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The 6 Most Important Skills for Contact Centre Agents

Contact centres are vital for ensuring effective customer service and driving sales. But their effectiveness at performing those roles is only as good as their contact centre representatives. They are often the first or only point of contact between a their customers. No surprise then that contact centre representation is the determining factor in retaining current customers and winning new business.

In Deloitte’s Global Contact Center Survey report, 46% of contact centre leaders said “customer experience & satisfaction” will be their most important issue in the next two years. It is therefore critical to find and retain people with the drive and motivation to delight customers.

1. Customer Focus

The tendency to be motivated to or exceed customer expectations and achieve the best outcomes for customers is crucial. Improving customer service is the the primary focus of contact centres, so a high customer focus is indicative of the ability to delight customers. Ensuring customers are happy is vital for keeping customers, so customer focus should always be the first and foremost competency to look for in a high performing call centre operative.

2. Knowledge Retention

To provide the highest quality support to customers, agents need to be able to learn and memorize a good amount of information about your company. By the time they get up and running, they should at least know the ins and outs of your product or service and be on board with your brand’s philosophy.

Call centre agents should know when they can’t resolve the issue and who to transfer the call to if this is the case. As time progresses, they should be able to remember answers to frequently asked questions and troubleshoot with ease. If your candidates do not appear to be the type to be able to quickly learn and retain information, hiring them could ultimately have a negative impact on your provision of support.

3. Mental fortitude

It takes the ability to keep calm under pressure to not only be a high quality contact centre agent, but to stay one. Some would argue that is one of the toughest jobs to maintain, due to the number of frustrated callers agents interact with on a daily basis. A good agent will remain calm when someone is yelling at them over the phone or when they have a chatterbox on the other end of the line who simply won’t let them get a word in to offer assistance. Keeping their cool throughout all of these situations and not letting the frustrated callers get to them personally is the key to get any call centre agent far in the industry. During the hiring process, ask them how they handle pressure and check in with their previous employers to see if what they say matches up.

4. Speed

This incorporates typing speed and accuracy as well as efficiency in handling call after call. And they should do so without sacrificing the quality of their work. This is important to your bottom line because the more callers an agent can handle, the fewer agents you need to keep your call centre running smoothly. It’s also important to the callers themselves. They don’t want to wait around for a live agent. They want their call answered as soon as possible. A fast-working call centre agent can reduce average speed to answer and service level for your entire team so your customers are more satisfied.

5. Communication

This one might seem like a given, but it goes far more than just speaking clearly. Effective communication also means active listening, the ability to pay full attention to what customers are saying, and ask relevant questions when necessary and appropriate. The agent should be able to digest information and conveying a solution quickly and effectively by speaking clearly and using basic vocabulary. If they can communicate effectively, this will bode well for the quality of your service. You simply can’t have competence without clear communication skills.

6. Problem Solving

It may be all well and good to be a pleasant person to talk to, but in the end customers want their problems to be solved in one phone call. The ability to make effective decisions by utilising thorough analysis and logic takes a candidate to the next stage from understanding a problem and solving it. The best agents will know exactly how to solve a query that is within their means to solve, but more importantly know when they can’t resolve an issue. Call centres are the first point of contact and it is a key indicator of success to be solving the majority of issues that come through. But it is equally valuable to a customer when their problem is efficiently forwarded to people who are more equipped to solve complex queries.

Identifying the Most Important Skills for Call Center Agents

When you can identify the presence of critical competencies in a candidate, you set your contact centres up for success. These are three tried and true ways you can refine your hiring process to deliver the best talent:

Leverage pre-hire assessments: Pre-hire assessments don’t just reduce turnover, they identify the key competencies required for success on the job. Pre-hire assessments can give great insight into how a candidate works with people, as well as general cognitive competencies, like their ability to understand instructions and focus on a goal.

Use situational judgment tests: Situational judgment questions ask candidates to act out or describe how they would handle a hypothetical scenario. These sorts of questions give good insight into their customer focus, mental fortitue, and problem-solving skills. If you deliver these questions via on-demand video, you can even present the scenario as an immersive experience.

Use past behavior questions in interviews: Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Past behavior questions – asking candidates how they responded to challenges in their past – give good insight into their speed, customer focus, and problem-solving skills.

Find out more, in our Contact Centre Solution Whitepaper.

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