5 minute read |

10 essential customer service skills for a call center agent

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VoIP Services

Most businesses spend a lot of time, money, and effort on customer acquisition. All that marketing and advertising to get a new customer is certainly good for growth. But it would be for nothing if you ignore your loyal current customers. What good is gaining 1 new customer if you lose 2 existing ones due to poor customer service skills?

Customer acquisition is expensive, whether you are enticing someone to switch from a competitor or they are trying out your product category for the first time. It’s much easier and way less expensive to retain customers. Sadly, few businesses pay adequate attention to customer retention and lose out.

Advantages of retaining customers

There are quite a few benefits to implementing an effective customer retention process:

  • Much less expensive than acquiring a new customer
  • Endless opportunities to upsell, cross-sell and renew service contracts
  • Enjoy free word of mouth marketing, a much more authentic and trusted form of marketing than your typical advert or billboard
  • The opportunity to gain a customer for life
  • Brand advocates

The most effective way to retain customers is by offering a superior service experience. It’s not just about answering the phones on time or delivering orders correctly. Every time a customer reaches out to your business, you should treat them with respect, appreciation, and good cheer. While some roles do require more typical customer service skills, all employees should foster the right attitude and treat customers accordingly.

10 essential customer service skills

No matter the type of industry you work in, all customers have one thing in common – they’re all people. People who have taken the time to contact your business can solve a problem, buy a product, or simply interact with your brand.

A good customer service agent with the right skill set will create a positive experience, not merely record a transaction. They go above and beyond the standard scripts to exceed customer expectations.

If you’re wondering what skills are necessary for a call centre agent, keep reading. In no particular order:

1.Patience

Are you surprised that a good service agent would need to be patient as they work? Most customer support agents, repair technicians, and technical support personnel are the frontline workers of a company. They get to answer calls from frustrated, upset, and disappointed customers all day long.

Regardless of the customer’s attitude, your agent needs to handle the situation with patience. Even when the caller does not know how to describe the issue, cannot answer the rep’s questions, or is simply too upset to listen. Agents who can maintain their patience and composure are more likely to resolve the issue, soothe the customer, and at the very least will not make a bad situation worse.

2.Empathy

Understanding the customer is key to any support role, even more so when you interact directly with them over the phone, via email, or chat. It’s much easier to be empathetic when interacting one-on-one with customers.

Being empathetic is very different from showing sympathy. You need to go beyond the prepared script you are handed by the management. It should be reflected in the tone of voice, facial expressions, and kind of language you use. In other words, don’t think of your customers as a number on a spreadsheet. Think of them as fellow human beings and extend help when they need it.

3.Clear communication

Service reps should be able to understand problems and explain solutions clearly. If you’re on the phone, absolutely no mumbling! Staff should always be clear, concise, and speak plainly. Never use jargon, even if it’s common within the business or industry.

Communication is more than just the words you use as well. If you are smiling when talking to a customer, they can ‘feel’ it over the phone. It bleeds over into your voice and you get excited. So focus on non-verbal communication skills as well. If a customer thinks your tone does not match the words you’re using, they will disregard your advice. In other words, if you sound bored or unhappy on the phone, customers will not believe you when you say the words ‘I’m happy to take your call today.’

4.Positive attitude

Even if your staff is having a bad day or they’re not excited to come into work, the calls will keep on coming. On some days, you get patient customers and you can resolve problems. On other days, you get the angry and frustrated callers where it seems to take forever to sort out issues.

Regardless of what happens, an agent should present the same caring and positive attitude on the phone. A good service rep will be able to brush off the negative incidents and go on to take the next call.

A positive attitude can do wonders for you, your co-workers, and your callers. It makes everyone’s day more pleasant.

5.Adaptability

You might not think it but adaptability is a hallmark of a good service agent. Companies use standard scripts for several reasons – it makes it easy to evaluate agents, presents a welcome to callers, and helps agents start the call on the right foot.

But remember that every call, every customer, and every problem is different. You cannot possibly have a script for every conceivable situation that might occur. A good agent will improvise and adapt to the situation. They should never be afraid to deviate from the script if the situation calls for it.

6.Listening

Listening attentively is also a communication skill but it’s so crucial when agents are talking on the phone that it’s worth mentioning as its own topic. No matter how long a call takes, an agent spends a lot of time listening to the customer. You might have heard the same problem twenty times today but it’s the first time for this customer. An issue may be a commonly known bug but that doesn’t mean this customer is happy to deal with it.

Agents can improve their listening skills by:

  1. Staying focused on the customer when they describe the problem
  2. Avoid interrupting, even if you think you know the solution
  3. Ask relevant questions to get more information
  4. Take note of important points, write them down if needed
  5. Never make assumptions about the customer, the product, or the situation
  6. Repeat facts just to verify you understand the issue correctly

7. Product and service knowledge

It goes without saying but your agents should know your products and services inside out. What’s the worst thing you can do to frustrate a customer? Give them the wrong information or transfer them to a person who cannot help them.

Product knowledge helps every customer interaction. Agents can resolve issues and move quickly to take the next call. They don’t make the customer wait while they look up relevant information somewhere else. Of course, no one is perfect but if you don’t know the answer, you should at least know who or where to find it! Schedule regular training sessions so your staff stays up to date on the latest products, services, contracts, and industry trends.

8. Professionalism

When customers call you, they don’t really care if your staff is having a bad day or just broke up with their partner. A good service rep needs the ability to put their personal problems behind when they come to work. A professional demeanour will be invaluable when dealing with irritated or upset customers. 

No matter how badly your day is going, you cannot let it show to customers. If you can brush it off, take a deep breath and greet the next caller with a smile in your voice, the battle is already won.

9.Go the extra mile

In today’s digitally connected world, meeting customer expectations is hardly noteworthy. It’s the willingness to go the extra mile that spells success for your business. It’s not about one specific thing you can do, it’s all about going the extra mile that makes your customers go ‘wow.’

It could be as simple as giving someone a free voucher because your product failed to function correctly or expediting an order as they need the product immediately. Or maybe your staff makes it a point to answer any incoming call within 10 seconds. Some businesses have built their empires on such ‘wow’ worthy customer service.

10.Problem-solving skills

Last but not the least, no service interaction would be complete if you don’t solve the problem. Some issues need your agents to use their technical skills. Other calls require their empathetic skills and ability to listen. Sometimes a problem has an obvious solution but the customer may not be aware of it. Your rep’s job is to resolve the issue for the caller quickly.

Problem-solving skills should be a part of every agent’s skill set. They should identify the problem, provide a solution, and follow through to make sure it works. They can also offer additional training or manuals if it will help the customer.

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