The digitalization of customer service, greatly accelerated by the current health crisis, has turned the rules and practices of call centers upside down. Today, it’s now common for customers to contact brands by chatbot to obtain an immediate answer or through social media thanks to these channels’ ease of use. To adapt to new customer practices and learn the new rules of customer service, a call center agent must show a certain number of soft skills. Here are 10 essential skills for contact center agents to master.
Certain interactions in customer service can be complicated—complaints, customer anger, deep dissatisfaction…to ward off these situations, the quality of an agent’s people skills is essential to managing customer service. From the first contact, an agent must be able to focus squarely on the customer and show him the attention he expects. To achieve this, an agent must show :
- Strong listening ability, to understand the customer’s issue and regain his trust. For the customer, listening is key since he knows that he is being heard and that the agent will look for a solution to his problem. For the company, listening is the best means of improving its brand image as it allows the company to stand out from competitors and offer better service quality.
- Empathy, to understand the customer’s emotions and put himself in the customer’s shoes. As with listening, empathy shows that the agent knows how to offer sympathy, that he understands the customer, and that he is able to offer the customer a fitting solution.
- Patience, to let the customer express himself freely or explain his problem or discontent, without the frustration of being interrupted or being pressured to speak fast. A patient agent does not rush his customers. He makes them feel respected and therefore conveys a better image of the company.
The agent is the voice of customer service, so his communication skills are key. A good agent must be able to express himself calmly and confidently and have a professional attitude, but he must also show:
- Ease when speaking, whether it be rephrasing a complaint or presenting a product or service offer during an outbound call campaign, for example. The agent must know how to be clear and concise, to avoid using the wrong wording, and carry a smooth discussion—by relying on a script if necessary.
- Digital knowledge, to manage new customer service channels: including email and especially chat, instant messaging, and social media. A good contact center agent must be able to interact just as well on the phone as he does in writing and must master the rules of new digital channels.
- Persuasion and negotiation, especially in the case of outbound call campaigns (web lead callbacks, prospecting, sales, satisfaction surveys…). The agent must be convincing, and he must master his subject and be persuasive. Persuasion is also important in the case of inbound calls, in order to change the opinion of an unhappy customer, for example.
- Perseverance, if the agent works in commercial activities such as prospecting or telesales. His discourse must be energetic, positive, and enthusiastic, no matter the number of calls and appointments made.
The proliferation of customer interaction channels, activity peaks, new consumer habits…there are so many factors that force agents to better manage their time, know how to prioritize requests according to channels used, and remain reactive and efficient. To accomplish all of this, they must be able to show:
- Stress management, as customers are more demanding than ever and expect an immediate answer. The agent must be able to show calm and control and not give in to panic if he does not find a solution immediately. Knowing how to let a supervisor help and not letting oneself be affected by customers’ negative feelings are among the most important anti-stress reflexes to have.
- Time management, for both the agent and his customers. The agent must remain in control of his time, regardless of the tasks he must handle, in order to remain efficient and deliver quality customer service (for example, avoiding excessive wait times for customers in wait queues). This allows the agent to increase his productivity and improve his KPIs (first contact resolution, call pickup rates…).
- Organizational ability, in order to handle requests and expectations on all channels. Versatility, adaptability, and flexibility are necessary for juggling between different channels, wisely prioritizing requests, and reacting quickly during customer interactions.
Well-trained agents who are equipped with the latest technologies will be the best ambassadors for your brand and for offering quality customer experiences.