The Ideal Traits for Call Center Agents
While the definition of “bad customer service” has possibly been reset for the ages by United Airlines recently, not all customer faux-pas need to be egregious to sink a business. It can be something as small as an apathetic attitude from an agent (a sign of boredom, for example), a too-long wait on hold, a misunderstood line item on a bill that is poorly explained by a support agent or even distasteful hold music. While call center management may have direct control over the music callers are subjected to, they’re not as able to control what happens when the agent meets the customer. To prevent “off-putting” experiences for the customer, it’s critical that agents be properly vetted before they’re put on the phone.
Before you begin hiring for the contact center, make a list of the traits you want in your agents. While of course you want workers who are “people persons,” that’s not enough. There are certain people skills that work in the contact center and others that don’t. (You don’t, for example, want a rampant chatterbox who will tell each customer his or her life story.)
In a recent blog post for Help Scout, Gregory Ciotti wrote that patience should be at the top of call center management’s list when it comes to ideal traits in an agent. Customers can sense when a support agent is going to be patient and take the time to solve the problem and when he or she simply wants to get off the phone.
“Not only is patience important to customers, who often reach out to support when they are confused and frustrated, but it's also important to the business at large,” he wrote.
Listening skills are also important for an agent to master. Customers usually provide all the information required in their opening explanation to an agent, and they don’t like to be asked to repeat themselves. Agents who can listen save themselves, the customer and the company a lot of time. The trait call center management should be looking for here is “attentiveness,” according to Ciotti.
“Not only is it important to pay attention to individual customer interactions (watching the language/terms that they use to describe their problems), but it's also important to be mindful and attentive to the feedback that you receive at large,” he wrote.
The ability to learn and understand the products or services the company offers is also critical. The most skilled agent in the world is useless if he or she doesn’t have deep product knowledge.
“It's not that every single team member should be able to build your product from scratch, but rather they should know the ins and outs of how your product works, just like a customer who uses it every day would,” wrote Ciotti.
Finally, look for good communications skills. As mentioned earlier, this doesn’t mean endless talkers who feel the need to share all manner of irrelevant information. Look for people who are good at getting their point across in a minimum number of words using positive language that will lead to excellent diplomacy with customers.
Edited by Alicia Young