In a daily routine of travelling long distances to office and beating the traffic hours, most of us prefer to get our shopping done online to save some breath during the weekends. Similarly, many of us prefer working from home to fulfill both house responsibilities and our ambition.

Both these new trends have opened avenues for various deals, payments, negotiations, delivery, returns etc. to be completed without many face-to- face meetings. Amongst many willing to opt for these opportunities, whom do the employers prefer? What gives the leaders of the game the edge? Let us take an example scenario. You have purchased a product from an online vendor and want to return it as it didn’t fit your expectations.

Now, irrespective of their return policy, you will expect the vendor or customer care to deal the issue with empathy and courteous replies. This is extremely
important because online vendors cannot emote through facial expressions, as in case of physical stores. Same applies when an employee works from home and has to communicate their needs/concerns through an email or over phone. This ability to interact effectively with and to people, under variable circumstances is termed as soft

Earning loyal customers/employees are important in a business and even more important is keeping them. In this article, I will be dealing with people who work from home under two scenarios – one who runs their own business and the other who works for someone.

Let us now look at few key attributes of soft skills and their impact on business. Soft skills are an amalgamation of the following:

1. Communication/People skills
This includes positive communication, even in times of crisis- one that doesn’t break the relation with the listener but gets the job done. This is crucial as any unpleasant situation will have to be addressed effectively without breaking trust.

2. Adaptability
Any establishment will go through changes. Similar to Darwin’s theory, only the fittest survives. In this quickly evolving era, we must be able to accept new ideas and views with an open mind. Only this can offer one ample opportunities for learning and growth. In the viewpoint of a business, this is even more important as new launches/modes of advertisement/feedback will give you a better leverage than the rest and for this, adaptability is the key.

3. Team Player
Another essential attribute is being able to blend with people from various backgrounds,
without any prejudice and reservations. Learning from other people’s experiences is as good as experiencing it ourselves. It is a principal quality required, especially if one is starting their own firm. We all like being in a cheerful and motivating environment. Who would want the best mind with a cold shoulder?

4. Problem Solving/Negotiation Skills
Though both these qualities are different, these are two modes of handling an issue. Either solve it or bring both parties to a common ground. Both are difficult tasks and both need patience, persistence and thinking out-of- the-box. Problem solving is primarily providing the best solution for the issue with the resources available
on hand.

This requires understanding how the employer/business works and its intricacies. Negotiation skills require understanding the people involved and their needs. Keeping in mind the end user needs, one should dish out the best possible deal with a bearable compromise. Any person with these skills is definitely an asset and bound to benefit the workplace.

5. Being Approachable
In any dealing, we expect our vendor to be there for us. This need has brought in the concept of 24*7 customer care services. In the case of working in a team, we will look out for an understanding shoulder to express our perspectives without inhibitions.
This connect can only stem from trust. Behaving in an unbiased, non-judgemental,
understanding and friendly manner, will allow peers/customers to trust us and eventually approachable.

Why is such a simple thing important?
Let us assume you know a brand that is tough to contact. What would you do? Take the issue to social media and express yourself or wait endlessly for the brand to respond?
We have many people still choosing a brand just for its after-service and prompt response. Hence, being approachable is as crucial as marketing a product.

6. Time Management
All work and no play make anyone dull. The reverse is also true. The key to consistent results is time management. This involves foreseeing setbacks, being prepared for them and planning out tasks within the timeframe. Considering the plausible dynamic changes when working from home, one needs to stabilise as many things possible through efficient planning.

7. Accepting Feedback
As a business owner, we all need 5 star rating. As an employee too, we need 5 star rating. We all strive towards perfection but no diamonds shine without polish.
This polish is usually the learning opportunity provided in terms of feedback. Taking a feedback from a customer in the right sense will help us reset our compass to what actually customers require. Same applies to employer needs. Understanding that criticism isn’t directed at the person but towards the service will help one deal it effectively.

Handling positive feedback with humility and negative feedback with understanding will
definitely aid in overall growth. The importance of soft skills can be gauged from the effort educational institutions and corporates are putting in training their people at these skills. We have innumerable training firms that aid in training one in presentation, positive thinking, communication, telephone etiquettes, writing, problem solving, team building activities and such.

All these are meant not for immediate changes in outlook but towards overall grooming of a person as an individual. An example of positive actions and behaviour upping the trust in a brand can be Narayana Murthy taking home Re 1 as salary during crisis. This showed people the confidence the brand had in their corrective action and that they were placing the company’s well-being before theirs. We tend to choose brands that advertise more.

Why is that?

Because they seem more available and willing to connect with us. They have taken the effort to be heard. We assume these brands will be communicative if any problem arises from their products. This is the basic need of any customer and is the need of the hour. Understanding that soft skills are the tie breaker will help one work towards incorporating them in daily work and thus, better work relations.

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