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Best of ICMI in 2021 - #6: 5 Skills Contact Center Agents Need

earnestBest of ICMI in 2021 - #6

Working in a contact center can be both difficult and rewarding, but not everyone is up to the challenge. The most successful contact center employees have a deep desire to help. This isn't just a desire to help those who want to be helped; in my experience, contact center employees have to be invested in the well-being of all customers to grow and thrive.

The responsibility of a contact center employee is to answer incoming interactions (calls, chats, video requests, etc.) from customers or potential customers, respond to questions or inquiries, troubleshoot problems, and provide information and support for complaints regarding the organization's products or services. Ultimately the goal of a contact center employee should be to present a positive image of the organization while creating a climate where the customer feels valued and respected.

What skills are required to be successful in a contact center?

Below are what I've identified as the five most important skills to be successful in an inbound contact center:

1. Active listening

It's important to hear the words our callers are saying, and it’s just as important to hear what they aren’t saying. Callers are often distraught by the circumstances that led them to reach out for help, or they may not know how to explain what they need. Details make all the difference and assist us in sorting out how to best support our customers.

2. Empathy

Friendly exchanges of our experiences strengthen relationships. Sharing in the experience of someone else’s feelings helps us to create a better service experience for them. Human beings are social by nature; we thrive on interaction with others, and establishing a connection helps our ability to deliver excellence.

3. Inquiring mind

Just being curious can open the interaction up for success; a person who asks the right questions will be prepared to find the best solutions for a caller in need. Knowing that there is always more information to uncover if we pay attention can make all the difference. Our customers aren’t intentionally withholding information, and they aren’t the subject matter experts (we are). It’s important to not rush the customer, even if our goals include handle time metrics; finding the right way to ask sensitive questions increases our efficiency. When we notice the subtleties in our customer interactions and use those to address unspoken concerns, we may also prevent a callback.

4. Organization

If you are like me, you function best in an environment of organized chaos. Quirks don’t automatically equal failure. I found that once I identified how to appreciate my quirks and establish a routine, I had the advantage. Stellar contact center employees successfully navigate several programs, systems, or websites during each interaction with customers. It’s imperative that we create a plan to maintain organized interactions for our sake and for the customer’s satisfaction. Trusting ourselves and the knowledge we possess is key. However, we must keep in mind that self-confidence is not the same as being over-confident, and we must remember to ask for help when we need it.

5. Understanding

Vulnerability is hard for many of us, especially as we become adults. A customer reaching out for help is forced into a position of vulnerability, which can make an interaction difficult. When it comes to being a successful contact center employee, nothing beats giving our customers (and ourselves) grace. We all make mistakes, and being able to genuinely connect with our customers is going to go a long way in easing their frustrations or concerns. Experiences shape us; we can learn from our interactions with customers to discover best practices that can leave lasting positive impressions. Years from now, if we’ve done our jobs right, customers will think of our organizations fondly and tell others about their positive interactions with us. Zero in on what the customer needs, focus on solving their problems, educate them, and success is sure to follow.

Introverts and Extroverts Can Thrive in the Contact Center

Whether you’re an introvert who prefers one-on-one interactions or a sociable extrovert who thrives on people interactions, you can leverage your skills and comfort level to serve your customers through the virtual customer service world. By balancing personality types while serving our diverse customer bases, we create an environment that fosters growth, collaboration, and leads to contact center success. Walter Chrysler said “the real secret to success is enthusiasm.” Every successful employee who serves with passion and care in a contact center has unique characteristics and the utmost dedication to service.

Contact centers are always on the lookout for talented and driven people to support their organizations. If you think you’ve got what it takes to succeed, I’d highly recommend taking advantage of the experiences you can gain as a contact center professional. You may come to realize that working in a contact center presents opportunities that can aid you in achieving your aspirations.