What skills are needed for a call center?

Tips and Skills Needed When Working in a Call Center

Skills needed for a call center

What skills are needed for a call center?

Call centers can be challenging to work in. Agents should be able work in a fast-paced environment with many customers and remain calm, flexible and friendly under pressure.

To create a great customer experience, you need the best call center agents. It is best to learn what call center skills make an agent a great one before you start looking for them.

The right call center software is as important as hiring the best agent. During the hiring process, applicants can be assessed on many criteria such as their personality, skills, fit, motivation and skill. No matter your list of requirements, it is important to know what makes an agent successful.

But before we talk about what makes a great call center agent, let’s talk about what a call center agent does and what skills are needed for a call center?

What skills are needed for a call center?

What skills are needed for a call center? There are many qualifications required by an employee in a call center. The more you master these abilities the more successful will be in this kind of job. Here are a few examples of typical capabilities of a call center:

  1. Active listener
  2. Outgoing personality
  3. Problem-solving
  4. Adaptability
  5. Computer skills
  6. Multitasking
  7. Product knowledge
  8. Organizational skills

Most Important Qualities of a Call Center Agent

Being a call center agent can be difficult. Being a hiring manager responsible for finding candidates with call center skills is not an easy task. An error in hiring can have serious consequences.

However, call center managers who are able to identify the essential qualities of customer service agents, from technical skills to personal attributes, have a greater chance of hiring the right candidates.

We’ll be discussing what a call center supervisor needs to look for in customer service representatives. Also, we will provide tips on how managers can help agents provide excellent customer service.

  1. Empathy

It is distinct from kindness, empathy, or friendliness. Google defines empathy as the ability to understand and share feelings of others.

As a customer service agent, you will need to know the intricacies of your products and services. However, empathy is essential for handling calls. This means understanding customers’ problems and being able to help them.

Here are a few empathetic statements:
  • “I completely understand how you feel. I would be frustrated too. Let me see what I can do.”
  • “I am extremely sorry to hear that. I will rectify that and get back to you with an update.”
  • “Oh, I am sorry to hear that! I will make sure that does not happen again.”

Your call center agent will identify with your caller’s emotions and promise to help you resolve them.

Empathy gives your conversations a human touch. It shows customers that you care about their problems. It is vital for maintaining strong customer relationships and helps you to build a trusting relationship with your customers.

How to gauge this while hiring?

Empathetic candidates make prospects feel valued and heard. They also create a positive call experience. During mock calling sessions, your team can assess how the candidate feels. If the candidate’s overall call experience was positive, they likely handled the call with empathy.

Another way to gauge empathy in a candidate is to assess how active they are in helping them. An empathic agent will do everything possible to help the prospect understand their problem and find the right solution.

  1. Quick-thinking

There are many things that don’t go according to plan. Your agents will need to be familiar with the details of your business. They should also know how to solve problems. A sales agent might find out that a prospect has an objection to the script. The same goes for customer service agents who might encounter an issue they can’t identify.

Both cases show that call center agents are not given the luxury of time. A prospect is on the phone, waiting for a resolution. The call center agent must think quickly in such situations to provide a satisfactory answer and serve the customer in the most efficient way. You could simply modify the pitch to make it more appealing to the prospect. If you have customer service skills, a senior agent could be available to assist with the situation.

Your customers will be satisfied with the quick thinking of a call center agent. This will increase customer satisfaction and improve the efficiency of your call center.

How to gauge this while hiring?

Does the candidate have the ability to find unique solutions to the problem? You can give the candidate a scenario that isn’t in the script and observe how they react. Try to find a solution. But, it is possible to count a candidate who directs the prospect towards another contact as a success.

  1. Ability to retain information

Basic training is essential for any call center agent. The type of calls they will be handling determines how detailed or simple the training.

The agent would not be able to provide the service if they could not retain all the information and access it on the call. Information retention doesn’t have to be about your company, it could also refer to the problem that your customer is having.

Imagine a customer giving his details to an agent. He also gives the agent the problem. If your agent can’t retain the information they will need it again. You are essentially creating a negative customer experience.

How to gauge this while hiring?

