When it comes to delivering great customer service, call center agents need some essential soft skills that may not have been listed on their resumés. Unlike the hard skills or technical skills required to operate call center technology, soft skills relate more to an agent’s demeanor during a customer interaction. Though newer agents may not have all the essential soft skills required right away, you can provide training to help them improve and become top-performing call center employees in no time.
Essential Call Center Soft Skills
There are plenty of soft skills to choose from, but we’ve boiled our list down to six that are essential to contact center agents’ success:
- Active listening to customer questions and concerns.
- Effective, respectful communication towards customers and other employees.
- Adaptability, to keep up with changing technology and customers’ needs.
- Problem-solving skills that always produce the best outcome for the customer.
- Patience with customers and colleagues.
- Empathy towards customers so they feel heard and understood every step of the way.
Once your agents have become experts at these skills, there’s no stopping them on their way to providing a stellar customer experience.
5 Steps to Integrate Call Center Soft Skills into Agent Training
Many agents will walk into the job with at least a couple of these skills already in their arsenal. To ensure they grasp all of them, either create a training program specifically for soft skills or add soft skills into your existing new-hire training strategy. We recommend creating a separate soft skills program that established agents can also use to brush up on the basics. Here are 5 things to consider while crafting your program:
59% of millennials surveyed stress how important training and development opportunities are when they decide on whether to apply for a job. Offering ongoing training helps engage agents in their work, leading to lower employee turnover rates and overall happier employees.
1. Create an evaluation score card to determine your agents’ skill levels.
How will you decide which skills your agents need the most work on? Make a soft skills scorecard that reflects the needs of your contact center. Then, listen in on live or recorded calls and rate the agent’s performance in each skill category on a scale of one to five. Scoring one means the agent needs improvement and five is a perfect score, or very close to it. Once you know where your agents are starting from, it’ll be easier to determine your next steps.
2. Explain why the soft skills you’re teaching are important.
If agents don’t understand why they need to tap into and use these skills, they’ll likely have a hard time putting them into practice during their customer interactions. Sometimes, especially for experienced employees who may find the training redundant, breaking down the exact ways these skills can help them improve in their role will empower agents to take the training seriously.
3. Introduce fun activities to keep employees engaged during their training.
A great activity you can use to help train agents on communication, active listening, and patience is the “Copy Me” game. Have agents pair off. Give one agent on each team a card with an easy-to-draw object (think a tree or house) and have them sketch out their idea of the house. Once they’re done, they must describe their drawing to their partner who will then try to sketch the exact same object without seeing the original drawing. Whoever gets closest to their partner’s sketch wins!
The possibilities for training activities are endless. You can develop your own or even do a quick search on Google for more ideas. Role play games are always popular for soft skill development as well.
4. Set goals for soft-skill improvement.
The best way to track soft-skill improvement is by setting goals for individuals and for the team. On an individual level, add a “Goals” category to your scorecard and set a measurable and time-sensitive goal to improve on their initial scores. When it comes time to evaluate, listen to live calls or recordings and see if your agents have made any progress on their soft skills. Then, report back and keep them updated on their hard work.
On a team level, consider tracking relevant KPIs like Customer Satisfaction scores. Set an attainable goal to reach as a team and set a deadline. Incentivize participation with a staff outing or pizza lunch if your staff achieve the numbers you’ve all agreed upon.
5. Don’t forget about self-reflection.
Give agents time and space and even a worksheet to encourage them to reflect on what they’ve learned during their training. Have them share their thoughts and feedback on the program as well, so you can improve it in the future.
For agents to have enough time to invest in training throughout their day, it’s important you implement contact center technology that can take a bit of work off their plate. Fonolo Voice Call-Backs smooth out call spikes by providing queued customers the option to receive a call back when the line is less busy. Agents will have some breathing room between calls and customers will enjoy a stress-free experience.