10 Skills Every Customer Service Agent Needs (Part 2)

Silvia Planella/ February 10, 2015/ blog

To recap from part one, a call centre customer service agent must have good product knowledge, patience, active listening skills, positive language and calmness. If you read the previous instalment you will understand that communication is not simply all talk, for a customer service employee it is more about listening, tone of voice and the language used.

Here are 5 more call centre agent customer service skills:

Handling Surprises: Catching a Curveball

From my experience, you can prepare all you want. You can create a boat load of FAQ’s and have so much knowledge about a product that you know how to build it, however there will always be a case that falls outside of everything you know.

What you can do straight away is ask questions. This will determine who you should go too with this new case. It will also help this person to solve the issue. I have mentioned this in the previous instalment but handling these cases gets easier with experience, the tendency for newer agents can be to put the customer on hold and frantically look for someone to take the call only to be told to get more info before escalating. These situations call for more listening than transferring.

Tone of Voice: Why so serious?

There is a fine balance between a dreary monotone and a ridiculously enthusiastic one. You just have to go with the flow of the conversation. It can become a habit to answer every call in the same disinterested tone and is usually done without this person realising it. A good idea would be to get the person to listen back to his/her calls; it’s far more effective than simply telling someone “Hey put some enthusiasm into it!”

One trick is to smile or perhaps gesture (within reason) like you would if you were having the conversation face to face. It has a lot to do with empathy also. Being able to empathise with the customer will help lift their mood, apologising essentially, which feels strange for us because we know it is not our fault. However during the call you are not representing yourself you are representing the whole company you speak for.

Being Consistent: Consistently good that is…

On an average day a typical contact centre customer service agent can handle anywhere from 100 to 150 calls. It comes down to 3 main areas, quality, quantity and time keeping. Your customer service agents should provide quality service on each call. This is with regards to accurate data storage and first time solution delivery. Your call centre should have targets concerning the quantity of calls they expect an agent to handle per hour.

This links back to experience, knowledgeable agents can balance quality and quantity to great effect. It is a good idea to treat every call as if it was the first of the day. Agents should keep in mind that it might not be their first call of the day but it is the first time that the customer is talking to them! A customer service agent that can put themselves in their caller’ shoes will always provide excellent service.

Comradery: Enjoying being at work

This is important. You do spend 8 hours of your day and 5 days a week (depending on your hours of course) with your co-workers. Creating friendships so you can have a good moan or hang out at lunch can help the day flow in a positive light. Having good managers who organise nights out or group outings is a bonus and will strengthen these bonds. It snowballs into cordial customer service i.e. a happy agent equals a happy voice on the phone and therefore a happier customer.

Closing: More than just “Bye”

My final point concerns the end of the call. When it comes to vital information or reaching a resolution, a customer can forget just as easily as you can. Sometimes an over eagerness to close the call can fluster a customer into agreeing to end the call. This however leads to call-backs which lead to that customer having to explain the situation again and in turn frustrating them. These instances can be avoided by a simple “Was there anything else I can help you with?” I understand the fear of this due to the emphasis on average handling times and such but in the long run it will decrease time wastage. Most of the time the customer will be all set anyway and the extra effort from the agent will confirm with the customer that the issue was solved hence ending on a good note.

Conclusion

Most of these skills link back to each other, for example you need to be calm to handle surprises and being calm requires patience and so on… The key thing is that a good call centre agent has a mix of all of them. Of course no one will be perfect in every area, the main thing is identifying where you need improvement and having the backing of a supportive team to help you to continuously improve.