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Customer service and marketing skills:

Overview

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 in order 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 2020 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.

ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse 2021 survey results of Australian businesses in August 2020 showed this shift to online activity increased average online revenue between $105,000 and $708,000 for small businesses. This shift to digital purchases is expected to persist, with home deliveries expected to remain 25% higher than before March 2020.

FutureNow’s Industry Snapshot: Sport reveals national sports training packages have recently been updated to encompass COVID-19 operational changes and policy and framework content, as well as skills in communication, online and social media, marketing, initiative, and enterprise to aid in COVID-19 recovery.

According to the Administrative Services Workforce Profile, many Australian businesses lost capacity in their offshore centres in Indian and the Philippines when COVID lockdowns took effect. Telstra recruited at least 1000 new staff in Australia to cover the shortfall and is set to permanently change the way it provides customer service post-COVID with an aim to route all inbound voice calls through Australian call centres by 2022.

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 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.

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

The Rail IRC’s Industry Outlook 2021 has commenced a review of the Certificate II and III in Rail Customer Service to enable customer service operators to provide the service that meets passengers’ expectations. Passenger safety, security, ticketing technology and communications skills will be addressed. The report acknowledges the workforce requires customer service skills in interfacing between digital systems and customers, and having the right skills to determine and meet these expectations is key to improved and efficient operations.

The shift to digital technologies and online platforms are reshaping customer behaviour. The Water IRC’s Industry Outlook 2021 notes the growing social expectation that organisations should provide increasing customer service and transparency of their services, with the IRC committing to conducting regular targeting stakeholder consultation/engagement to identify and respond to priority customer service skill needs. The report also notes digital skills are equally important as customer service and engagement is mediated via digital platforms.

The Jobs Queensland report Future Work for Small Business: Skills, Capabilities and Potential states electronic invoicing and social media marketing are now essential for many small businesses, with small business workers commonly identifying skills gaps in relation to marketing. The report reveals skills and capability development areas for small businesses include contemporary marketing and advertising (digital strategies).

The State of Australia’s Skills 2021: Now and Into the Future report reveals social media is a skill rising in importance, trending in 47 and emerging in 18 occupations, and providing an alternative avenue for digital marketing. Additionally, ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse 2021 lists Customer Service skills in the top 10 requested skills in ICT job postings in 2020.

Hay’s list The most in-demand skills in 2022 lists Customer Service Representatives in high demand in call centres, with Customer Service Representatives with financial services, manufacturing, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) or medical supplies/devices industry experience in greatest demand. Customer service skills such as confidence, a professional phone manner, an ability to work under pressure and a genuine passion for helping people are all necessary.

Some specific examples of customer service and marketing skills that industries have identified as important include:

  • Customer service skills, identified by the following industries and sectors:
    • Business Services
    • Community Services
    • Corrections and Public Safety
    • Financial Services
    • Government
    • Health
    • Property Services
    • Tourism, Travel and Hospitality
    • Transport
  • Marketing skills, including online and social media, identified by the following industries and sectors:
    • Arts, Culture, Entertainment and Design
    • Business Services
    • Community Services
    • Property Services
    • Retail and Wholesale
    • Sport, Fitness and Recreation
    • Tourism, Travel and Hospitality

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 (2018-21)

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

Corrections and Public Safety

The Corrections and Public Safety industry in Australia comprises four main industry sectors: Correctional Services, Defence, Fire and Other Public Safety, and Police.

The quote below demonstrates the importance of Customer Service and Marketing Skills for this workforce:

The development of soft skills are critical to the manpower security industry. Security officers rely heavily on their interpersonal, communication, emotional intelligence and conflict resolution skills in order to assess and respond to situations in a professional manner. Excellence in customer service together with the ability to interact with people and build rapport are fundamental to the role and will become even more important in the coming years. These skills, although essential in many security roles, are often flagged as lacking by employers. (Public Order, Safety and Regulatory Services Workforce profile)

Financial Services

The Financial Services industry comprises of workers in the following six main industry sectors:

  • Accounting and Bookkeeping
  • Banking and General Financial Services
  • Financial Markets and Planning
  • Insurance and Superannuation
  • Mortgage and Financial Broking
  • Specialised Financial Services.

The quotes below demonstrate the importance of Customer Service and Marketing Skills for this workforce:

Given the very high skill level to perform the Financial Broker role, many employers now seek candidates who provide good customer service and who have strong interpersonal skills. (Insurance and Finance Broking Services Workforce Profile)

Technical skills aren’t all that employers expect of their candidates. They look for strong interpersonal and creative skills, the ability to make data-based decisions, adapt well to change and a continuous learning mindset. Insurers are looking beyond their typical candidate profile to consider people with strong customer service skills and a willingness to learn.

A key focus has been the development of stronger partnerships with brokers and insurers to help deliver value for customers. They make sure the customer has the right insurance solutions for the right risks and are well protected. The specialisation for brokers is their ability to understand customer demands and needs which, in turn, builds trust, and strengthens brand and reputation.  (Insurance and Superannuation Funds Workforce Profile)

Property Services

The Property Services industry is composed of a diverse range of sectors involved in the design, operation, servicing and sale of commercial and non-commercial buildings.

The quotes below demonstrate the importance of Marketing Skills for this workforce:

With many small companies vying for contracts, the competitive environment requires more than quality service delivery. Organisations need to stay connected with their clients in order to maintain communication and be responsive to their needs. Social networking and social media marketing are effective ways to promote and differentiate a business, inform clients and connect to new growth opportunities. Service providers need to foster interactive relationships with existing clients and utilise breadth of communication platforms to market themselves.

Self-managed websites, use of social media platforms for marketing purposes and the integration of smart devices into work processes rely on computer literacy capability and need to be developed. Communication and customer service skills continue to be important in settings where services are being delivered domestically or in populated areas, requiring client interaction. (Building Cleaning, Pest Control and Other Support Services Workforce Profile)

Updated: 29 Mar 2022
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