Choosing a good call center partner is essential for improving your customer experience and driving brand loyalty. But with so many options for call center or contact center support, which skills should you prioritize?
Different call centers and customer service teams may specialize in different strategies, or have teams with a variety of skills. Your call center partner should have the skills and expertise that best serves your customers’ needs and represents your own brand best.
After all, the data doesn’t lie:
- About half of customers say they would switch to a competitor after just one bad customer experience.
- More than 50% of customers say that long hold or wait times are the most frustrating part of a customer service experience.
- Nearly 40% of customers said reaching an unfriendly support agent is the most frustrating aspect of customer service.
Good customer service is a priority to your customers—which means it should be a priority for you as well! And a call center that doesn’t have the skills expected by customers—whether that’s slow responses, long resolution times or unfriendly agents—can have a negative impact on your customer satisfaction and loyalty, and, ultimately, your business’ bottom line.
What kinds of skills should you be looking for when it comes to choosing a call center partner? As the data from customer expectations suggests, there are a number of soft and hard skills for call center agents that you should consider: things like communication, empathy, active listening, patience, technical skills in tools you use, channel experience, experience with your industry, providing technical support, problem-solving and more.
Which skills are most important for your brand and needs? That’s an important question to answer—so we’ll dive into the most important call center skills in more depth below.
Most Important Call Center Skills: Soft Skills
Customer service is an extremely people-focused role, which means that soft skills such as active listening and empathy are crucial call center skills for any agent. Although these are difficult to measure, they are essential for creating good customer experiences, and ultimately, improving brand loyalty and increasing revenue. When choosing a call center partner, ensure that the agents have the following important call center soft skills.
Excellent communication skills are, without a doubt, one of the most important call center skills. Whether agents are communicating via phone, chat or another channel, knowing how to communicate clearly, concisely and accurately is essential.
Ideally, call center agents should be skilled with both written and oral communication so they can perform across a variety of channels. Knowing how to communicate well also implies that your call center team should know how to listen well. After all, how can they successfully communicate a solution to the customer’s problem if they don’t have the listening skills to accurately understand what the problem is?
As a result, listening and communication are the foundational soft skills for any call
A good brand employs a customer-focused, human-centric customer service model, and having the right customer service agents in place plays a huge role in making this possible. Human-centric customer service isn’t just good for your customers, it’s also good for your brand.
As a result, one essential soft skill for call center agents is empathy—the ability to understand and be sensitive, or sympathetic towards, another’s feelings. For the best call center employees, listening goes beyond simply understanding what the customer’s problem is, but also understanding and empathizing with their emotions about the problem: if they’re angry, frustrated, or so on. An empathetic customer service experience is often perceived as friendlier and more helpful, resulting in better customer experiences and brand affinity.
Call center agents have to deal with many customers each day, many of which are calling in frustration or anger. It’s essential that call center workers are extremely patient and able to keep their cool in stressful situations.
A great agent will have enough patience to listen empathetically to the customer’s problems, understand what the problem is, and be patient enough to walk them through the solution. Patience is an especially important soft skill for those working in technical support or product support call centers. In order to effectively help customers with technical products and step-by-step solutions, patience is a must.
First and foremost, customer service is about solving problems for the customer. According to a study, about 40% of customers only call a brand or company after they’ve tried—and failed—to solve the problem on their own.
Good problem-solving skills include actively listening to the customer’s problem and questions, asking questions to uncover the root of the problem, and extensive knowledge of your product or service to find a solution for the problem. Similarly, call center agents should be creative, able to think of out-of-the-box solutions when necessary, and persistent, willing to find a solution when an answer doesn’t readily present itself.
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Although soft skills like problem-solving and patience can be difficult to teach, these are essential skills for any call center team.
Most Important Call Center Skills: Hard Skills
The great thing about hard skills is that they can be more easily taught—as they say, “Hire the smile, train the skills.” Of course, ideally, you’ll be able to partner with a call center team that provides ongoing training for both soft and hard skills, and gives you access to a team that is skilled in both!
Either way, while soft skills can make or break a customer’s experience of your brand, hard skills are essential for providing an incredible customer experience and for achieving your CX goals and KPIs. But which hard skills are the most essential for call center teams?
Technical proficiency is a must for most call center teams. Whether they’re working with the call center management or CRM tools, calling systems, data management or customer communication platforms, there’s a lot of software and tools used by agents to stay organized and assist customers.
If you are hoping to integrate a new call center partner into your existing operations, finding a partner with a call center team that is already familiar with your current tech stack will make the onboarding transition much smoother.
For technical support or product support call centers, technical proficiency goes beyond day-to-day work tools and extends to your own tools and services. After all, how can call center agents effectively help solve customer problems if they’re not experts in the tool or product themselves?
Providing extensive agent training on your products or tools, along with maintaining a wide knowledge base, will empower call center partners to be confident problem solvers who can assist customers easily and quickly.
Assisting customers over the phone is a very different experience—and requires different skills—from assisting customers over email or chat. Assessing and measuring potential call center’s skills in different channels—or at least the channels important for your audience—is crucial.
You might consider asking potential call centers:
- Do agents know how to use and communicate over various channels?
- What best practices do you follow for communication over different channels?
- Are agents familiar with customer expectations of each channel?
- Are agents experienced with interpreting oral and written emotion cues?
If you partner with a call center that’s well-versed in phone support, but you’re looking to adopt an omnichannel contact center approach, your call center may not be able to help much. Instead, you should ensure you partner with a contact center with proven omnichannel support experience and the appropriate tools, systems, software and skill sets needed to maintain such an approach.
For many global brands, having bilingual call center agents is a must. The ability to converse with customers in a language familiar to them goes a long way in providing a good customer experience. This translates to both written and oral channels.
Of course, if your brand is focused on local or regional support, this skill may not be as relevant for your brand. However, for global brands, it should be high on your list.
How To Vet Your Call Center
Ultimately, your call center partner should equip your brand with agents that have both soft skills—empathy, patience, stellar communication—and hard skills—technical understanding, bilingual support, and so on. Ensuring your call center agents have these skills and receive ongoing training to strengthen them will go a long way in delivering exceptional customer experiences.
Whether you’re already partnering with a call center or not, you should ask yourself these questions when considering the strength of your call center partner:
- Are our call center agents skilled communicators? Are customer problems resolved equally well over chat or phone, or is there one channel that has a lower resolution rate?
- Are our call center agents patient and empathetic? Reviewing, or setting up, post-call surveys and feedback can give you an idea of how customers’ experiences with your agents are.
- How does this call center team approach problem-solving? If you’re speaking with a new call center team, asking agents about times they encountered a difficult customer problem, and how they found a solution, can shed light onto their problem-solving skills and processes.
- What tech stack is this team familiar with? Are the softwares and tools they need useful and scalable for your company?
- Does this call center team have experience with the support channels you want to focus on? Are the agents familiar with your audience demographic and their preferences and communication styles?
For current call center partners, does your team have the essential strengths and skills to drive growth and loyalty for your brand? When vetting potential call center partners, does this team have the skills to grow and scale your brand?
For vetted and experienced call center support, Global Response is an industry expert with 30+ years of experience and a unique approach. Through best-in-class technology and technical skills and a human-first customer approach, Global Response’s teams will provide you with teams who are trained in providing the best customer support for your industry. See how partnering with Global Response can transform your customer experience.