These Customer Service Soft Skills are the Core of the Contact Center

In our previous blog, we discussed the importance of supporting vulnerable customers. But supporting vulnerable customers depends on more than just your tech stack. Soft skills matter, and providing agents with the right training is the first step toward creating outstanding experiences for every customer, every time they get in contact.

So which soft skills should your contact center be prioritizing?

  • Communication – This seems obvious, but there are elements of subtlety to the mastery of communication. Speaking clearly, tailoring your communication style to the needs of your customer, balancing empathy with compliance obligations; all this can take a lifetime to master.

  • Active listening – Even more important than speaking, is listening. Every customer articulates needs differently; understanding their request, then understanding the need behind the request takes a high degree of skill. A customer might be requesting to withdraw funds from their account, but this could be the result of a scam.

  • Technical skills – The modern contact center is a digital enterprise. New technologies come and go, and one of the most valuable skills for an agent is the ability to rapidly learn and adapt to new solutions and interfaces.

Cultivating these skills is guaranteed to lead to outstanding Customer Experience (CX). The benefits will be felt by your agents, too; the better you are at your job, the more likely you are to enjoy it.

Before we go on, accessibility is only one aspect of the Agent Experience (AX). To learn about the biggest trends in agent experience, download Content Guru’s whitepaper: From AI to AX: How Generative AI will Revolutionize Agent Experience.

Communication – The Foundation Customer Service Soft Skill

The contact center is a communications hub. That’s the entire reason for its existence, so you’d think that communications skills would come first; but that’s not always the case.

45% of contact center agents will leave their job. 56% will leave the industry altogether. When churn levels are high, a good proportion of your agents won’t have had experience in a contact center role before, so providing them with the requisite basic communications skills is a must. There’s nothing more demoralizing than having to listen to an untrained agent read off a script. Customers don’t want robots; they want advocates who can solve their problems.

So what do top-tier communications skills look like?

  • Empathy – The most skilled agents will establish an emotional connection with the customer almost as soon as the interaction begins. Simple statements like, ‘I’m sorry to hear that’, or ‘that must be frustrating!’ convince the customer that the agent is on their side. From there, it’s onwards and upwards. Emotional authenticity is an essential aspect of building a bond with the customer.

  • Clarity – One of the agent’s primary functions is to explain processes. Whether that’s helping a customer through a payment or self-service journey, or explaining why something has gone wrong behind the scenes. The ability to comprehend and explain technical processes is a must-have.

  • Adaptability – Not everyone understands problems in the same way. Different generations, for instance, will have vastly different frames of reference for technical problems. The high-performing agent will be able to adapt their communications style to the needs of different customers, tailoring their explanations to ensure that the information is understood properly, every time.

Communication is unavoidable in the contact center, so your agents need to get good, fast. One way to achieve that is through active listening.

Active Listening – Taking Customer Service Soft Skills Further

Before you can deliver an outstanding Customer Experience, you need to understand the challenges that the customer is facing. This sounds easy (how hard can it be to shut up and listen?) but in reality, a number of acute challenges stand in the way:

  • Every problem is different – Here’s a common misconception; the customer’s problem isn’t the problem, the customer themselves is the problem. Essentially this means that the agent isn’t simply trying to resolve an issue brought to them by the customer, they’re trying to deliver an outstanding experience to the customer.

  • Don’t work by rote – The implication of this point is that, even if a customer has the very same problem as a hundred other customers, their circumstances are still unique. Don’t rattle off the same wrote solution you’ve rattled off to every customer before; take the time to understand a customer’s circumstance and relate the solution to that circumstance. This will show the customer that you care. Preserving empathy across hundreds of similar interactions takes skill.

  • Don’t rush things – Agents are under constant pressure to move quickly; that’s what produces tactics like wrote repetition, and leads to rushed interactions. But the greatest CX moments happen when the agent is allowed to take their time. Trying to rush through an interaction is just going to lead to the customer calling back with the same problem at a later date.

Active listening allows the agent to adapt their communication style to the circumstances of a specific customer. Flexibility, then, is what separates good from great in the CX space. And that means more than just flexibility with customers; it also means technical flexibility.

Technical Flexibility – The Foundation of Customer Service Soft Skills

The modern contact center is built around the technical solution it leverages. This is the beating heart of the system, enabling outstanding Customer Experience. It makes sense then, that mastering this system is the key to creating next-level CX. That’s just as important for individual agents as it is for supervisors:

  • Technical adaptability – No matter the role, being tech-savvy is absolutely essential. The ability to master a complex system quickly, and to use it efficiently, can save hours of time every day. This comes down to things as simple as the ability to touch type – every additional skill means time and value saved.

  • The Single Agent Interface – With that said, you shouldn’t force your agents to wrestle with a deliberately complex system for no reason. (You shouldn’t need to master Microsoft Excel to deliver outstanding customer service!) It’s up to your organization to provide agents with intuitive, accessible tools.

  • Accessible training – No one learns in a vacuum. Contact centers need to provide their agents with comprehensive training and access to complete knowledge resources if they expect them to perform at a high level.

Providing proper training resources is the first step to cultivating these soft-skills in agents. If you’re not helping your agents learn best practice, you can’t be surprised when they perform at less-than-their-best. The skills your agents develop depend on you.

Customer Service Skills Training with storm®

Content Guru’s storm® cloud contact center solution provides a host of different resources to support customer service skills training. storm UNIVERSITY™ is Content Guru’s comprehensive training resource, providing your agents with everything they need to master both the technical and human aspects of their role.

storm CKS:KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT™ allows knowledge articles to be presented within the agent interface in the form of screen-pops, providing instant access to the information they need to resolve customer inquiries.

Finally, storm QM™ provides you with a complete set of recording and Quality Management tools. Drill down into individual agent performance, to gain a complete picture of the your agent skillsets.

storm’s intuitive and accessible interface make it a first choice when working to improve Agent Experience. To learn more about the ways Content Guru boosts AX, download Content Guru’s whitepaper: From AI to AX: How Generative AI will Revolutionize Agent Experience.