Reuben Singh, CEO of alldayPA, reveals that while almost 100 per cent of candidates interviewed by his organisation have the necessary technical and computer skills, very few pass tests designed to assess softer skills, such as good verbal communication, effective listening and empathy.
The company interviewed 1,000 applicants in the last 12 months, with only one in five candidates demonstrating the necessary skills.
Singh says that over the company’s 16 years, he has found that while people are getting better at typing, technical skills and reading information, softer skills have gone into sharp decline.
‘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.
‘This generation isn’t exposed to a enough positive examples of good customer service either face-to-face or over the telephone.’
The situation is particularly acute over the telephone, according to Singh, where a higher level of communication skill is required.
‘Increasingly in business telephone calls are used in more complex situations, with many simple customer interactions now handled through email or websites.
‘For example, 70 per cent 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.
A study by Oxford University suggests that 91 per cent 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,’ adds Singh.
‘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.’