Agents are the heart of any call center. They're your first line of contact with your customers, and they can make or break their experience.
That’s why it’s so essential to hire the right call center agents and continually train them to be the best versions of themselves. Doing this will result in happier customers who are willing to do business with you over and over again. It will also result in better call center agent retention, which is critical in an industry where turnover rates are between 30 and 45%.
So, the question becomes, what makes a good call center agent? To answer it, you need to understand where most agents excel and what may cause them to fail.
This post will highlight what sets great call center agents apart and the downfalls that can negatively impact your customers' call center experience.
Top 7 Call Center Agent Strengths
For the highest quality of customer support, today’s call center agents must go above and beyond. They need to be powerful and confident individuals that display a myriad of skills. Here are seven strengths required for success:
1. Great Communication Skills
Call center agents spend much of their time talking to people they’ve never met, which means they need top-tier communication skills to resolve caller concerns and deliver a great experience effectively. Not only does an agent need to know how to discuss complex information, but also be able to present the company’s core message in a meaningful way. Effective communication covers a wide range of skills, including:
- Anticipating customer requests
- Delivering explanations and justifications
- Educating customers
- Building rapport
- Providing emotional support
- Offering personalized attention
2. Creative Problem Solving
Call center agents must also be able to think critically about challenges so they can find ways to overcome them. Agents with creative problem-solving skills won't get stumped when the computer system crashes or when a conflict comes up with a coworker. Instead, they quickly ask the right questions and complete the necessary research to resolve the issue at hand.
3. Emotional Intelligence (Empathy)
Empathy is critical to the customer experience. After all, 95% of purchasing decisions are made based on emotions. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and regulate emotions—yours and others.
Agents who make a positive emotional connection with customers increase customer satisfaction and encourage repeat business. Emotionally intelligent agents have a tremendous opportunity to build relationships, reduce churn, and increase lifetime value.
4. Attention to Detail
Working in a call center can be monotonous. Often, agents face similar questions and complaints day after day. The most successful agents avoid falling into quick, canned responses but instead listen to every customer question and complaint closely so they can resolve the issue fully. By paying close attention during each call, these agents can provide accurate and satisfying answers by picking up on what the customer is and isn’t saying.
5. Persistent and Consistent
Reliable call center agents are known for committing to a plan of action and then seeing that plan through to completion. They follow through on their word and tackle their responsibilities predictably and thoroughly. This means that they:
- Always arrive on time
- Adhere to schedules
- Demonstrate consistent care
- Troubleshoot issues
Call centers can be frustrating places to work. Customers contact your call center when they are angry, annoyed, and often unwilling to listen. Despite these challenges, agents should be able to respond calmly and leave customers with a good impression.
Strong agents know how to be patient and allow customers to vent their frustrations without inflaming the situation further. They avoid emotional responses and instead patiently address concerns while listening to grievances.
Even the most successful call center agents are not above reproach. Hire agents who recognize that no one is perfect, and there is always room for improvement.
Agents must be willing to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, accept feedback, and make plans for improvement. Encourage them to review their own work regularly and implement necessary changes when concerns arise.
5 Common Weaknesses of Underperforming Call Center Agents
Hiring call center agents based only on their strengths isn’t enough. You also must understand where and how failure occurs so you can help your agents avoid it. Here are the five most common weaknesses in underperforming call center agents and tips on how to support your staff through them.Inability to Handle Pressure
Call center agents are under a lot of pressure to perform well, especially since 64% of people find the customer experience more important than price. Unfortunately, agents can buckle under the pressure of quick responses, pleasant conversation, demonstrating empathy, and finding the correct answers at the right time.
In many cases, agents need a trustworthy support system to help bolster them with confidence and set them up for success.
Lack of Knowledge
62% of customers believe that knowledge and resourcefulness are essential to a successful customer support interaction. Unfortunately, many call center agents lack the knowledge necessary to perform to the best of their ability.
Provide regular training for agents to address core job functions and common pitfalls. Cover topics like:
- The anatomy of a successful customer service call
- Legal compliance and privacy regulations
- Best practices for customer support
Proactive training helps ensure your agents never lack the tools or knowledge they need to succeed in their role.
Excellent customer service doesn’t end when the phone call does. Call center agents should review each interaction to identify strengths and weaknesses (scorecards are helpful for this). Agents should also follow up with customers to see if the proposed solution was successful. This level of service demonstrates a commitment to customer care and helps resolve any lingering issues, but it's not always an inherent skill amongst call center agents.
Integrating these follow-up processes and best practices into your new hire training programs enables you to level-set across your teams and ensure each customer has a great call center experience.
Lack of Flexibility and Adaptability
Sometimes, agents get so stuck on the well-defined structure of a call center that they cannot work outside of those bounds. Underperforming agents don’t know how to react appropriately in any given situation, especially when it falls outside of the script.
Encourage flexibility and adaptability in your agents. It has tremendous value and can be guided through role-playing, training, and coaching.
Me, Myself, and I Attitude
Even in cloud-based call centers and remote-work situations, call centers are only successful when each agent is successful. Unfortunately, some agents tend to isolate themselves instead of fostering relationships with colleagues, which leads to poor alignment and lower performance for the whole team.
Managers and other internal leaders should facilitate team building to promote smoother operations, provide more efficient customer service, and develop more successful agents across the team.
As you identify best-fit agents and support your staff through various challenges, your customers should remain a central focus.
The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Effective Omnichannel Customer Experience covers everything you need to know about creating an exceptional customer experience, from agent best practices to software implementations.
Download your copy today to start aligning your people, processes, and technologies behind next-level service delivery.