Last October, the first vocational training course, born out of international cooperation, was launched. It was developed in collaboration between Triinu Virnas, a teacher at Tartu Vocational College, and Pia Bonnensen, a teacher at Zealand Business College in Denmark.
Students from both schools, who had registered for the International Customer Service elective course, were able to participate. And so students from different disciplines came together to learn at the same group at the same course. Kristiina Nõu, business administrator, and Harald Raave, mechatronic engineer, talked about their what the students learnt from the international course.
Initially, the joint classes were held via MS Teams. “In the online lessons, the teachers first gave the material on international customer service and then the students had to work independently on the assignments. But not on our own, but in international teams, so we had to communicate a lot with each other in order to prepare and present the required slideshow for the next session,” explained Kristiina how the course was organised. “The Teams environment was frustrating for everyone and we communicated with the Danes via Messenger. In fact, it was difficult to collaborate remotely at first but towards the end it was easier to be on the same page,” Harald added.
The tasks were on different topics. “For example, one of the first group assignments was to look at the specific features of customer service in Arab countries,” said Harald. Of course, customs and habits are very different, and customer service has to take this into consideration. For example, different holidays are celebrated in different countries. Or the fact that in China, the oldest person is always the first to be greeted. “You definitely need to be aware of cultural differences and take them into account when meeting and negotiating with foreign partners in the future,” Kristiina assured.
During the mobility weeks in Denmark, customer service tasks were more practical. According to Kristiina, they went to a shopping centre together to observe and assess the customer service there. Together they also prepared a tourist programme to see the sights of Copenhagen and then had English lessons in customer service. She also confirmed that the Danish students were nice and friendly.
The most important contribution of the course was the development of communication skills. There are differences between communicating online and face-to-face, but more important is the confidence that you can cope. “There was no language barrier because everyone in Denmark spoke English. And I also had some previous English communication experience,” said Harald. Kristiina also confirmed that it was good to practise English. “During the course, you had to communicate and talk, and in the end, you also thought in English. It’s not a big problem if the words don’t come to you straight away, it comes with practice.”
Besides, communication skills are universal. No matter what job you do, you need to communicate with others. “Even if I’m a mechatronics engineer, I still need to be able to present my ideas and work with others,” Harald says.
The joint customer service course is highly appreciated by both participants. “Of course I would recommend everyone to attend. It wasn’t difficult because the course was well organised and the topics weren’t too difficult,” said Harald. “The course is definitely a pleasant experience. We even get a separate certificate and it’s something to put on your CV. After all, it shows international work and study experience,” Kristiina adds.
Besides, the participants from Denmark and Copenhagen have only pleasant experiences. Although the tourist attraction Tivoli was closed, the Copenhagen Aquarium was an experience in itself. Visiting the largest aquarium in the Nordic countries is like being in the middle of all the fish and other sea creatures. Of course, the cheerful and friendly people and the professional customer service are a must.