North American Customer Service Management Association

Support for Contact Center Professionals

Step 1 Five Rock Star Qualities of Successful Agents


Let’s face it, answering the phone all day isn’t always easy.

Not every caller is cooperative, cheerful and happy. Today’s consumer is very demanding; they complain to agents, blame agents and yell at them. Sometimes caller frustration is the result of a low-quality phone system; callers can’t get through, too many prompts, long hold times, reaching the wrong agent and the list goes on. The phone and IVR systems can be improved easily which will make it easier for agents. The easier it is for agents to do their job the less frustration on both agents and callers.

The Agents who can let the negativity roll are those that can get back in the game and take more calls without the last one upsetting them. When an agent gets upset it can take them off their game for the rest of their shift. Upset agents will sit at their desks and sulk, change their availability status to avoid taking calls and, depending on how upset they are, leave for the day. The best agents avoid taking it personally and bounce back quickly; the most resilient agents win!

Too often, agents will express empathy by reading or memorizing the script. True empathy comes from the heart not the head. Empathy is the capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental state. Agents are taught to “empathize” – when the agent is taught what the other person is feeling then it becomes more natural to react. Most agents don’t really understand why the caller is upset; they don’t understand the issue and how it impacts the caller. Too many times, agents are quick to launch into their “empathy script” which does nothing to sooth the caller. If anything, the insincerity of it makes the caller more upset. The best agents get it; empathy comes from the heart and the caller not only hears it but also feels it.

Not every caller is prepared when they call in. Good agents can balance the need to release the call quickly with the need to be patient. When agents are too impatient the caller feels rushed. Sometimes callers need more explanations, need to find paperwork or just talk slow. Whatever the reason, the best agents can pace themselves and give callers the time and attention they need without conveying impatience. The best agents learn to facilitate the customer experience by making the customer feel validated, respected and heard while maintaining agent control.

Do you have too many calls in the queue?

Perhaps too many callers are calling back because they can’t understand the agent. Everybody has called back at least one time in his or her life. Too often, agents can’t be understood by the caller and after waiting patiently hangs up only to call back. Does your contact center platform track hang-ups? Do you have agents with a high number of hang-ups? Can you identify these agents? The most basic skill of a contact center agent is speaking English, unless the agent is managing a non-English queue. Are your agents articulating every word?

Poor articulation frustrates callers and when they call back they are really upset now that they waited in the queue twice. They hope by calling back that they will get an agent who can articulate English properly. Agents who speak too fast or have poor articulation of words and phrases are ineffective.

The best agents at the end of their shift make it sound like it is the beginning of their shift; their voices are fresh, they deliver their greetings and questions like it was the first time. These agents articulate all day long. They don’t get lazy reading disclosures, they don’t speed up because they are bored of their own voice and they don’t mumble. The best agents come alive on each call and can be understood on every call. These agents are the most effective because they truly have “first call resolution”.

Everyone loves agents that “go the extra mile”. For example, the agent that takes the initiative to look up one more thing, the agent that gets you one more phone number or the agent that gives you one more discount. Whatever it is, everyone likes and appreciates the “extra mile” effort. The best agents know how to balance talk times with customer satisfaction. The best agents know that doing one small thing that takes very little time but is an “extra effort item” will get the biggest bang on the customer satisfaction survey. Those agents are smart!

Tips!

Agent Assessments: Use agent assessments that will help you identify agent values, personal traits and qualities. Assessments will speed up the process and take the guesswork out in selecting Rock Star Agents.
Hire agents with the qualities you want and teach them the job skills. Skills you can tech, qualities and values are not so easy to teach.

Take the Next Step!

Contact center agents have a multifaceted job and are expected to be skilled in communications, problem solving, computer systems, company product and services, sales skills, etc. The qualities of a rock star agent include resiliency; they can bounce back from an upsetting call and take the next one like nothing happened. Top agents are sincerely empathetic without reading or memorizing the script. Empathy comes from their hearts and is conveyed so sincerely that callers can feel it.

Rock star agents know how to balance patience with talk times. They help callers who struggle to articulate their issue and patiently guide the customer to a resolution without rushing or being impatient. They articulate the English language clearly so every caller can get their issue resolved on the first call. All types of customers appreciate agents that are resourceful enough to take initiative and go the extra mile. Look for these rock star qualities in your agents and you too will have rock star customer satisfaction scores!

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Consultant

The North American Customer Service Management Association (NACSMA) assists Service Center professionals with improving the delivery of Customer Care to their clients by providing a collaborative networking approach to operational issues.