It takes more than just knowing the ins and outs of a product or service to make a good customer service representative, new research suggests.
A study by researchers at Rice University discovered that conscientious employees are more likely to provide good customer service because they know that good interpersonal interactions positively impact customer service and, in turn, are more likely to behave conscientiously when dealing with consumers.
Stephan Motowidlo, a Rice professor and the study's lead author, said that while technical knowledge of a position is an important factor in successful job performance, it is only one part of the performance equation.
"Performance in a professional service capacity is not just knowing about what the product is and how it works, but how to sell and talk about it," Motowidlo said.
Historically, institutions have been very good at examining the technical side of individuals' jobs through IQ tests. However, Motowidlo said there has been more interest lately in the nontechnical side of employees' job performance. Just as intelligence impacts the knowledge acquisition, personality traits affect how interpersonal skills are learned and used, he said.
"People who know more about what kinds of actions are successful in dealing with interpersonal service encounters — such as listening carefully, engaging warmly and countering questions effectively — handle them more effectively, and their understanding of successful customer service is shaped by underlying personality characteristics," Motowidlo said.
Researchers based their conclusions off of questionnaires from two groups — one group comprising 99 undergraduate students and the other comprising 80 employees at a community service volunteer agency — and ranked 50 customer-service encounters as effective or ineffective. The questionnaires from both groups revealed that people who were accurate in judging the effectiveness of customer-service activities behaved more effectively and displayed higher levels of conscientiousness.
Motowidlo said he hopes the study will encourage future research into how personality helps individuals acquire the knowledge they need to perform their jobs effectively.
The study was published recently in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.