10 Skills Every Customer Service Agent Should Have

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Chip McCoy shares the top ten qualities that he believes every great contact centre agent should possess.

Customer service agents frequently deliver that make-or-break first impression. On the front lines, with customers with rising expectations, they’re tasked with much more than just answering phones.

With customer experience as today’s top brand differentiator, the most successful organisations are increasing their focus on who they hire in critical, customer-facing positions, as well as how they train them.

The stakes have become too high to gamble on customer service agents who lack the appropriate skill sets. Not only do these individuals jeopardise customer relationships, they also contribute to high rates of attrition.

Because there is a cost to every customer or employee lost, there is a bottom-line reason for fine-tuning agent hiring and training. With customer experience moving toward greater personalisation and automation, it’s important to look for and nurture the following agent skills.

1. Listening

Successful customer conversations begin with effective listening. Agents won’t succeed if their communication skills are limited to the “gift of gab”.

Without the ability to listen to what a customer is saying, details can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. This is one of the most common sources of communication breakdowns and customer frustration.

Listening is about much more than hearing; it’s about paying attention to what is being said, as well as what is left unsaid. Ongoing communication training, including role playing, can improve and retain agent listening skills.

2. Attentiveness

Customers are acutely aware when agents are distracted or running through a series of canned responses without much thought. More than ever, customers want a personalised experience. Agents require a level of attentiveness to make interactions more personal and meaningful.

Even when they must stick to certain responses, attentiveness can ensure the dialogue remains on target and personalised for each customer.

3. Problem-Solving

With the rise in popularity of self-service channels, customers often only talk to an agent when they escalate an unresolved issue. In other words, customer service agents deal with a higher volume of problems and require the skills to manage them effectively.

This includes listening carefully to the customer, filling in the gaps when there’s limited information and identifying the best approach for a fast resolution, while continuously using a calm yet informative tone of voice.

4. Resourcefulness

Dealing with the huge range of customer service situations that crop up requires improvisation and adaptability.

Quick-thinking MacGyver types often thrive in contact centres because they have the skill to quickly figure out a solution that will satisfy a customer temporarily until a larger fix can be made to rectify a more extensive problem.

5. Product Knowledge

Customers view agents as their source for product information. To avoid frustrating customers, agents should always be current with the latest on products, services and promotions.

With a deep familiarity with knowledge base resources, they’ll also know exactly where to go to find answers and provide real value to the customer.

6. Multitasking

Customer service agents on digital channels frequently manage more than one customer conversation at a time. This takes a combination of skill and expertise to ensure customers aren’t waiting for extended periods of time between responses.

7. Technical Skills

Along with the skill to chat and write emails quickly, agents should have full competency with the tools they use for every interaction. Moving away from disparate systems and legacy infrastructure can help ensure their success.

Deploying a unified, all-in-one customer experience platform means that agents don’t have to toggle between screens and systems. They can focus on helping customers, instead of repetitive processes, to deliver a more seamless and personalised service.

8. Self-Control

Although most would consider self-control a character trait, it’s a skill to hone within a call centre environment.

Working with customers is challenging under the best of circumstances. It takes practised skill in self-control to remain calm with angry customers and to treat every customer interaction separately, regardless of how bad a previous one was.

Agents who learn how to consistently keep their cool are those who derive the greatest satisfaction from their work while also delivering the highest quality of service.

9. Study Skills

With technology advancing at such a rapid pace and customer expectations continuously evolving, ongoing training and self-improvement are necessary for agent success.

While this may seem like a general skill, it’s one of the most important for agents to possess to ensure they don’t end up being left behind.

10. Teamwork Skills

Customer service doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The importance of teamwork remains constant, despite advances in technology.

Teams that have the skills to share and learn from each other gain the advantage of their collective knowledge and experience. This has a big impact on both the agents’ quality of life and organisational success.

Nominate a CX Hero

Every industry has talented, dedicated customer service agents who are using their skills, expertise and experience to help customers by going the extra mile. These everyday heroes deserve recognition for all they do to improve the lives of others.

Share your story of an agent who deserves accolades for their great customer service. Nominate him or her as a CX Hero today.

Three heroes are selected monthly to receive a CX Heroes swag back, and one grand prize winner will be flown to Genesys’s CX19 user conference and celebrated on stage.

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 28th Sep 2018 - Last modified: 2nd Oct 2018
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