How to Use Your Customer Service Skills to Land a Business Analyst Job

Did you have a part time job when you were at college?  I can still remember mine vividly.  In order to support my studies (and my many social activities) I worked in a late-night convenience store.  Working there was an education – I learned how to handle all manner of situations involving people.

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Soft skills are exceptionally important for a BA — think ‘customer service’!

Working in a late night store you see the whole spectrum of life – from families on their way to see a movie, to friends buying a beer on the way to a party, right through to people needing chips to defeat the midnight munchies!  It is truly a customer service role.  There is no way you can avoid the customer when they are standing in front of you, 6 foot tall and angry because you don’t stock their favourite brand of breakfast cereal.  It’s a steep and strong learning curve.

So how on earth does this relate to business analysis, I hear you say?  Well, a few weeks ago I exchanged e-mails with a fantastic aspiring BA who was looking for some advice.  He was struggling to get his first interview, because he didn’t have sufficient BA experience, but he had a stack of customer service experience.   This triggered a thought in my head – As BAs we often talk about the technical skills.  But a significant part of our role is the often unspoken, unacknowledged and untaught skill of “customer service”.

Customer service is a broad term.  However, think about the following skills.  How often do you use them in your role? If you’re anything like me, the answer is “every day”.  And these are all skills that I started to learn in those dim-and-distant late night convenience store days.  Not all are directly related to “customer service”, but they are all soft, fluffy and incredibly indispensable skills.

 

Soft Skill Area Convenience Store Supervisor Business Analyst
Conflict resolution “Sorry we don’t have your favourite brand of cereal… here’s what I can do…” “The sponsor has confirmed that’s not in scope… but perhaps we can tweak your process so it isn’t needed?”
Expectation management “Excellent, we’ll order that magazine for you, it’ll be available next Monday, providing it’s in stock at the wholesaler. We’ll keep you posted.” “Excellent.  I’ll have this document ready by the end of the week – providing I can get enough of Joe’s time.”
Understanding non-verbal communication “Is that guy about to put that large jar of coffee in his pocket?” “Is that stakeholder holding back – why might that be?”
Keeping calm under pressure “I can understand you’re upset… what can I do to resolve that?” “I can understand why you’re upset… how can we work as a team to get the right outcome?”
Stakeholder Management “The area manager is coming in on Tuesday – do we know what he’s going to be looking for?” “Let’s identify and categorise our stakeholders, and find out what makes them tick…”
Delivering a service people value “No problem – let me get that sorted for you.  Would you like me to pack it too?” “Right, I understand the project’s objectives.  Would you like a copy of the PowerPoint presentation so you can re-use it in your board presentation?”
Building rapport “Hi John, how’s Jayne?  Haven’t seen you guys in weeks!” “Hi John, how’s Jayne?  Haven’t seen you guys in weeks!”

 

I think a strong, customer-focused attitude is essential for anyone wanting to become a Business Analyst.  And if you’re trying to get into the role, be sure to mention these skills when you’re speaking with prospective employers!

Right – I’m off to grab some Pepsi from my local convenience store 🙂

 

 

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  2. Wilfred Tekoh says

    Accept my greetings Mr. Reed,

    I wholeheartedly applaud your article.

    Kind regards
    Wilfred

  3. Hi Adrian!

    Thanks so much for sharing this article! I’m so glad to know that a customer service skill could be that much significant in a BAs job and can be mentioned on job interviews. But aside from it, is there also a BA career path for people in their mid-career in finance specialising in treasury and trade finance? If so, do you have any advice on how to make a way up there?

    Thanks.

    -Dovita

  4. Christian says

    Hi Adrian,

    It was wonderful to read this article. I am a recent graduate looking to start my career in an analysis-based position. However, I have years of restaurant management and serving experience. This article gave me hope that something might come my way. Thanks!

    – Christian

  5. Great Article Adrian…

    Sincerely appreciate the way you had ANALYZE the skills of CSR with that of a BA… Whoever had approach you for seeking advice, post reading this article can confidently project his CSR skills from a BA point of view.

    Anywhere, thanks for helping us to look things from a different angle.

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this!

  6. Michelle Culbert says

    Adrian, I loved the article. I too, have many soft skills pertaining to customer service that can be used as a BA. I am persuing a BA career, and hope to use my soft skills, and learn some new ones, as my career progresses. So nice to read an article that doesn’t just pertain to having technical skills to be a BA.

    • Hi Michelle,

      Thanks for the comment, I’m glad you found the article useful. I think soft skills are essential for a BA… after all, a BA spends a significant amount of time interfacing with people. However, these soft skills are easy to overlook!

      Best of luck pursuing a BA career – I’m sure your customer service skills will stand you in good stead for this!

      Thanks again for your comment, take care,

      Adrian.

  7. Excellent article….so far!! This is exactly I was looking for as a BA. Thanks a million..Adrian!!

  8. Lesley Brown says

    Adrian,

    Fantastic comparison. I’ve found that latley all the talk around being a BA seems to focus on technology. It was great to see an article that looked some of the soft skills (customer service & communication) for a change.

    Cheers,
    Lesley

    • Hi Lesley, really glad you enjoyed the article!

      I have always found that the job is a real mixture of people skills and technical skills… and on many projects the *people* skills seem to be the most important. (Taking this to an extreme… there’s no point in being the most technically qualified BA if you can’t speak to stakeholders!!!)

      I’m a real advocate of the softer-skills of business analysis.

      Thanks again for your comment, take care,
      Adrian.

    • Agreed! It was extremely relevant and relate-able for me,

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