Call center agents do much more than answer the phone. To achieve their performance goals, agents must be excellent problem solvers, expert rapport builders, and highly empathetic to the challenges of their customers.
That’s why soft skills are so important in this line of work. To keep your customers happy, your contact center needs to know what types of transferable skills to look for in new hires, while also supporting the development of these same skills in your existing team members. Combines with the right technical skills and software, your agents can reach new heights of success.
The most important soft skills for call center workers.
Agents can’t predict every customer issue or behavior, so they must be flexible and resourceful, even with a live customer on the line. They must be able to think quickly and respond appropriately during the interaction to ensure their needs are met.
Adaptability is another aspect of flexibility that is crucial for call center agents. They deal with a wide variety of customer concerns and personalities each day, and they must be able to interact off-script if the situation calls for it.
Every contact center agent has dealt with angry, indifferent, or downright horrible customers at least a few times in their careers. That’s why agents must be assertive and confident in their customer interactions, while still keeping a professional demeanor.
Assertiveness helps build a customer’s trust in the support rep and establish them as the expert. Note that assertiveness should not be confused for aggression, which is the opposite of a positive customer interaction!
Any call center leader knows how important communication is as a soft skill for call center agents. Communication between agent and customer is vital; but, so is communication from agent to agent, and agent to leader.
Strong communication skills minimize room for misunderstandings and confusion. It’s also great for managing expectations with both customers and colleagues. Communication skills are one of the main ingredients for a perfect call center agent.
Call center agents are expected to develop solutions for every issue they’re met with. But this soft skill goes further than that – critical thinking is also necessary to weed out any solution other than what’s most effective. Agents should be able to work independently with the customer and confidently arrive at a solution that works for everyone.
Empathy and emotional intelligence are important soft skills for anybody in customer service. The need for empathy has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, where contact centers became a lifeline for members of the public during lockdown. Agents can demonstrate empathy in their customer interactions by personalizing the conversation, practicing active listening, and making customers feel understood.
You might think that agents can tone down the enthusiasm since the customer can’t see their face when speaking on the phone. Unfortunately, audio conversations still reveal volumes to a customer. If an agent is noticeably indifferent or bored, the customer will certainly take notice.
And, that’s not all they’ll do. 60% of customers will cease business with an organization if they feel indifference from a representative. Don’t underestimate the power of a positive attitude. Enthusiasm, or at least a skillfully fronted enthusiasm, can make or break a customer’s experience.
60% of customers say they will cease business with an organization if they feel indifference from a representative.
Train your agents’ soft skills with these best practices.
Training should be part of every call center education plan, and that includes training for soft skills. Here are some best practices to consider when training for call center soft skills:
Set an example.
You can’t expect call center agents to practice their soft skills if their own management team doesn’t display them. In your communications with your staff, make sure you demonstrate soft skills at every opportunity. Here are some ideas:
- follow up with them on project updates;
- show empathy towards their personal lives;
- offer flexibility in their scheduling;
- be enthusiastic about team and individual milestones; and
- show them how to find solutions.
Invest in training.
Invest time and money into training your agents. This could include anything from covering the costs of courses and workshops to establishing an employee program for ongoing learning. Check out our top call center training methods for more ideas.