A Festive Update: Customer engagement skills and dealing with challenging conversations

In the run up to the busy festive period, it appears organisations continue to focus on people skills, recognising that effective employees communicate well and engage their customers. Azure Consulting have undertaken two projects which focus on building excellent customer engagement and dealing with challenging conversations.

At West Yorkshire Joint Services (WYJS), a shared services organisation serving the five council areas of West Yorkshire (incorporating trading standards, archaeological services and materials testing, amongst others), workshops covering customer engagement skills were undertaken ensuring that employees who were technically brilliant at their jobs also had the knowledge and confidence to be able to successfully engage with their customer base. The workshops established a WYJS approach to sales, how to build credibility and reliability amongst customers, how to increase trust, and activities that can fill many with dread – telephone calls to important customers and dealing with customer complaints! John Knox, the Head of Commercial Services and Resources, described the workshops as “Excellent”, saying “There was a good mix of workshops and practical exercises which meant lots of ideas and tools to use”, and Allison Lee, Marketing Manager commented “Very effective. Just right – kept it moving. I felt I understood everything but didn’t get bored.”

Slightly further north at Banks Group, who develop land for mining, property and renewable energy, employees participated in workshops entitled “Dealing with Challenging Conversations”. Such conversations shouldn’t (and in many situations can’t!) be avoided in order to foster an engaged and productive workforce, yet that is exactly what many of us do. In order to be better leaders and colleagues, it is important to have the skills and courage to be able to conduct such conversations. Areas covered included how to communicate assertively, delivering negative feedback in a constructive manner, how to handle strong emotional responses, challenging others’ self-fulfilling beliefs, and applying knowledge of DiSC profiles to be able to successfully navigate these difficult scenarios. Chris Kelsey, Communications Manager praised the “secure atmosphere” and valued the “time to think and for discussion, with some good practical exercises”, whilst Landscape Architect Mark Simmons thought the workshops were “Helpful, enjoyable and challenging.” That’s exactly what we were aiming for, Mark!

We believe that as we move into the equally busy New Year period, these skills will stand the workshop participants in good stead for their interactions with stakeholders both within their organisation and amongst their customer base.