Service Traits (Soft Skills, Empathy, etc.)


Traits are distinguishing qualities or characteristics. Employees in the service sector are often required to interface directly with customers in the execution of their duties, either in person or via electronic or other means. As a result, the ability to communicate effectively is of paramount importance in service delivery.

For service transactions to be successful, employees need to possess those traits that are associated with interpersonal interaction and communication, such as conflict management, human relations, making presentations, negotiating, team building, and other abilities defined in terms of expected outcomes and not as specific methods or techniques such as statistical analysis.


  • The particular traits that can turn customers into “raving fans”1)Blanchard, Ken and Sheldon Bowles, Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1993). will depend on the type of service being offered. In general, effective interpersonal communication depends in part on interpersonal skills, including listening, asserting, influencing, persuading, empathizing, sensitivity, diplomacy, and other nonverbal communicators such as body language.2)Howell, W. S., The Computer Language Company Inc. (2010) Specific trait needs will need to be identified for your particular industry, however.
  • Another method of conceptualizing service traits is by considering the SERVQUAL methodology for measuring the gap between customer expectations and experience.  Service quality perceptions are based on five dimensions: responsiveness, assurance, tangibles, empathy and reliability. Three of these–responsiveness, assurance, and empathy–are relational, and as such are impacted by the interaction between customer and point-of-service provider.
    • Responsiveness: Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.
    • Assurance: Knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence.
    • Empathy: Caring, individualized attention the firm provides its customers.
  • Service traits should be included when defining job requirements and in the assessment of personnel for available positions.
  • Some other common traits expected to be exercised by employees in the delivery of service are optimism, enthusiasm, individualism, imagination, pleasantness, listen-ability, trust, flexibility and judgment. Employees who exercise these traits display the following:
    • Optimism: They take a positive view, no matter what the problem.
    • Enthusiasm: This fuels their creativity and innovative action. It is contagious so that customers pick it up and respond positively to it.
    • Individualism: They are not afraid to invent their own ways of doing things, once they see that their approaches work and cause no harm to others or the organization. Employees must be empowered to be able to exercise this trait.
    • Imagination: They go beyond standard procedures once in a while and try something new. Customers usually appreciate this creativity, provided it sustains the system.
    • Pleasantness: They are friendly and appreciate the variety and individuality of people.
    • Listen-ability: They are able to ask meaningful questions and then listen with great concentration. This increases their ability to respond to customers’ needs effectively.
    • Trust: They cultivate the attitude that all people are worth trusting and treat them as such. In circumstances where customers have problems, this goes a long way in quickly resolving the issue.
    • Flexibility: They possess the capacity to be strong yet pliant, adaptable to changing conditions.
    • Judgment: They have the ability to balance the facts and make rational decisions.

References   [ + ]

1. Blanchard, Ken and Sheldon Bowles, Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1993).
2. Howell, W. S., The Computer Language Company Inc. (2010)