A Customer service representative is required to have a certain skillset that meets both the clients and the call centres standards. Being a “people person” is a common phrase that people assume relates to a call centre agent, but it is a very vague term that can be misinterpreted. Being a people person doesn’t cover the whole spectrum of skills needed to be an effective call centre agent.
“Communication skills” is another term that is sometimes misconstrued by people. Being able to communicate effectively with customers is not as simple as speaking well; the most important part of communication that a call centre agent must possess is their ability to listen. There are many forms of communication including verbal, non-verbal (body language), tone of voice, the actual words themselves, empathy and more. As you can gather it is more complex than you might think.
Here are 5 skills that a call centre agent should practice when on a call with a customer.
Product/Service knowledge: Who are you representing?
This is where it all begins. A call centre obtains a new client and a team of agents must be trained up on said clients product/service, their policies & procedures, the processes involved etc. When an agent is having a quiet day it is always a good idea to review documents, FAQ’s etc. relating to the product/service to refresh their memory and continue learning. This area is also where having certified trainers at your disposal becomes a real plus.
Patience: It is a virtue after all…
Impatience can affect less seasoned veterans and can lead to panicked decisions and rushed customer service. A quiet word from a more experienced agent can do the world of good. Nine times out of ten (and this has happened to me too) when you rush through a call you realise what should have been done as soon as you finish the call.
The key here is experience, but it can be picked up quick if you have the product knowledge and you take your time. Asking questions is a big help. It can buy you some time as well as sometimes giving you that ‘Lightbulb’ moment regarding the customers query.
Active Listening: Being second Nature
With face to face interactions it is pretty obvious if someone is listening to you… this is clearly made more difficult with peoples smartphone addictions these days. Communication over the phone is a different ball game however. It seems very rude if someone is reeling off their issue in great detail only to be met with dead air on the other end.
Active listening is something you have to get into the habit of doing. A simple ‘okay’ or ‘I understand’ will put the customer at ease. After all that’s why they are calling instead of emailing, they want to hear a voice at the other end! One word of caution though, some call centre agents can start to repeat themselves i.e. Saying ‘sure’…’sure’…’sure’ at every pause in the conversation. Mix it up a little.
Use Positive Language: “Argument is the worst sort of conversation.” Jonathan Swift
A call centre agent may feel like they are always the one getting into arguments, why me? It sometimes boils down to the way you phrase things.
“I can’t get you that product until next month; it is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.”
Here the emphasis on “I can’t” will invite more aggravation towards the agent than is necessary.
“That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse.”
Keep Calm: Less Stress…
Every once in a while the perfect storm can come along. For example, this customer is extremely irate, you have told them multiple times that you have done everything possible to solve the issue but they are not listening, it is 2 minutes to the end of your shift and perhaps you have been having a bad day just to top it all off, how do you react? Most of us would say “Yeah I’d be fine” but things can escalate very fast over the phone. A call centre agent must not lose their cool or be drawn into a back and forth argument. Take a deep breath, be safe in the knowledge that it is not a personal attack on you and that you may have channels to escalate the call.
There are a whole host of other skills that a call centre agent must possess but I wanted to keep the blog relatively short. Stay tuned for part 2!