This one is very easy to assess. You can overload the candidate during a mock call center session with information about them, the problem they are having, and other pertinent details. A great candidate will not only be able to retain most of the information but also will have the ability to keep only the essential information.

  1. Attention to detail

All agents need to know the basics of customer service. This is not the same as the ability to keep information (seen before), since the details are not derived from the current phone call but rather from past interactions with the prospect.

Let’s say, for example, your agent is calling a customer who has called 3 times. Even if they are not the same agent, they can refer to the previous call notes to offer a better experience.

  • “You had also mentioned an issue with deliverability – is that still a problem?” The details can also help in switching the sales pitch or the ask to the prospect.
  • “I see your team is spread across 80 countries – I would recommend opting for the Enterprise plan.”

Both of these situations will show prospects that you are more than a voice on the phone. It allows you to better solve their problems, and it also helps you build a relationship.

How to gauge this while hiring?

A cover letter and CV can show the candidate how much they care about the little things.

Yes, CVs with obvious typos or errors will be thrown out. You can dig deeper. E.g. You should check to make sure the cover letter was tailored to your company, and specifically the job position. If the letter is consistent with your job description and refers back to it, you can be sure that this candidate is attentive and can translate the skills to calls.

  1. Being ‘Tech-savvy’

For many customer support positions, tech-savvy is crucial. It is also important to be tech-savvy for all call center agents, even those who are not in support. Your call center agents must be able to use your call center software with minimal difficulty, if not better.

This is especially important for advocacy groups and nonprofits where many of their volunteers are often one-time volunteers. It will work in your favor to teach them how to make phone calls. 

How to gauge this while hiring?

Simple. You can check their experience to find out what kind of tools they have used. Ask the candidate to navigate an easy call center software on their own if they are a new hire. These two will give you a good idea of how adaptable the candidate is to the tools you use in your calling campaigns.

  1. Organizational skills

This could also include data entry skills that are useful for call center jobs. Often, your customer gives you a lot of information on the phone. Call center agents should keep track of this information and be organized.

The role of the call center agent to gather and collect customer information such as a survey is critical. It is therefore even more important for them to be organized.

How to gauge this while hiring?

A mock call can be set up with the prospect during an interview round. During this call you can see how the candidate records information, and what type of information.

A strong candidate will automatically ask which tools you should use to record the information. This is because these agents keep track of the information even after the call ends.

A fresher might not be familiar with note-taking tools if they aren’t. To write down the information, they might use a pen and paper. This is another indicator of their organizational skills.

  1. Effective communication

Your call center agent should have the ability to communicate their message with minimum effort. Clear communication and a well-developed vocabulary are important. Understanding the customer’s problem and how to resolve it is more important than ever.

How to gauge this while hiring?

You can see how well your candidate conveys information during your mock-call. Many times, your call center agents will need to send follow up email (and text) to prospects. Check their writing skills when dealing with such cases.

  1. Performing under pressure

Call center agents are not only focused on providing value for customers. They need to be able to solve problems in a short time frame and have excellent problem solving skills. This is why it is essential to learn how to work under pressure, manage their emotions, and keep their eyes on what they are doing.

If this were to happen, efficiency in your call center would plummet. It would lead to call center agents who are quickly experiencing burnout and don’t get any results.

How to gauge this while hiring?

Simulate a stressful call center setup and ask the candidate to answer some calls. They will have very high targets to reach.

Here are a few questions you can tick off:
  • Were they calm and collected
  • Did they manage to remain polite
  • Were they able to listen to the actual problem instead of responding to a prospect’s emotion?.
  1. Being Friendly

It is a skill. An agent who is friendly with customers will sound more approachable than one who is extremely pedantic. It does not have to be a passive conversation. It is about showing warmth and friendliness towards your customers. This means being friendly and warm throughout the call.

How to gauge this during hiring?

It could be as simple to count the number of times they smiled on the phone. To quantify how friendly your candidate was on the call, you can give them a mock prospect.

This will allow you to assess if the candidate can manage small talk while still maintaining the core of the conversation.

  1. Active listening

It could be as simple to count the number of times they smiled on the phone. To quantify how friendly your candidate was on the call, you can give them a mock prospect.

