As the holiday season ramps up, you may have brought new customer service employees on board in your business. A higher call volume means a higher need for customer service agents, especially as the global pandemic continues to rage and people continue to choose calling in or e-mailing vs. visiting a business in person. With new employees, it’s essential to make sure they have the customer service skills needed to do their job adequately and increase your customer retention rate.
Ninety-six percent of customers say that having solid customer service is an important piece of the decision-making process for them when it comes to spending their hard-earned dollars. That’s a huge amount of potential gain or loss. Everyone knows of the companies in their individual industries that have a reputation for horrible customer service, and you want to avoid being one of those businesses. That means you should be putting energy into making sure your agents have the skills they need to succeed. Being a stellar customer service agent involves a lot more than simply being able to pick up a phone or respond to an e-mail. Here are five must-learn traits for new customer service employees.
Knowledge of the Product or Service
It seems obvious because it is! A customer service agent absolutely needs to know the product or service he or she is helping to sell inside and out. But many companies skip this step, mistakenly assuming that customer service calls mainly involve things like pricing and returns. When your customers call for assistance with the product or service, having a very well-informed agent is going to make a world of difference. Your company should spend extensive time and resources ensuring each agent understands the purpose of your product or service, how to use it, and common pitfalls. Do they need to be absolute experts? No, but the more they understand, the better. It’s worth the time and effort, and you’ll see so when agents are able to handle more customer calls on their own vs. having to track down help or transfer calls up the line. This will avoid long call times, multiple callbacks, and frustrated customers, leading to repeat sales and a much happier customer base.
Patience is an essential trait for customer service agents. Oftentimes, when a customer calls in, it’s because something’s gone wrong. That means the person isn’t necessarily in the best mood or practicing the friendliest demeanor. Customers may take out their anger on an agent who is completely disconnected from the problem, but the agent can’t explode back or hang up the phone. It’s important customer service agents be able to calmly walk them through their problem without getting frustrated. Furthermore, some customers may have an extensive list of questions or a problem that will take time to solve. While it’s important to be able to work through a high volume of calls quickly, you also want agents to give each customer their full attention. Therefore, patience is a trait agents need to nail down.
Sometimes, customer service issues need to be handled incredibly delicately. If a customer calls in asking for a refund and you notice the person has spent thousands of dollars with you in the past, an agent may be more inclined to simply give him or her a refund. If a customer calls in with a problem every single week asking for a discount, the agent may be less inclined to deliver it. These are the kinds of social cues customer service agents need to be able to pick up on. Customer service agents also need to be able to match they dynamic of the customer—some may be more blunt and to the point, while others may need an agent to really hold their hand through a solution. A socially awkward agent isn’t going to be able to pick up on the nuances of those differences and truly excel in communication.
Being a customer service agent may not necessarily feel like a “creative” job, but the truth is, customer service requires a lot of creative problem-solving. First, agents need to be able to listen to the customer and understand what problem it is they’re trying to solve. Then, they need to repeat that problem back to make sure they fully understand and demonstrate active listening for the customer. Then, they need to decide what to do—and that can be where the creativity comes in. It could be as simple as sending the customer a new product, or it could be the agent connecting the person with a tech specialist to walk him or her through the specific issue. It could look like helping the customer with an issue themselves, or it could look like offering a discount on future purchases. Different situations will call for different solutions, and agents need to be able to think on their feet and come up with solutions that work for both the company and the customer.
Last but not least, speed will always be an important trait for customer service representatives! Slow-moving agents and long call waiting times are some of the most frustrating experiences for customers. Agents need to be able to move quickly while being thorough—a difficult skill that may take time to master. Small things like having go-to responses, memorizing extensions to which they’ll be frequently transferring calls, and having the above-mentioned thorough understanding of the product will help agents get through a massive volume of calls quickly. While you don’t want to prioritize speed over effectiveness, you do want to find small ways to motivate your agents and track their time. The fewer customers you’re able to help in a day, the less of a chance you have at turning them into repeat buyers. Even if you implement a program like callback software, it’s important to try and minimize the amount of time between when customers call and when they get their problem fixed.