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Home > News > July 2006 > 28 July 2006

Survey finds customer service skills shortage

Many workers in England lack customer service skills, according to the National Employer Skills Survey (NESS) from the Learning and Skills Council.

The survey, which interviewed 74,500 employers across the country, found that customer service skills are in short supply across a huge range of businesses from pubs to shops, restaurants, offices and hotels.

According to the report, a quarter of vacancies are caused by employers not being able to source staff skilled to the required level. When employers were asked to identify the areas in which applicants are not fully skilled, customer handling was cited in 38% of cases and basic oral communication skills in 35% of cases.

Ironically, the hospitality and leisure industry is one of the hardest hit. The report found that customer handling skills are lacking in half (51%) of vacancies that exist due to a lack of skilled applicants, with oral communications skills accounting for 42%. One in five employers in the sector report customer service skills gaps within their current teams.

David Way, director of skills at the LSC said: "While employers do not expect everyone who comes into the labour market to be the finished article there are key 'soft skills' such as the ability to communicate effectively and work in a team which gives individuals a strong chance of succeeding. Employers greatly value a positive 'can-do' attitude and it sounds very simple, but being polite, getting on well with colleagues and showing a determination to help, really make a difference."

Joanna Yates, occupational psychologist at The Mind Gym commented: "Critical but often overlooked 'soft skills' such as the ability to work in a team and communicate effectively are becoming more and more significant in the fast-moving world of business. 'Soft skills' should be the focus of training schemes as we all have these skills inside us, but often we need to work at developing them to help us achieve our full potential."

The National Employers Skills Survey 2005 (NESS05) was commissioned by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA) to provide information on the extent, causes and implications of recruitment problems and skills gaps. It involved 74,835 telephone interviews with employers, undertaken from May to August 2005.

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National Employers Skills Survey 2005: Key Findings

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