The Importance of Agent Soft Skills for Great Customer Experience

With every contact your agents have with customers there are essentially two dimensions:  the technical components and the softer communication elements.  The hard truth is that soft skills most often have more influence on customer experience.  Customers who encounter agents who are compassionate, concerned and show a sincere desire to help are the customers who remain loyal to your company.

In fact, according to the experts, the top five skills for customer service agents are:

  1. Great and effective communication skills
  2. Professionalism shows in the agent’s attitude
  3. Ability to gain trust and respect of customers
  4. Extensive product knowledge
  5. Excellent problem-solving skills

The Challenge of Interpretation

But how do you measure these skills in an objective manner?  For example, as noted above, experts say that “professionalism” is one of the most critical agent skills when it comes to customer experience.  But what does “professionalism” really mean, and how can an agent’s professionalism be objectively evaluated?  What specific behavior should you look for when evaluating an agent’s professionalism? Or is it a judgment call, opening the door to a disagreement between evaluators?  Furthermore, what happens if the agent was “professional” through only half of the call? Is the agent given credit for the skill or not?  If the evaluation form uses a five-point scale, does the agent get a zero, a two, or a four? Ambiguity in measurement criteria will generate chronic variability in performance scores that is completely unrelated to the agent’s actual performance.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult for humans to measure such soft skills without being at least somewhat subjective.

Objectively Measuring Soft Skills

The solution to this issue is actually less complicated than it might at first appear.  First you need to define your organization’s primary customer experience objectives and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that measure those objectives.  Then you’ll need to identify the agent behaviors needed to achieve your organization’s goals and objectives.  It’s crucial to understand the difference between opinions and behaviors, because opinions are by nature subjective, while behaviors can be objectively measured and coached.  Finally, by far the most effective method of objectively measuring and monitoring agent behaviors is to use Speech Analytics, which can automatically measure soft skills without any human subjectivity.