Aptitude and Attitude In Customer Service

4 min read

It’s time to change our thinking of aptitude and attitude as mutually exclusive but instead as intertwined, equally important traits.

It’s common knowledge in the business world that without great people, it’s hard to build a great company. Of course, some things are easier said than done.

A study by Leadership IQ, found that 46% of employees fail within 18 months of being hired. Failing means receiving negative feedback, needing disciplinary action, getting fired etc. From that same pool of new hires, only 19% will succeed in the long run. But the reason behind their failure might surprise you.

No, it wasn’t due to their lack of technical skills but instead, poor interpersonal skills like communication, lack of motivation, collaboration, creative thinking and problem solving. In fact, only 11 percent of employees lose their jobs due to lack of hard skills.

So, how do you weed through the mediocre to find the employees that will help your business succeed? Dig deeper into the importance of aptitude and attitude when searching for the right fit.

Aptitude and Attitude: Is One More Important?

At a basic level, aptitude is an inherent ability or skillset. Attitude on the other hand is a way of thinking, feeling or behaving. Finding people for your team with a balance of both is ideal, but which is more important?

It’s true, having the aptitude to perform a job effectively is necessary. Positive attitude alone won’t allow a you to perform in a job with high level skill requirements. But even a skilled vet won’t do your team any good without some enthusiasm for the job. Not to mention, lack of enthusiasm will be very apparent in customer facing roles like those of your customer service team.

Hire for both, aptitude and attitude

Bill Byham, president and CEO of Development Dimensions International and authority on molding great leaders, created a hiring methodology called Targeted Selection that does focus on this.

At its core, the methodology revolves around the idea that the best way to find people who will help your company thrive is to identify those on your team who are already doing just that—then seek out people with those same attributes.

It’s possible to train your employees by providing the right tools and techniques. You can’t, and shouldn’t try to, give them a new attitude. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase that’s become popular in the recruitment world, “Hire for attitude, train for skills.”

That’s because it’s easier to train aptitude than attitude. People with the right attitude are more likely to be motivated enough to put in the work to master new skills quickly.

Trying to improve someone’s attitude is a lot more difficult (unless you have a handy degree in psychology) because it involves changing people’s deeply rooted behavior. Not to mention it’s next to impossible if said person has no desire to change.

Still, many companies focus only on aptitude. It’s time to change our thinking of aptitude and attitude as mutually exclusive but instead as intertwined, equally important traits.

Aptitude and Attitude should be equal

Aptitude is a crucial component in finding the right people for your customer service team. Make sure to find the right blend of aptitude and attitude. A negative attitude, even with the perfect skillset, will bring with it a lot of negative consequences.

A Positive Attitude For Customer Service Success

In the world of customer service, your team is the most valuable asset. They’re also the biggest competitive advantage because they have the ability to make or break customer experience.

As you may have guessed, a team with a positive attitude is a team that goes above and beyond.

According to Barbara Fredrickson, professor and social psychologist, the more positive emotions people experience, the higher the chances are that they also exhibit positive workforce (and life) behaviors like curiosity, awareness, and creativity.

Overall, teams that are highly motivated and positive are not only fun to be part of, but they get a lot more done and are more likely to please customers than teams with low morale.

Which is why as a team leader it’s important to build a positive team by taking a good look at what that means to you. What is your attitude like while leading? Do you know what kind of people you even want on your customer facing team?

If not, take a good look at the traits and values you want your employees to possess. Even more importantly, lead by example and practice what you preach.

Cultivate A Happy Team

No matter how happy or chipper a person is, it’s impossible to keep that elevated mood day in and day out on their own. Aside from leadership style assessment, take the time to engage your employees. Makes sure you involve them in the company’s successes to create a sense of ownership.

Cultivating a continuous learning environment is also pertinent to a positive, happy employee. Encourage them to learn and grow by taking on different tasks and exploring their interests.

Communication is key in engaging your team as well. Be transparent in your vision and share both successes and failures along the way. In regards to communication it’s also crucial to handle issues efficiently and as quickly as possible.

Handling issues and dilemmas when they are brought to management is a surefire way to exemplify that you care about their well-being and overall success of the team.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, fix negativity before it can spread. As you dive deeper into what an ideal team member looks like and how to create the best team environment, you may notice that your current team doesn’t meet these standards.

No, this doesn’t mean you should fire everyone and start fresh. Instead, take time to identify areas for improvement and do what you can to help them. Only if their attitude shows they have no interest in making changes, maybe then it could be time to reconsider.

The Right Attitude Will Get You Far

In an ideal world, you’d have a team full of employees with the perfect balance of aptitude and attitude. But this is reality we’re talking about.

As you begin to grow your team and review your current team members, take into consideration their attitudes.  Think about how they treat your customers, and whether they have the mindset to learn high level skills later on down the road.

At the end of the day these are the traits that will help you create a strong customer service team.

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