

2. Tact – It’s important for your customer service reps to be able to state their positions without being offensive or rude. The bottom line is this … how you say something to a customer can be just as important as what you say, especially when emotions are running strong.

3. Empathy – You want your customers to feel that your organization cares about their experience. Even if your customer service reps can’t help their customers they need to at least acknowledge the customer’s situation and frustration.

4. Conformity –Some organizations require their reps to carefully follow rules and guidelines. That means appointing reps that possess a higher degree of conformity. On the flip side, reps with lower levels of conformity may be more inventive, unconventional or independent. Having the right fit in your customer facing departments can be crucial for creating outstanding service.

5. Focus – You customer service reps are responsible for maintaining a high focus on satisfying their customers. Highly focused people tend to stay on the task regardless of distractions and they’re usually more effective in meeting customer expectations.

6. Flexibility – Highly flexible reps tend to explore new approaches to doing things and are more adaptable, accepting and open-minded. Less flexible reps may prefer repetitive tasks and are better suited for customer interactions that involve routine tasks and procedures.

At the end of the day customer service reps that possess a thick skin are more likely to function well in stressful situations. Fortunately, there are tools you can employ to help your customer reps “develop a thicker skin,” just by making sure they have the skills and strategies necessary to make your dissatisfied customers happy.

Jan-Ferri-ReedDr. Jan Ferri-Reed, is President of KEYGroup and provides businesses with insightful information to create engaged, productive and profitable multi-generational organizations. She is the co-author of the best-selling book, “Keeping the Millennials: Why Companies Are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation and What to Do About It.” To hire Jan, visit: or call 724-942-7900.

This article may be reprinted for your use in an organizational newsletter and or e-zine provided that you contact Kelly Hanna, Director of Sales and Marketing at 724-942-7900 to gain permission.

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