This will allow you to assess if the candidate can manage small talk while still maintaining the core of the conversation.

  • “I don’t think I need this product right now”

For a new agent in a call center, this could seem like a refusal. But, a listening agent would notice the words’ think’ and ‘right now’ and be able to understand that the customer may just be unsure about the products or services.

Call center agent job description

Job description of a call center agent

It is important to note that the call center in which an agent works will affect their daily responsibilities. These are some of the possible responsibilities that call center customer service agents may face.

  1. Communicate with customers via a variety of channels. Communication has changed tremendously over the years. Many companies are now extending their contact center capabilities to support omni channel communication. Their agents can communicate seamlessly with customers through multiple channels. Agents can assist customers through telephone, email and social media. Agents in contact centers should feel confident providing customer service via all channels.

  2. Customers’ issues promptly and courteously. Call center jobs tend to be customer service positions. Agents often work directly with customers, communicating with them when necessary. An agent must respond quickly to customer issues and communicate with them in a friendly manner. This requires problem solving and research skills. Agents should be able to identify the right resources to locate the required information.

  3. Provide exceptional customer service and an unforgettable customer experience. This duty goes hand in hand with the one above. A customer service agent’s most important task is to make the customer experience memorable. Whatever the reason for the call is, a great agent at the contact center will go above and beyond in order to ensure that the interaction with customers is memorable.

  4. Perform all administrative duties and after-call tasks efficiently. As a contact center agent, you are responsible for more than simply helping customers. The most important skill is the ability to do various administrative duties, whether they are done right after a call or during the day. This could be as simple as documenting customer interactions and updating customer files. These are two essential skills for call center agents.

Call center agent responsibilities

Responsibilities of a Call center agent

Call center agents are responsible for receiving calls from customers and prospects and making outbound calls. In modern contact centers, agents’ responsibilities and duties may be more varied and cover a greater range of tasks than simply answering phones.

  1. Answering inbound calls

Inbound call center agents respond to prospects and customers’ calls. The number of calls agents can take in a day will vary depending on how big the call center is, how much volume they receive, what industry they work in, and the complexity of the issues agents typically resolve.

To ensure that phone conversations are effective, call center agents must possess strong phone skills such as active listening skills and clear verbal communication (clarity speech and diction), politeness and attention to detail. Apart from being able to communicate clearly and effectively with customers, call center agents must also be proficient in the art of communication styles. They should also be able to answer calls properly and use techniques to transfer callers to another number.

  1. Processing orders and payments

The most fundamental duties of a call center agent are to take and process orders. If a prospect calls or a customer calls, agents respond to their questions regarding products and services. They also provide additional information, if necessary, and place the order. Agents need to be knowledgeable about the company and products. They are also responsible to track orders, manage cancellations and exchanging orders, resolve payment issues, address shipping problems and manage returns/refunds.

  1. Handling customer complaints

Unhappy customers are dealt with and handled by call center representatives. A customer service representative must be able to deal with complaints and provide exceptional customer service.

  • Ask the right questions to find the root cause of your complaint.
  • Recognize the customer type and how you can help them.
  • Use the right empathy statements and show empathy.
  • Give a solution, and then verify that it has been solved.
  • If the person isn’t competent or able to resolve the problem on the first contact, they can escalate.
  1. Following up on customer calls

While first call resolution in any call center is ideal, not all customer queries can actually be solved in one call. SaaS companies offering complex, technically-sophisticated products are particularly vulnerable to this. Customers may have issues that cannot be resolved immediately. Agents should follow up with customers following the initial interaction to notify them of any progress or to update them.

  1. Making outbound calls

Outbound call center agents are responsible for making calls to prospects and customers. These calls could be used to validate leads and cold call them, or for collecting information, surveys, telemarketing sales, collection, charity fundraising, appointment scheduling, and proactive customer service notifications. These calls are most often made using call center dialers. They can automate the dialing process, significantly increase agent efficiency, productivity, and performance.

