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You’re Hired! Skills Every Contact Center Agent Needs
July 7th, 2017

You’re Hired! Skills Every Contact Center Agent Needs

Virginia Fair

The role of the contact center agent is changing, meaning a new set of skills is required. So what do you need to look for when hiring someone new?

Press 1 for account information; 2 for billing; 3 to check the status of an order. For all other matters, press 5.”

This type of interactive voice response (IVR) is the new norm.  And if you’re a contact center agent, you know number 5 is you. What it means for you is callers will listen for all the easy answers but ask you the hard questions. Most likely these will require you to investigate the situation and follow upon requests.

What it also means is the contact center agent job description has a revised set of required skill sets. Whether you’re a new hire or a veteran, you will probably have to go through training to enhance and extend your people skills.  If you’re wondering what these are, read on.

As you’ll notice, there’s a fine line between skills and qualities. Some come naturally to a certain type of person. Others require instruction. All require practice and/or reinforcement.

Excellent communication skills

Communication includes both speaking and listening. A contact center agent should have skills in both. Customers who have been waiting on hold tend to be short on patience. They don’t want to repeat themselves or answer extraneous questions. A good agent listens carefully and takes notes. When she does speak, she weighs her words carefully, speaks clearly, and recaps the situation. Her manner conveys to the caller that she fully grasps the situation. Even if the problem is not resolved, the customer should come away feeling that she is in good hands.

When she does speak, she weighs her words carefully, speaks clearly, and recaps the situation. Her manner conveys to the caller that she fully grasps the situation. Even if the problem is not resolved, the customer should come away feeling that she is in good hands.

Patience

We don’t mean to bash callers, but they do seem to be frustrated by the time their call is picked up.  A customer service agent should be calm, patient, and permit the person vent. It’s not easy, but agents should remind themselves that the callers are angry with the situation, not with them. A different type of patience is called for when dealing with rambling callers. These are the ones who go into more detail than needed.  The agent should know how to gently steer them in the right direction without offending them

A different type of patience is called for when dealing with rambling callers. These are the ones who go into more detail than needed.  The agent should know how to gently steer them in the right direction without offending them

Knowledge retention

Agents need to have knowledge of every product or service the company provides. And if they don’t, they should be able to access it on the computer system right away. Although no one can be expected to be a walking website on the first day, they should at least know the company’s policies. When a problem or situation calls for help from another department, e.g. tech support or accounting, they should know whom to bring in

Organization

Contact center agents have been adept at multi-tasking before the word was coined. With each call, they not only listen, but check the CRM, product base, and take notes. And even after hanging up the phone, they may have to send an email, request a call back from another department.

Quite often these will have to wait until after she takes the next caller(s) in the queue. The more organized the agent, the more she can get done, and the fewer matters she’ll let slip. The worst thing an agent can do is fail to get back to a caller as promised.

Quick thinking

A customer service agent needs to work fast while maintaining accuracy. The longer she takes on any one call, the longer next caller has to wait. This is always important, but more so in small companies with only one or two agents. A long wait means more phone callers will hang up. Callers who hang up in frustration are not likely to become repeat customers. At the same time, she should not rush a call or fail to address all the caller’s questions.

Today’s agents have help from technology. They have call center software to integrate CRM with business tools. They have call recording to capture details. And, as mentioned at the start, they IVR to lessen their call load. But no matter how good the software, it’s the contact center agent who represents the company. And that’s a big responsibility to sh


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