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"Much like intelligence impacts knowledge acquisition—driving what you learn and how much you know—personality traits impact how interpersonal skills are learned and used," says Stephan Motowidlo. (Credit: iStockphoto)

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Personality traits linked to better customer service

To offer great customer service, institutions should consider a potential hire’s personality and interpersonal skills, in addition to technical skills, new research suggests.

The paper, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, found that individuals who are identified through tests as highly conscientious are more likely to be aware of how good interpersonal interactions positively affect customer service—and are more likely to behave this way.

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Stephan Motowidlo, a psychology professor at Rice University and the study’s lead author, says 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 says.

He notes that historically institutions have been very good at examining the technical side of individuals’ jobs through IQ tests. He says that recently there has been an interest in the nontechnical side—the “softer, interpersonal” side.

“Much like intelligence impacts knowledge acquisition—driving what you learn and how much you know—personality traits impact how interpersonal skills are learned and used,” Motowidlo says.

“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.”

The research was conducted in two parts. Part one included a group of 99 participants—undergraduates enrolled in a psychology course at a small, private Southwestern university. Part two included a group of approximately 80 participants—employees at a community service volunteer agency.
In both parts of the study, participants completed a questionnaire ranking 50 customer-service encounters as effective or ineffective. Both parts of the study revealed that people who were accurate in judging the effectiveness of customer-service activities behaved more effectively and displayed higher levels of conscientiousness.

Motowidlo says he hopes the study will encourage future research about how personality helps individuals acquire the knowledge they need to perform their jobs effectively.

Rice University funded the study.

Source: Rice University

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