Being a call center agent is much more than knowing how to input data and look up answers to questions. It’s about talking to people and relating to them. Indeed, depending on your industry and the type of call center you are running, many people who call in may be doing so at a time when they are feeling lost, frustrated, or vulnerable and they are looking for a human on the other end of the line to recognize what they are going through and work with them to resolve whatever issue they are facing. With that in mind, here are five of the soft skills every call center agent needs to master in order to make callers feel heard, understood and supported.
Being a call center agent is all about listening. After all, on the phone, it’s the only tool they have at their disposal to discern and diagnose whatever issue the customer is calling about. When a customer calls in, chances are they are going to provide a lot of information right at the beginning of the call and it is the agent’s job to actively listen and pick out the bits of information that will point them in the direction towards solving the problem. Listening is also critical because you don’t want your agents to ask customers to repeat themselves over and over again, which can get frustrating for the customer really fast.
Callers do not have the same script in front of them that agents do. When they call in, especially if it is with a problem, they may have a lot to say or explain. While it would certainly be easier for the agent if the customer stuck to the script and provided information in a certain order, that’s unlikely to happen—and pressuring the caller to do so is not in anyone’s best interest. Instead, agents need to be patient as the customer expresses their gripe or explains their issue, waiting and listening until they have finished, then quickly determining the best course of action before proceeding there in the calmest manner possible.
Through training and experience, there will be certain inquiries and types of calls that agents can handle in their sleep. But inevitably, there will also be some customers who present unique issues that require a little more finesse and creativity on the part of the agent. Strong problem-solving skills and the ability to assist any customer and handle any problem (within the scope of their training or department) is critical.
While agents need to be patient and calm on the phone, they also need to be calm and flexible off it. Members of smaller teams especially must be adaptable to changes in shifts, hours and even departments or concentrations. Knowing they have agents who are willing to be flexible takes a lot of stress off of supervisors and managers who are trying to juggle numerous tasks and responsibilities at once.
Perhaps the most important soft skill on this list, empathy allows agents to relate to customers and the experiences they are having. An empathetic agent is not cold to the customer’s frustration, but rather listens and understands what they are feeling, seeking the best course of action from that place. An empathetic agent does not snap back at an angry customer, meeting the customer’s anger and impatience with their own, but rather responds calmly and communicates to the customer that their anger is valid. An empathetic agent is not a robot, reading from the script and nothing more, but speaks to the customer as a fellow human being, building a relationship with them accordingly.
Once call center agents have cultivated all these soft skills, they can focus on the physical steps they need to take to help customers. With a call center platform like CallShaper, it will be easy for them to complete all the processes required. For more information on how CallShaper supports agents, contact us today.