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What Makes An Agent Outstanding?

With the results of our Spirit of Service "Agent of the Year" Awards just around the corner (we’ll reveal them live at our webinar on October 5), the ICMI team has been hard at work pouring over the entries. I can tell it’s going to be quite a tough decision this year! The nominees this year include so many wonderful people – who also happen to be outstanding agents.

As many of you are very well aware, it’s not always easy to be an agent. Customer service can often be taxing, which is why we encourage having special programs for recognizing and rewarding agents be a part of every call center. We also encourage participation in events like Customer Service Week as a fun way to acknowledge your agents and all of the work that they do throughout the year.

ICMI's Recommended Tips and Traits

So, what does it take to be an outstanding agent?

To help me find out, I contacted to a few members of team of certified consultants, associates and trainers and asked for their thoughts on what makes up an agent's recipe for success.

Linda Riggs likens the role of an agent to that of a U.S. Ambassador. Riggs says, "I went to the U.S. State Department’s website and investigated what skills it takes to become a U.S. Ambassador. It fits right in with what we require of a contact center agent."

These skills are:

  • Composure
  • Cultural Adaptability
  • Information Integration and Analysis
  • Initiative and Leadership
  • Judgment
  • Objectivity and Integrity
  • Oral Communication

I think Linda's analogy makes perfect sense. Your agents are just like ambassadors between your organization’s customers and its products and services.

Laura Grimes agrees with Linda’s description, as well. Grimes said, "Whenever I have presented the Ambassador description to agents, they all sit a little straighter and lift their chins a little higher." Grimes also stresses the importance of motivating agents by igniting the right attitude in the call center, then rewarding it and celebrating it on a regular basis. She says, "[Motivation] is not a once and done activity - it is a process."

Rose Polchin points out several traits that every outstanding agent should have:

  • Be Resilient: Understand that the contact center is a dynamic, real-time environment. Flexibility is key, so is patience. A resilient agent can handle repeated questions, angry customers, long queues, etc.
  • Be "Laser Focused": Focus on the customer regardless of what is going on around them.
  • Have Great Communication Skills: listen to cues from the customer to better suit his or her needs. Be receptive to feedback from supervisors and peers, as well as be able to provide feedback/coach others.
  • Be a Team Player: Customer service is a team sport. The actions of an individual agent can impacts everyone in the call center. Adhere to schedules and be considerate of others.
  • Be Willing to Learn: There are continuous opportunities to learn, grow and share in the call center environment.

Jean Bave-Kerwin, adds empathy and courtesy into the equation. Bauve-Kerwin says, "A great agent is someone who has genuine empathy for the customer, who listens well and knows enough about the company's products and services to work with customers and find a solution that fits their need. He or she is also personally responsible, is there when they're scheduled, doing what they're supposed to do. A great agent is smart, thorough and kind."

What do you think makes an agent outstanding?

Share Your Story

Though the deadline for our award nominations has passed, there is still an opportunity to share your stories with us. If you know an agent who's outstanding, stellar, awesome and just plain great, we want to hear about him or her!

Comment here, or visit our Facebook page.

Christina Hammarberg is the former associate editor at ICMI.

Comments (7)

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Marta Kelsey — 9:19AM on Sep 15, 2011

I believe passion is something every outstanding agent I've run across has.

Rose Polchin — 11:36AM on Sep 15, 2011

Customer service professionals are amazing! I know many contact centers have festivities and celebrations planned for Customer Service Week -- I hope you will also join us for our webinar celebrating these fantastic group of people!

Joy Sobhani — 12:06PM on Sep 15, 2011

As a customer, I find the quality I am most impressed with is a genuine interest in solving my problem. This means truly listening (as opposed to trying to fit me into some canned response), as well as having the knowledge and empowerment to do what's necessary for first call resolution.

Reggie Bautista — 11:09AM on Sep 16, 2011

I agree with Joy. An agent that expresses a genuine desire to help me resolve an issue (especially a potentially serious one) as quickly as possible is really on their game. With an experience like that, I don't feel like I'm begging for help with my hat in my hand- it feels like a partnership where there's a mutual interest in each other's success.

Christina D'Airo — 11:12AM on Sep 16, 2011

I agree with Marta and Joy - passion and genuine interest have always struck me as exceptional qualities in my interactions as a customer. Communication skills -especially in dealing with a customer - are also extremely important! Something as simple as hearing a friendly voice over the phone, instead of a monotone "Hello, canItakeyourorder?" makes a HUGE difference to me.

Jen Freund — 7:17AM on Sep 19, 2011

I'd have to say I agree with Joy, someone who truly listens and is there to help, and makes you feel like your problem is important, and getting it resolved it their priority.

Linda Riggs — 10:50AM on Sep 21, 2011

Most agents I know *want* to be that ambassador. The ones who are outstanding or who shine more brightly truly exude enthusiasm and a sense that what they are doing is helping someone else. You can't bottle that. If I could, I'd be rich and the world is richer for those who are this way.