7 min

The Essential People Skills Needed to Succeed in Service Industries

We explore people skills, also known as soft skills, and other behaviors or traits that are essential for the service industry.

By Yext

Oct 14, 2021

7 min

When creating a job listing, the primary focus is typically on technical skills and experience in the industry. Whether that means fluency with programming languages, certifications, or other credentials, people often hone in on those skills too much and fail to think about the soft skills involved in collaborating and communicating with other people.

The Essential People Skills Needed to Succeed in Service Industries

In work, as in life, it's very rare to find a position where you are completely on your own. Most people work with others, in a team or department where strong interpersonal skills are necessary. Even working remotely doesn't exempt employees from needing to collaborate and work jointly on projects with vendors and team members.

To be effective as a team player, especially if your position also has you interact with customers, there are certain essential people skills that need some attention.


Accessibility is a two-fold skill. On the one hand, it means making yourself available to others and encouraging communication. Regardless of what kind of role you occupy, whether managerial or not, people need to feel like you are approachable. If they want to ask you questions, get your input on something, or ask for a favor, you want people to feel like they can connect with you.

The other part of accessibility is being able to empathize. It is essential that we can empathize with or relate to other people to understand what they're saying and why they're saying it. Even if you've never experienced their precise predicament, you should be able to extrapolate based on your own experiences and gain an understanding of what people are dealing with.

Another way to think about accessibility is through interest. If a coworker or boss is telling you something or making small talk, it's important not to fade out of the conversation and that you demonstrate interest.

Knowing When to Quit

Persuasion is a great soft skill to have when trying to influence others, but it's also crucial that you have the emotional intelligence to know when to quit. Having confidence in your ability to explain your perspective and influence people to see your point of view may work in many situations, but sometimes you will need to use your social skills and agree to disagree.

The other side of this is, of course, knowing when not to quit. Throughout life and in the workplace, you will need to stand up for your ideas. Being persuasive is an essential sales skill, but knowing when to use your powers of persuasion is what elevates persuasiveness to the next level. Know who you can persuade, when to try it, and how to appeal to that particular person or audience.

Self-Control and Patience

Another vital people skill is exercising self-control and self-awareness. There will be times when you lose patience, be it your boss, a coworker, or a customer. Sometimes, people will not understand what you're saying, or they'll lose their tempers, or otherwise behave badly in a social situation.

That's why it is so important for you to remain patient. In most cases, losing your temper too will be completely unproductive and may even cost you your job, depending on the circumstances.

As many people in the service industries can attest, customers are allowed to throw temper tantrums with little to no repercussions, whereas an employee who responds in kind to personal insults could be fired.

Part of self-control and patience means keeping an open mind. You don't have to agree with the things other people say, or like them, but when you keep an open mind, it is much easier to stay patient with others since you're actively trying to put yourself in their shoes.

It's best to be willing to show empathy and hear someone out, as long as they're not harassing you, to understand their viewpoint.

Trust and Be Trusted

When building trust and rapport with your different personality types, nothing will get done if you and your coworkers can't trust each other. Learning to depend on other people and be willing to ask for help, or give it in return, is a vital skill and vital for teamwork.

It's almost impossible to complete big projects on your own, and you'll need to trust that your coworkers will do their jobs and meet the deadline.

Similarly, you need your coworkers and bosses to know that they can depend on your honesty. This is a good example of why you should constantly evaluate yourself and take stock of what's on your plate.

If someone asks you to do more than you can in a timeframe, it's always better to say no and ask them to either assign it elsewhere or ask for an extension than to say you can do something and then not get it done.

Trustworthiness includes a certain level of flexibility. Some bosses take this too far and demand that their employees always be on-call or ready at the drop of a hat, but some flexibility is always helpful. Coworkers can have family emergencies or get sick and, if you can, taking on some of their responsibilities or helping out by shifting your schedule is a great way to demonstrate that you can be relied upon.

Active Listening

Active listening is one of the most important soft skills and is something that you should practice in every facet of your life. It's actually a valued form of non-verbal communication.

When someone is speaking to you, especially if you're doing something else, your brain will automatically tune some or most of what they say out. No matter how great you are at multitasking, the human brain can only handle so many stimuli so audio often takes a backseat to visual.

If you're one of the few who can process exactly what someone is saying while you're working on an unrelated topic, there are still body language and visual cues you may be missing. These can indicate tone and emotion.

If the other person can see you and sees that you're doing something else, it doesn't matter how carefully you're listening to them, they won't see you giving your undivided attention to them and will feel like they aren't being prioritized.

Another example of active listening is to wait until the person speaking has finished before you formulate a response. This means actually listen to them all the way through instead of predicting a response partway through and then spending time coming up with your answer instead of listening.

It does make conversations take longer, but they're still shorter than wasting time giving a predicted response and then having to clarify later.

Negotiation and Compromise

Many job offers include a portion of negotiating over salary, benefits, and other forms of compensation, and many job hunters aren't taught how to ask for more.

Negotiation skills are some of the essential communication skills needed when presenting your ideas for new pitches. You and coworkers must find a common ground. Negotiating and compromising is the only way to ensure that your contributions are still recognized while also accepting input from everyone else on the team.

Part of the skill we listed above, knowing when to quit, also means knowing when you can't persuade people entirely to your point of view, but you can negotiate to a place where you both feel comfortable.

In Summary

Unlike technical skills that can be learned in a classroom or online, it's often difficult to learn soft skills and to develop strong communication skills. Kindergarten and pre-school are the only areas that focus on those skills so you will need to go back to basics and relearn how to get along with others and practice those people skills in your daily life so they become natural habits at the office.

Contact us to learn more about sharing knowledge and enhancing your company's customer service skills.


The 20 People Skills You Need To Succeed At Work | Forbes

What Is Customer Service? What Is Good Customer Service? | Zendesk

18 People Skills for the Workplace | Indeed

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