  1. Upselling and cross-selling

When interacting with customers, call center agents are encouraged to recognize and take advantage of potential cross-selling or upselling opportunities. When a representative calls a customer to upsell, it is when they draw their attention to a new or improved product or service. Cross-selling is where an agent convinces a customer that a complementary or related product or service is available. Cross-selling and upselling is more than following pre-written communication scripts. It requires agents who are flexible and creative as well as a personal approach to each client.

  1. Conducting market research

Outbound call center agents are frequently required to conduct market research. Market research is critical in businesses launching new products. It helps to gather valuable data that allows marketing executives to better understand the potential market, consumer behavior, and competitors in order to make informed decisions. Outbound call center software with auto dialing technology is required for market research. This software allows agents to make hundreds or even thousands of outbound calls every day without having to dial any numbers manually.

  1. Managing and updating customer databases

Agents in call centers have the responsibility of reviewing and updating customer relationship management (CRM)systems regularly. CRM stores all available customer data such as contact information, billing history, shipping preferences, and history of any previous interactions with the company. This data is crucial in enabling agents to deliver a personalized customer experience. After each interaction with a customer, agents can access this information and make any necessary updates.

  1. Collecting and reporting on customer feedback

Agents at call centers are often the only human contact a company has with customers. Agents are a great resource for customer feedback, as well as reporting that information to senior management. It’s often done by interviewing customers. Agents can have real-time conversations with customers to gain deeper insight about what customers think about a company’s service/product, their struggles, and what they think can be done to make it better.

  1. Training and onboarding new call center agents

In addition to being involved in people management, call center agents can also help with training and onboarding new customer service agents. Agents must have a deep understanding of the product or service they are selling and a good understanding of company culture and policy to be productive. To ensure that call center operations are efficient, agents must be proficient in the use of call center software. Technical onboarding and training is often the responsibility of senior agents and call center managers when new members join.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are call center soft skills?

Contact center agents learn soft skills from personal experience and apply them to providing a positive customer experience. This skill-set helps to foster a positive workplace.

Employers value soft skills more than hard skills. Most hard skills can easily be acquired through call center training. Although it is easier to teach someone how a computer works, it is much harder to help them empathize.

Active listening. Listening is key to effective communication. Active listening is a way to pay attention to what the customer says, process and understand their words, and then respond in a thoughtful, validating, and respectful manner.

Customers often bring up many issues to agents in a call center. Active listening is essential to understand the customer’s problem and locate the appropriate resource. Active listening is crucial when dealing with customers who are upset.

Communication skills. Agents in call centers need strong communication skills to perform their duties. Agents must communicate clearly and professionally with customers. They should also be able to transfer their knowledge about products and services into an understandable, easy-to-understand communication to customers. Clear communication facilitates faster resolutions, and professionalism enhances customer satisfaction.

Role play is a great way to train agents in call center communication skills.

Adaptability. It is vital that call center agents are able to adapt to the changing needs of customers. Agents who use call monitoring or other technology to monitor progress in their work must be flexible to adopt new ways of doing things to ensure that processes meet customer requirements.

Changes that require adaptability could include additional training and mentorship to help adapt to changing customer requirements, or new technology to improve efficiency.

Problem solving. An agent will often be called to solve a problem. Agents should be quick to recognize a customer’s problem and evaluate their needs before finding a solution.

Problem-solving requires soft skills. You must have the ability to think independently and be able to adapt to new situations. Problem-solving skills that are effective can reduce customer satisfaction and improve the average time to handle.

Patience. Although most call center customers don’t like waiting, they are required to be patient. Agents should be patient in responding to customers’ requests. For an agent, patience could be as simple as waiting for the customer’s story to end. This is especially important if the customer seems confused or upset.

While customers may not be able to immediately recognize the patience of an agent, they will definitely notice their impatience. This is a crucial soft skill, which is vital for customer loyalty.

Empathy. Many people call a call center with a problem that needs to be addressed. Customers may feel angry, upset, or confused. A call center agent can show empathy and comfort customers who are worried. It is important that customers feel valued and supported during confusing or difficult times.

What are hard skills of a call center agent?

Hard skills are the technical skills an employee must have to perform a particular job. These are skills that can be taught and improved by education, training and practice. This is why hard skills are often called ‘teachable’.

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