Contact center skills

What are the top contact center skills for agents and managers?

A contact center is responsible for much more than resolving customer issues. Since contact centers are the only point of contact for one-on-one personal interactions with consumers and clients, they essentially serve as the face of the company and the brand.

Should a call center representative leave a bad impression of the brand or lack the ability to help a customer, the contact center will be singlehandedly held responsible for causing this irreparable damage.

Essential contact center skills of agents

Good contact center agents are expected to be proficient in both hard and soft skills. While some skills are inherent, others can be taught. We have rounded up the top business-critical contact center skills that agents must cultivate to ensure a smooth-running process.

1. Clarity in communication

The nature of contact center work demands strong and clear communication skills. It impacts every aspect of this job and is a critical skill for agents to have a successful career in this role.

Conversations that are clear and productive help with quick resolutions while, at the same time, making a good impression on the customers. Agents can save valuable time by thinking through their responses and answering in clear, understandable language, thus eliminating the need to go back and forth with the customer.

2. A good understanding of products and services

Domain expertise makes a world of difference when agents are trying to enhance the customer experience (CX) —it is an easily understood benefit. Agents who have in-depth knowledge of the company’s products and services, along with knowledge of common complaints and their solutions are proficient in handling complex cases quickly and efficiently on a regular basis.

Knowledge retention and recall are extremely critical in the fast-paced environment of a contact center. Agents should be able to memorize and recall all company information, as any hesitancy or lack of conviction on their part lessens the credibility of the information in the customers’ minds.

3. Active listening, patience, and empathy

Agents must not only possess good oral communication abilities. They must also demonstrate active listening skills to fully understand the customer’s query and provide the exact solution that will meet their requirements without losing critical details in the exchange. This curbs the number of inbound calls by the customer for the same issue.

Allowing the customers to explain their concerns and patiently assisting them along the way leaves a lasting impression and shows that the company takes the time to work seriously with them on their various needs and concerns. Exhibiting empathy and level-headedness when handling calls builds authenticity and positive rapport.

4. Problem-solving and flexibility

Putting callers on hold while the agent stumbles around for a solution is not a good impression or experience to leave. In addition to traditional scripted problem-solving, agents must have the ability for creative reasoning during unusual requests and queries. This can be encouraged more through autonomy on the job.

Accurately defining the problems, evaluating them, and then resolving them lessens the Average Handling Time (AHT) per customer. Speed and efficiency are highly valued by customers, and from a company’s perspective, it increases the bottom line. Of course, the quality of support should always be the first priority.

5. Organization skills

Due to the busy work environments, contact centers demand good organizational skills. Agents have to juggle multiple tasks during calls, including notetaking, referring to the knowledge base, CRM updates, time management, and prioritizing. Organization is key to doing the job efficiently and handling daily workloads.

Being organized helps maintain the omnichannel customer journey as well as the comprehensive record of all the details the customer has provided up to a given point in time, freeing up time and energy for more complex tasks.

Essential contact center skills of managers

True leadership is not just about supervising; it is about demonstrating strong core values and eliciting them in the entire team as well, thereby enforcing a positive work culture. It’s all about teamwork and investing in the team’s future through training, mentoring, and performance management.

An excellent manager or leader strives to create a working environment that can challenge and inspire everyone in their team. Listed below are some of the essential contact center skills that a great manager possesses.

1. Ensures exceptional customer service

A manager at a contact center is tasked with overseeing every agent to ensure that they are offering customer satisfaction at the highest level. This is achieved by:

  • Mentoring agents to help them develop exceptional customer service skills
  • Resolving customer issues at the earliest
  • Communicating internally for quick resolutions
  • Introducing monitoring processes to ensure that agents meet the required CX service levels
  • Offering industry training to agents who need it

2. Training and development

For continuous improvement of workflows and processes, managers should consistently track agent performance to identify any skill gaps that may be present and require individual development plans.

The plan outlines the knowledge, skills, and proficiencies that the individual needs to inculcate to succeed in their role as a contact center representative. Focused training sessions are conducted based on this development plan to fill the agent skill gaps.

Some contact centers also introduce various software applications that ease the training process or onboarding of agents by streamlining customer interactions.

When a contact center undergoes a change in processes, tools, business goals, or leadership, it is the job of the manager to ensure minimal disruption. To help the team quickly adapt to the evolving environment, the leader or manager can provide appropriate training, performance management, and extensive communication.

3. Efficiency and effective procedures

A contact center must have several procedures set by the manager to ensure that every agent delivers exceptional customer service efficiently:

  • A defined set of standard operating procedures for call center compliance
  • A strategy to achieve company goals
  • Customer acquisition and retention processes through inbound and outbound calls
  • Contact center productivity and performance assessments of the agents based on established performance KPIs, processes, and standards
  • Documented corrective actions that need to be enforced on agents who are in violation of the contact center’s policies with the approval of the human resource department

4. Excellent workforce management

As part of their job description, contact center managers are also responsible for workforce management. They are responsible for achieving and maintaining operational efficiency in the contact centers. Excellent workforce management involves:

  • Managing intraday operations
  • Forecasting the volume of inbound requests and staffing requirements
  • Setting agent schedules based on the volume forecast
  • Assigning agents to schedules based on their skills and preferences
  • Establishing agent targets and KPIs
  • Developing and implementing the required changes to meet or exceed service levels
  • Monitoring, documenting, and reporting all customer interactions to the director and quality department
  • Establishing a conducive work environment to encourage healthy competition

5. Motivate agents

To maintain low agent attrition rates, leaders must ensure that agents don’t experience stress or burnout. Incentivizing, organizing team-building activities, or finding other ways to boost employee engagement make employees feel valued and appreciated, which reduces the attrition rate in the long run.

6. Strong communication skills

Transparency builds trust and strong bonds between managers and employees. To be able to clearly communicate business goals, company policies, and procedures to the agents is another skill that a great manager has. They are willing to hear out agents’ concerns or suggestions and address them with fairness. It is equally important that managers provide constructive feedback to agents when needed.

7. Quick at problem-solving

No two days are the same at a contact center. If one day, there is an angry customer on the line, the next day, the supervisor has to efficiently manage a contact center issue without disruption. To ensure positive outcomes in situations like these, it is crucial to stay calm and be a proactive problem solver.

Additionally, a good contact center manager trains others to become good problem-solvers themselves, further encouraging an autonomous working environment.

8. Demonstrate emotional intelligence

Showcasing patience and empathy creates a positive and productive work culture. Such emotional intelligence is a critical interpersonal skill that also reflects the quality of the CX that the contact center provides. With an empathetic leader onboard, the contact center can expect more satisfied and motivated agents.

Despite employees working remotely in today’s virtual and cloud-based contact centers, it is imperative that they work together as a team, utilizing all the available features offered in contact center software for smoother operations. Both agents and management should strive to relieve each other of their workload to a large extent, creating a positive environment of trust and reliability.

Speak to our experts about how you can enhance the performance of your contact center.

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