Myth: Autistic People Should Not Be In Customer-Facing Roles

A woman buying something from a man who works behind the till in a shop.

Myth: Autistic People Should Not Be In Customer-Facing Roles

When it comes to jobs for autistic people, there are many stereotypes about which types of roles are suitable – and which are not.

It’s a huge misconception that autistic people should not be in customer-facing roles because of having poor social skills, and we’re going to explore the reasons why this is not always true.

But first, let’s put in simple terms what a customer-facing role means.

What’s involved in customer-facing roles?

Customer-facing means interacting with customers directly. This could mean communicating with customers via face-to-face conversations, talking to them on the phone, exchanging emails with them, or replying to their posts and comments on social media.

There are many types of customer-facing roles and what is involved will vary depending on the industry and the needs of the business. Anything from waiting on tables, serving in a shop, or manning a reception desk, to being a customer service operator, salesperson, bank clerk, or technical support provider can come under the customer-facing umbrella.

For people who enjoy helping others, working directly with customers can be very rewarding. The key skills required are problem-solving, following processes, and good communication.

Autistic people can be social

The biggest problem with the assumption that customer-facing roles are not suitable for autistic people due to poor social skills, is that not all autistic people have a problem with being social!

Some autistic people can do social-emotional reciprocity, which is vital for building relationships with customers. Not all autistic people have difficulty engaging in conversation and back-and-forth engagement with people. Those that can, may be suited to customer-facing roles, and even thrive on getting the social interaction they need.

For others who can’t manage social chit-chat, it doesn’t always mean they don’t like socialising – they may just do it in different ways. The ability to communicate well, and be polite and helpful to customers, does not always require social chit-chat.

Structured conversations

The conversations that employers expect from staff in customer-facing roles are not the same as those that are had in social situations like going to the pub or attending a work party.

Customer conversations are mainly structured, including even the small amount of social chit-chat that may be involved.

In nearly all customer-facing roles, there is a process to follow, and many autistic people are very good at learning and following structured processes.

Versatile skills

As we highlighted in the first section of this blog post, customer-facing roles vary in terms of what is involved and expected of the employee. Depending on the specific job, it could be vital to have a number of other skills that have nothing to do with the person’s ability to be social. Examples would be an IT helpdesk role in a university or a legal helpline.

Building good relationships also relies on solving the customer’s problems, gaining trust, being honest, and having great listening skills. These skills are not exclusive to non-autistic people!

In fact, some autistic people excel in these areas. Many, for example, have very good long-term memories, which can be invaluable when the customer is seeking information, or when a strong knowledge of a product or service is required.

So, what are good jobs for someone with autism?

Just like everyone else, the most suitable job for an autistic person depends on their particular interests and aptitudes!

There is no area where autistic people could not potentially work. As long as you make sure that your autism is compatible with the job, you should be fine.

If you need help finding a suitable job, career path, or deciding on suitable study choices, that suit both your autism and your interests, get in touch with us.