When we graduated high school or college and went on to join the workforce, the majority of us probably thought that our days of studying and passing final exams were over. However, to thrive in this global economy, keeping our professional development up to date is no longer a luxury, it is an absolute necessity.
In order to do your job well, knowledge matters – especially in the customer service industry. Real-time demands require you to know what you are talking about and be current on your knowledge of your product or service, without having to refer to handbooks or manuals. The service sector has seen a steady growth over the past decade (approx. 12% ) and in some countries, it is the primary driver of their economy. To stand out in this market, it is essential that you not only maintain but constantly build upon your knowledge and skills – since on-the-job experience will only take you so far.
As we discussed in our last blog article on employee empowerment, a great management team will look for ways to engage, inspire and develop their workforce. However, it is not only a company’s responsibility to increase your skills. Your development is something you should take at least equal responsibility for. It’s a good idea to honestly assess your strengths and your weaknesses, then take your own initiative to improve professionally.
Here are some ways in which you can begin to take charge of your own professional development:
Training and Certification
Internationally recognized professional training and certification courses, such as the Certified Customer Experience Professional Certification or Customer Service Manager Certification as offered by Customer Service Institute of America, not only ensure that trainees are qualified to provide exceptional service, it also informs them about current customer service best practices, ever-changing customer demands as well as new business practices, processes and procedures. Even after certification, certificate holders are required to complete a certain number of Professional Development Units (PDU) each year in order to renew their credential. Certificate holders have the option of attending webinars, conferences, writing customer service book reviews or conducting their own industry research as part of their ongoing professional development requirement.
Customer Service Conferences
Professional conferences, such as the Customer Service Revolution (which is not only endorsed but co-hosted by CSIA), are a great way to get a break from your work routine, listen to experts, meet industry peers and learn what other companies in your sector are doing. Conference attendees report that they return to the workplace feeling more energized, inspired and – most important – informed!
A common misconception is that social media is only good for sharing family and pet pictures, personal updates or political views, and while it is good for these things, it is also a great forum to take part in global conversations with some exceptional thought leaders in your field.
A great way to keep your knowledge up to date is to follow experts and organizations and join groups that are relevant to your industry. There are high-quality writers and leaders who are very active on social media, and very eager to share their knowledge and wisdom for free (check their social media posts for free e-books, videos, podcasts and webinars), in order to help you learn and grow.
Email Lists, Blog Subscriptions, Professional Memberships
Subscribe to as many email lists, customer service blogs and publications as you can, so you can stay updated on current trends. Become a member of a professional organization, forum or alumni association in your sector. That way you don’t even have to search for new information!
Knowledge Sharing and Networking
While searching for ways to gain knowledge and improve your skills, seek out what is available within your own company and ensure that, whenever possible, you are taking advantage of the knowledge and resources your co-workers and leaders have to offer.
Senior leaders are often the best place to look for help and inspiration. If they are a good mentor they will guide you, encourage you and help address any gaps that they perceive in your abilities.
Don’t steer away from any hard conversations if you are lucky enough to receive constructive feedback. It will only help you to continue to learn and grow.
“Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not. When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.”
– John C. Maxwell
Most organizations encourage learning sessions where you can pick up new nuggets of knowledge – often from others in your department or even other departments. One example of this is microlearning. If your company does not have this, consider suggesting this – even if it means learning over lunch. The price for a pizza is nominal considering the potential upside to the organization as a whole.
You could consider inviting experts for in-house workshops or organize your own brainstorming sessions as well.
Read books on customer service and books relevant to your service sector every day, and try to get as many different viewpoints as possible.
If you can’t spend the time reading, try audiobooks – they are a great way of passing the time while commuting!
Learning Never Ends
Bear in mind that learning is not just a single event. It should be considered a constant – just like change – that ensures you are continually growing and evolving.
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
– Leonardo da Vinci
Taking a proactive role in your own learning and development will take time and effort and may sometimes even take you outside of your comfort zone. But if you keep the momentum going, you will experience numerous long-term benefits in both your personal and professional life.