What if the only human interaction your customers have with your brand is through an agent working at your contact center? Wouldn't you make sure that agent was great "brand ambassador" material? Many companies, especially those with no brick and mortar presence, are in this very position. Contact center agents have a significant impact on customer experience and thus the bottom line. Additionally, agents influence the morale of their team. Retaining good agents is difficult enough. You don't want to let a bad apple chase them away. Hiring agents with the right characteristics is critical for the welfare of your customers as well as your existing employees. If we could design the perfect agent, they would have qualities discussed below. Here our are 8 Qualities of Effective Contact Center Agents.
Strong Listening Comprehension Skills
Effective agents are able to truly understand what the customer on the phone is saying. It's not as easy as it sounds. Listening comprehension isn't taught in most schools, so a lot of people struggle with this ability. Just think about how often your own kids, significant other or coworkers misunderstand what you're saying. Now take away the ability for them to see your facial expressions and hand gestures. Understanding what the customer means is an important component to giving them what they need, and effective agents know how to do that.
Solid Problem Solving Skills
Once the agent understands what the customer needs, she has to be able to formulate a solution. One without the other is not enough. Self-service tools are filtering out many of the simpler issues, leaving agents to deal with the more challenging ones. This makes good problem solving skills more important than ever. This not only includes knowing what to do, but also taking ownership of the problem and making sure it's resolved. It can also mean knowing when to escalate it and ask for help.
Courteous and Respectful
Being warm and deferential can do a lot to settle an angry customer. Their senses on alert, customers will detect apathy or condescension from agents like bloodhounds and it will only make a bad situation worse. Effective agents are able to treat everyone with courtesy and respect. They realize it makes them stronger at accomplishing their mission of satisfying the customer.
Confidence and a Take Charge Attitude
Along with courtesy and respect, customers value agents who are confident. A thought provoking article in the January-February 2017 issue of the Harvard Business Review takes an in depth look at this very quality. In light of the fact that most customers have already been through self-service by the time they get to an agent, researchers found that most of these customers just want the agent to take charge and solve their problem. This is manifested by the agent by using phrases like, "Here is what you need to do...", rather than just voicing platitudes and a whole bunch of options.
One of the agent roles that sometimes gets overlooked is that of "customer data updater." In the course of servicing a customer, they may be updating information such as home and email addresses, credit card information and contact preferences. Agents need to enter this information accurately in order to ensure a clean customer database. Your marketing team will vouch for the importance of this particular agent quality!
Agents have a lot of information to keep track of. Knowing information by rote is optimal, but remembering where to find information can be as important. Well populated and easy to use knowledge bases can supplement an agent's memory, but he has to remember to use it and where to look within it.
Effective agents show initiative when it comes to their job performance. They want to be better, so they value feedback and use it to improve. Self motivated agents can have a significant impact on their teams, often inspiring their teammates to higher levels of performance, as well.
Contact centers are closely scheduled work environments and the performance of the center relies on everyone showing up and being on time. Just a few callouts or tardy agents can degrade performance metrics and the customer experience. Sure, life happens sometimes, but agents who are habitually unreliable not only impact performance but they also negatively impact the morale of their more reliable teammates. When hiring, look for people with a record of good work habits.
Fine-tuning the agent hiring profile is something successful contact centers do regularly. Hopefully, this list provides you with food for thought for the next time you update your agent profiles.