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Customer service agents frequently deliver that “make-or-break” first impression. On the frontlines with customers with rising expectations, they’re tasked with much more than just answering phones. With customer experience as today’s top brand differentiator, the most successful organizations are increasing their focus on who they hire in critical, customer-facing positions, as well as how they train them.
The stakes have become too high to gamble on customer service agents who lack the appropriate skillsets. Not only do these individuals jeopardize customer relationships, they also contribute to high rates of attrition. Because there is a cost to every customer or employee lost, there is a bottom-line reason for fine-tuning agent hiring and training. With customer experience moving toward greater personalization and automation, it’s important to look for and nurture the following agent skills.
Listening – Successful customer conversations begin with effective listening. Agents won’t succeed if their communication skills are limited to the “gift of gab.” Without the ability to listen to what a customer is saying, details can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. This is one of the most common sources of communication breakdowns and customer frustration. Listening is about much more than hearing; it’s about paying attention to what is being said, as well as what is left unsaid. Ongoing communication training, including role playing, can improve and retain agent listening skills.
Attentiveness – Customers are acutely aware when agents are distracted or running through a series of canned responses without much thought. More than ever, customers want a personalized experience. Agents require a level of attentiveness to make interactions more personal and meaningful. Even when they must stick to certain responses, attentiveness can ensure the dialog remains on target and personalized for each customer.
Problem-Solving – With the rise in popularity of self-service channels, customers often only talk to an agent when they escalate an unresolved issue. In other words, customer service agents deal with a higher volume of problems and require the skills to effectively manage them. This includes listening carefully to the customer, filling in the gaps when there’s limited information and identifying the best approach for a fast resolution, while continuously using a calm, yet informative tone of voice.
Resourcefulness – There’s an unlimited number of customer service situations that crop up and require improvisation and adaptability. Quick-thinking, MacGyver types often thrive in contact centers because they have the skill to quickly figure out a solution that will temporarily satisfy a customer until a larger fix can be made to rectify a more extensive problem.
Product Knowledge – Customers view agents as their source for product information. To avoid frustrating customers, agents should always be current with the latest on products, services, and promotions. With a deep familiarity with knowledge base resources, they’ll also know exactly where to go to find answers and provide real value to the customer.
Multitasking – Customer service agents on digital channels frequently manage more than one customer conversation at a time. This takes a combination of skill and expertise to ensure customers aren’t waiting extended periods of time between responses.
Technical Skills – Along with the skill to chat and write emails quickly, agents should have full competency with the tools they use for every interaction. Moving away from disparate systems and legacy infrastructure can help ensure their success. By deploying a unified, all-in-one customer experience platform, agents don’t have to toggle between screens and systems. They can focus on helping customers, instead of repetitive processes, to deliver a more seamless and personalized service.
Self-Control – Although most would consider self-control a character trait, it’s a skill to hone within a call center environment. Working with customers is challenging under the best of circumstances. It takes practiced skill in self-control to remain calm with angry customers and to treat every customer interaction separately, regardless of how bad a previous one was. Agents who learn how to consistently keep their cool are those who derive the greatest satisfaction from their work while also delivering the highest quality of service.
Study Skills – With technology advancing at such a rapid pace and customer expectations continuously evolving, ongoing training and self-improvement are necessary for agent success. While this may seem like a general skill, it’s one of the most important for agents to possess to ensure they don’t end up being left behind.
Teamwork Skills – Customer service doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The importance of teamwork remains constant, despite advances in technology. Teams that have the skills to share and learn from each other gain the advantage of their collective knowledge and experience. This has a big impact on both the agents’ quality of life and organizational success.
Nominate a CX Hero
Every industry has talented, dedicated customer service agents who are using their skills, expertise, and experience to help customers by going the extra mile. These everyday heroes deserve recognition for all they do to improve the lives of others.
Share your story of an agent who deserves accolades for their great customer service. Nominate him or her as a CX Hero today. Three heroes are selected monthly to receive a CX Heroes swag back, and one grand prize winner will be flown to our CX19 user conference and celebrated on stage.
Also, get the customer experience resources – Jeanne Bliss webinar, journey mapping, infographic, CX customer stories – at our CX Day. CX Week. CX Life. resource page.
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