Running a customer service team can be like building a home. When constructing a home, builders must select customized, quality materials to ensure the shelter will protect its inhabitants and be a great place to live. Likewise, a customer service team must have agents with specific qualities that will ensure customers have a great experience.
Customer service has always been core to business success. Today, many customers only interact with a brand through its call center. According to data from PWC, almost 80% of U.S. consumers agree that elements such as speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service are the most important components of promoting positive customer experiences.
To deliver reliable speed and knowledgeable help, customer service agents must possess certain, timeless qualities. Some agents may come equipped with these qualities. Some may need training or coaching to promote positive customer experiences. In either case, it is critical to understand, identify, and cultivate key qualities in your customer service agents. They are your front lines, the customer experience foundation of your business, and definitely worth the investment.
Five essential qualities of an outstanding call center employee
While there are many qualities that may contribute to positive customer experiences, there are 5 key, foundational qualities we will discuss in this article. Focusing on these qualities will set your team up for success. Some agents possess these qualities and understand customer call etiquette because of their personalities or experience. But don’t worry if they still need to learn! With intentional recruiting and focused training, your team can possess these qualities as well.
Study these qualities so you can recruit new team members with these attributes and train your existing team to exemplify each quality.
1. Effective communicator
Being an effective communicator is important for both workplace and customer interactions. Good communication can help prevent misunderstandings, foster better relationships, and help people work better as a team. When working directly with customers, effective communication is simple, direct, knowledgeable, and friendly. Agents must not only understand the product and service, but also how to explain its use, value, and solutions to common problems.
Example: An effective communicator will answer a call by identifying themselves and the company, then ask how they can help the customer. After learning about the customer's request, an effective communicator will repeat the issue, reassure the customer that they will receive support, and explain next steps.
This comes naturally to some agents and for those who don’t already know how to do this, some training will make a big difference.
Customers don’t like talking to robots. A little empathy can go a long way, especially when the interaction is over phone, chat, or email. Empathy helps customers know your company is invested in them and in finding a solution. One powerful tactic employed by empathetic people is validation. Author and former FBI negotiator Chris Voss outlines this fact in his book – explaining that validation helps others feel heard and like their feelings are justified. In a tense situation with a customer, validation from an agent conveys empathy, and implies that the company places priority on ensuring that the customer has a wholesome experience.
3. Problem solver
Call centers handle a large volume of calls. It’s important that the processes in place are efficient and help keep calls short and effective. But sometimes things will happen that are less common, or a customer may have an issue not easily solved with your existing system. This is when problem solving skills become really important. A problem solver will think outside the box, or take initiative to find a solution that is not obvious, but will fully address the customer’s needs.
Example: This approach may manifest itself as an agent that asks good questions, suggests ways to improve operations, or advocates for customer needs to a supervisor.
Excelling as a call center agent requires patience. While customer complaints vary in intensity, many calls can be lengthy, or emotionally exhausting. Customers will determine if an agent’s tone of voice sounds patient or dismissive. This can affect whether the customer perceives the company as being helpful or dismissive of their concerns. Patience and humility are especially key to de-escalating conflict.
Example: If a customer calls back about an unresolved issue, it will take time and patience just to get up to speed with the issue. Then it will require additional time to resolve what is likely a complicated, emotional issue for the customer.
Agents with patience and a healthy sprinkle of humility will be your best agents for conflict resolution and helping troubled customers.
5. Detail oriented
When customers call, they usually don’t know the steps needed to address their needs—that’s why they called in! There may be several steps to helping them purchase a product, schedule an appointment, or navigate their online portal. Whatever the need is, agents are customers’ sole support for getting it done and being detail oriented is key to ensuring each step is followed to help the customer. Without attention to detail, crucial steps may be missed and customers may have to call back—this is a waste of their time, and your team’s resources. Attention to detail ensures customers get the right help the first time around which is good for that short-term interaction and long-term brand reputation.
Recruiting call center employees with key qualities
Hiring the right agents for your team is much easier when you know what qualities to prioritize. However, you still need to attract quality applicants to apply in the first place.
To recruit high-caliber call center employees, start with the following:
- Target job boards and websites that specifically cater to call center professionals
- Partner with staffing agencies to source candidates
- Implement a referral program so your agents can recommend interested applicants and be rewarded for referring great candidates
- Consider enlisting the help of an outsourcing company
Once you have a pool of qualified candidates, interview them using video to better assess their communication skills and identify if they possess other key qualities. As part of the interviewing process, evaluate if their values align with your company’s and if the role meets their personal goals. It’s important to also evaluate if the candidate will be a good cultural fit with your company. Ask questions about how they work with others, their work philosophy, and workplace values to help identify if they will integrate well with your existing team and company culture.
Training call center employees to enable great customer experiences
Whether you want to train your existing team, or a new hire, take time to develop a winning program that will help your company promote positive customer experiences. In addition to the 5 key qualities discussed earlier, ensure your training covers other soft skills and training on your product and process. Customer experience can be limited by your agents’ knowledge. Deep understanding of your process, product, common questions, and (bonus) less common issues, will equip your agents with the understanding they need to help customers. This will also give them confidence and help promote good, clear communication when they handle calls from customers.
Developing consistent training is helpful for team unity and saves you time. There are many effective technologies and e-learning tools that can assist you in developing, streamlining, and scaling these trainings. These services are well worth the investment—it will equip your agents with the knowledge to be successful, save you time and resources, and ultimately support consistent, positive customer experiences.
While it may seem obvious to customer service managers that companies should promote certain agent qualities and soft skills, it remains important to quantify the benefit these skills bring to the organization. Proper monitoring and measurement of efforts and outcomes will help you make the case for continued investment in supporting, training, and recruiting agents. To demonstrate impact, measure the effectiveness of customer service employees. This metric may be different for each organization and could include any data from customer satisfaction, to first-call resolution, and average handling time. Collected data can then be used to ensure your business leaders continue to invest in call center training and resources.
These analytics should also be used to help identify what is working well for your team and what processes should be improved. Insights can be used to adjust your training and development program to ensure you’re always meeting the evolving needs of customers. Your efforts to continuously improve will have an immense impact on your call center and business over time.
Call centers are at the core of customer experience. Investing in developing key qualities and skills is an investment in your customer and bottom line. Recruiting, training, and measuring the effectiveness of your call center agents will help you exceed customer needs and meet their evolving preferences in a competitive economy.
Need call center agents equipped with the key qualities to help your customers? Contact SupportNinja to learn more about how we can help you deliver a positive customer experience.