Provide employees with soft-skills training

April 7, 2022 By    

What if everyone with whom you disagreed still made you feel heard, valued and respected – despite not finding common ground?

That is the goal Angela Hayes, Paraco director of customer experience, set for everyone who interacts with an employee of Paraco, whether they call with an inquiry, talk to a delivery person or speak with the collections department.

While Hayes’ primary focus is customers in the traditional sense – those who purchase propane from Paraco – she believes everyone at Paraco has a “customer.” Support roles, for example, have other employees as their customers. For Hayes, the internal communications that happen between employees are just as important as discussions with external customers. This perspective has inspired Paraco to implement changes to its companywide training.

Soft-skills training

The foundation for this ideal scenario – agreeing to disagree – is a combination of soft skills.

Soft skills are “people skills,” often defined as how we relate to other people and deal with conflict and disagreement. These skills include effective communication, empathy, adaptability, integrity, open-mindedness, problem solving and more.

Employee training focuses on hard skills or technical knowledge needed to serve in a specific role in many businesses. If soft-skills training is provided, it is often reserved for customer service representatives since they are dedicated to fielding customer calls. Paraco is thinking outside the box and asking deep questions about other roles. What about the employee who arrives on-site for a service call and meets a disgruntled customer? Or someone in the billing department who has to have a conversation with a customer about an unpaid bill? Or the person fielding demanding delivery calls from anxious customers as a winter storm approaches?

The service wait times, unpaid balances and delivery time frames will not change. What makes a difference? According to Hayes, it comes down to how people feel when they interact with your business.

The reality is everyone has a different background in how they were taught to handle conflict. While some may have learned how to manage their emotions in challenging conversations and remain calm, others struggle with being spoken to harshly. And let’s be honest, no one enjoys it. It’s important to empower everyone with the same skills and knowledge to ensure employees have what they need to succeed, whether they are communicating with a customer or a co-worker.

Training goals

The big-picture goal of Paraco’s training program is to:

  • Share how to put emotions aside.
  • See a work situation from a different perspective.
  • Provide plenty of examples of scenarios and appropriate responses.

These soft skills, combined with an understanding of the industry, the company and the technical skills necessary to perform their roles, are what Paraco believes will set up employees for success. Learning about how delivery works, why pricing fluctuates, how to talk to customers, and company roles and responsibilities empowers them with the skills and information necessary to communicate effectively whether their “customer” is external or internal.

While employees with direct customer interactions are prioritized, they are just the beginning of a bigger plan to see all employees benefit from soft-skills training. It’s a plan that aspires to further enhance the culture at Paraco – where the work you do is important, but how you do it is equally important.

Christina Armentano is executive vice president at Paraco. She can be reached at 914-250-3736 or

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