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Customer service and marketing skills:


Approaches to customer service, marketing and communication are evolving, with social platforms increasing in prevalence. As such, the workforce will need to become skilled in new media literacies to engage with customers and achieve sales and marketing targets.

A  cross-sector project is currently in progress, which is looking at developing Consumer Engagement through Social and Online Media to improve social platform & marketing skills.  The Case for Change associated with this project has been finalised and submitted to the AISC for endorsement


COVID-19 impact

As government health directives closed or limited non-essential retail outlets and more people chose to shop online, having an online presence to attract customers and offer alternate purchasing options became vital to survival for many businesses. ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse highlights that:

  • Previously physically-delivered industries have transformed their products, offering new online services to consumers – for example telehealth.
  • Expenditure on food delivery services increased 230% compared to pre-COVID levels.
  • Restaurants, clothing stores and other retail moved substantially or entirely online.

Australia Post’s Inside Australian Online Shopping update for January 2021 shows there were 34.9% more online purchases in December 2020 than in 2019 and 2.1 million households shopped online in December 2020 that didn’t in December 2019.

The PwC Australia report Where Next for Skills? states the digital skills needed to support consumers as they transition to online purchasing and to engage these customers through electronic business communication and marketing channels were already in short supply and the pandemic has magnified that shortage. The article Redefining Customer Experience: Connecting in the Time of COVID-19 shows that as more customers are having to make purchases online, which has meant that human connections – and thereby customer service skills – have become essential. This is supported by further article in the series, which advocates blending digital and human experiences. The Digital Skills for Small Business Skill Set was endorsed in September 2020 which includes learning how to use social media to engage customers and provide online customer service.

Frontline customer service representatives have been required to augment their skills, regarding health and safety, to try to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission by staff and patrons. The Infection Control Skill Set (Retail) was endorsed in May 2020, followed by cross sectorial skill sets with contextual advice for 10 industry sectors in July.

Media reports and viral social media posts of some consumers who struggled with changes in public health requirements and temporary supply difficulties also highlighted the importance of conflict resolution skills for customer service workers. The new skill set Manage disrespectful, aggressive or abusive customers was endorsed in October 2020.

Industry skills needs

Generic skills

In their comprehensive 2019 Skills Forecasts, IRCs ranked a series of 12 generic skill categories, in priority order.

Customer service / Marketing (which aligns directly with Social Platform & Marketing skills) received an average ranking of 7th (out of 12) across all skills forecasts.


Priority skills

Social Platform & Marketing skills were also identified to moderate degree by industries that reported on priority skills in their 2019 Skills Forecasts.


The following industries identified Social Platform & Marketing skills as a priority in their IRC Skills Forecasts:

  • Arts, Culture, Entertainment and Design
  • Client Services
  • Corrections and Public Safety

These industries focused mainly on the need for skills relating to:

  • Self-promotion and marketing
  • Online and social media
  • Community engagement.

Internet job postings

Internet job vacancy postings that contained requests for customer service & marketing skills were examined for occupational trends. This includes skills related to sales, telephone marketing, social media and communication. The chart below compares the percentage of internet job postings in each occupation (ANZSCO Major Group) that requested customer service & marketing skills.

Internet job postings that requested customer service and marketing skills, by occupation (2016-20) 

Source: Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight™ Real-time Labor Market Information tool.

Unsurprisingly, customer service & marketing skills were most often requested for sales workers, with 76% of postings for these occupations containing at least one skill. Clerical and administrative workers and managers also had high rates of customer service and marketing skills requested. Labourers, machinary operators and drivers and technicians and trade workers had lower rates of these skills requested, suggesting these occupations are less often customer facing.

The following graphic shows examples of occupations where customer service & marketing skills are highly requested, and some examples of the types of requests employers are making for those in these occupations.

As well as general communication and sales skills, employers are seeking those with the ability to work with social media technology such as Instagram and Facebook. For higher level positions there is interest in those who have used their skills in different contexts, such as in business-to-business and consumer sales, and when engaging with diverse clients and customers.

Case studies

Arts, Culture, Entertainment and Design Industry

The Arts, Culture, Entertainment and Design industry includes a wide range of individuals and organisations who contribute to the creative economy, and is made up of four distinct sectors:

  • Live performance and entertainment: dance and musical theatre, dance teaching, and live production and technical services
  • Music: music performance and composition, music sound production, and music business
  • Screen, media and broadcasting: broadcast technology, and technical screen and media production
  • Visual arts, craft and design: subspecialties across a range of visual art disciplines

According to the Culture and Related Industries IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast, customer engagement through online and social media is a imperative skill for workers within this industry, primarily as these workers often are sole operators and need the skills to communicate and engage directly with their customers (and audiences).

The need for social platform and marketing skills are ever increasing with the growth of social media as a platform to promote, distribute and sell art to a wide range of audiences. In addition, the evolution and growth of the gig economy presents a need for artists to be skilled in self-managing their careers as freelance workers.

According to the Culture and Related Industries IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, the following changes are expected to impact skills needs for workers:

Artists, art dealers and galleries utilise technology and social media platforms to promote and distribute art, allowing them to reach a greater range of consumers. For example, 91 per cent of galleries surveyed said that they actively use social media to promote their gallery, art and artists. Therefore, workers in the sector require the skills and knowledge to establish a digital presence, engage audiences through digital platforms, and distribute and promote art.

The changes to the landscape of freelancing work will affect the Culture and Related Industries in different ways based on sub-sector and specific job roles. In some areas it may be prevalent, for example, more visual arts, craft and design professionals, have chosen to self-manage their career rather than to depend on galleries or other third parties to help with management.

Client Service Sector

The Client Services sector provides an array of essential services to the Australian public, services which are generally provided across the wider Community Services sector, and include:

  • Career development
  • Employment services
  • Counselling
  • Financial counselling
  • Family dispute resolution
  • Celebrancy.

According to the Client Services IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast, the widespread use of social media and online activities signifies the importance of establishing and maintaining a profile on social media amongst the Client Services sector:

Due to the mass-adoption of online and social media by the general public, it is important for almost every industry today to establish and maintain a high profile on social media. Online and social media is applicable to, and provides benefits to, the Client Services sector, and there is therefore a need for students to develop online and social media skills to aid in their work-readiness. 

These skills are of particular importance for celebrants. As highlighted in the Skills Forecast, Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants are required to undertake mandatory ongoing professional development each year, and this can include activities relating to social media and marketing skills, such as:

  • Social media marketing
  • Knowing how to create appropriate social media content
  • Creating and maintaining a social media presence
  • Social media as a marketing tool
  • Networking using social media.

Updated: 23 Mar 2021
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