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Customer service is its own industry that has given rise to an entire professional class of experts in how to keep customers loyal. But the major principles of customer service are also critical for just about every working person (with the possible exception of solitary bookkeepers, night-shift security guards or professional marathoners -- anyone whose job requires minimal contact with other human beings).
Even though they aren't customer service workers per se, employees in some highly interactive fields rely heavily on a handful of key customer service skills: listening, communication, the ability to resolve problems promptly, and a knack for remaining professional and courteous even in tense situations, for example. If you're in customer service currently, but you're interested in making a transition to one of the careers below, your skills will likely prove useful (and may just help you stand out during your job search).
1. Administrative: Administrators, especially those that work as assistants, often fight on several fronts. They are responsible for pleasing their bosses and at the same time handling the communication with clients. An organized, proactive administrator can make a critical difference in how customers perceive the hospitals, law firms, sales offices and the numerous other organizations where administrators play an important role in day-to-day operations.
2. Retail: A positive customer experience is a major contributor to success in the retail industry, so retail workers at all levels need a keen grasp of what customers want and need. That's true for those who set corporate strategy, conduct research, make purchasing decisions or handle face-to-face interaction with customers.
3. Consulting: Consulting takes place in a wide variety of industries, from information technology to health care to education. Whatever the field, listening, communication, problem-solving and tact are just a few of the customer service skills that consultants need to do their jobs well. Like the technical support workers we call when our cell phones or computers break down, consultants who work in technical areas need the ability to translate complex ideas into language that non-technical people can understand.
4. Design: This is often considered a solitary pursuit, but for professionals in the field the design process is usually intensely collaborative (whether the design is graphic, web-based, industrial, or any other type). Designers must face the reactions of professional colleagues, prospective customers and all kinds of other stakeholders -- and they tend to fare best when they have the customer service skills to make those interactions go smoothly. Architects are one prime example of design professionals who need customer service acumen. Often they must present their designs to clients or community members, and to factor in their criticisms as they make revisions.
5. Hospitality: Waiters and waitresses, concierges, hotel managers, cruise directors and other hospitality workers might as well be considered customer service experts. They are charged with creating a seamlessly enjoyable customer experience for large volumes of people who may or may not be hungry, road-weary or stressed out after a busy workweek. From service workers to upper management, they must find ways to ease those burdens and create a patina of comfort, fun or glamour. It's not always an easy task, which is why many hotels and hospitality-related businesses invest in customer service training for their employees.
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