Being a great contact center agent doesn’t happen in a day. While many may think that this type of work is a breeze, they couldn’t be more wrong. Customer service and customer experience trends have been on the rise and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of stoppage. This means that representatives have an even larger responsibility to the customer and require even more skills to achieve satisfaction rates above their competition.
Training is a necessity for any contact center agent. Regardless of how long they have been in the industry, the shifting dynamics of the customer experience are constantly calling for new solutions and therefore, new skills needed by representatives.
This can be a challenge. It can sometimes be tough to grasp true skills that are needed in a customer-centric capacity. We’re going to go over some best-practices, training tips, and evergreen skills that you should be promoting in your contact center.
Do’s and Don’ts
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we should cover some basics. There are plenty of skills and training methods that are set in stone. These are the foundations of great customer service and they haven’t changed much over the years. There are also some “don’ts” that you need to cut out of your regimen.
Do use simulations before contact center agents deal with real customers. These are great ways for representatives to gain some invaluable experience and practice before they begin resolving real issues. These can come in the form of full-on training programs or even role-play activities.
Case studies are another great way to receive feedback during this process and see what areas need to be improved upon. This is especially helpful before an agent deals with a customer. That way, even if mistakes are made there is a “no harm, no foul” environment to practice in.
These simulations and case studies work for phone calls, but they can also be used for text/chat settings. Role-playing in a forum or text-based simulation offers another great way to learn the necessary skills.
Don’t just train once with your staff. This goes beyond the fact that continuous education is critical in this industry. This is a mindset that reflects the investment you’re willing to put on your agents.
New technologies, methodologies, and trends are all going to affect the ways in which your representatives will need to operate in order to stay afloat in the customer service game. Just providing once-off training for new hires or transfers is a no-no. Provide new opportunities for learning and training through regular updates, annual simulations, or fun initiatives that get everyone involved in the education spirit.
Do individualize your training efforts to mirror the diverse population of your contact center agents. Not only do these agents come from various educational foundations, but they also have different learning styles and skill levels.
Use different types of content for your training, this could include avenues such as graphics, videos, text, or interactive training. Proving training tools, resources, checklists, etc. is another great way to assist your agents. These are helpful resources for those that may need a hand catching up, or for those that like to have tips and tricks at hand while they work.
Don’t just implement product-training for your agents. While this knowledge is helpful and certainly is beneficial, it’s not the only type of training that is necessary for improving the customer experience.
The vast majority of customer interactions are about emotional communication. While product knowledge is usually enough to get the conversation started, the rest comes down to creating a connection and resolving issues as seamlessly as possible.
It’s an amalgam of critical thinking, empathy, problem-solving, and that connectivity that makes for an exceptional contact center agent.
Do connect your KPI’s and training throughout any education or skill learning initiatives. These links are what will hold together your training and goal’s — allowing for your agents to understand exactly why they are learning what they are learning.
This will inevitably improve your representative’s engagement. Connecting KPI’s and personal development goals will help bridge the gap between what your agents are learning and how they can improve on their own.
Don’t ignore feedback from your agents. This is a gamechanger. If you fail to listen to feedback from your representatives, not only will you fail to understand pain points or potential gaps in your training or skill acquisition process — but you’ll also leave them feeling unheard and underrepresented.
Use current representatives during the training process. They go through the almost unnumerable customer interactions every day and can have some serious insight on how new staff should be trained or current staff should be updated.
So What Are Some Essential Skills?
Contact center training courses will vary depending on the industry and the people running the show. But there are some core competencies of all training that should be hammered down in any contact center. These will be some essential skills that support team members, salespeople, company reps, etc. can all put into their repository to optimize the customer experience.
This is a skill that can benefit a contact center agent throughout the entirety of their day. Agents are required to keep up with over a dozen customer support cases every day. Representatives must be able to organize and keep track of all the necessary information for each individual case and be able to recall necessary information when prompted.
Being able to take requests, issues, and complaints and match them up to the best possible solution or resource takes coordination and diligence.
There is actually quite a lot that goes into a support case. From a support ticket or sales-pitch to solution or sale — the length of communication can go on for months. Having a well-rounded understanding of problem-mapping, time-management, and available resources are essential for any successful agent.
We’re putting this one high up on the list for a reason. While some may argue that there are more important skills that can be acquired for an agent, we believe that this will continue to be a foundation for prosperous customer service.
Yes, every company is slightly unique, but nothing is more unique than a customer. Because of this, the ability to provide empathetic support remains a cornerstone. Unfortunately, most customers aren’t’ calling in or contacting an agent to rave about how great the product or service was. More often than not, customers are contacting an agent about an issue or to complain.
The ability to employ compassion to a customer during such a distressful time and maneuver them toward a useful solution is what it’s all about. Empathy allows agents to take what they are hearing (which may only be a small piece) and infer the rest. This allows a customer to feel heard, understood, and less stressed about explaining their issue.
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a skill that can constantly be improved through training. The ability to listen, digest, and provide a solution in an understandable and timely manner is indeed a skill.
The communication skills of a customer, however, are up in the air. Sometimes you’ll get an inquiry or a complaint that makes perfect sense, while other times it may be left up to the agent to fill the gaps. This is what separates great communicators from average ones.
Agents will need to be trained on the ins-and-outs of whatever product or service a customer may be dealing with. The more an agent knows about a product, the better they will be able to answer questions that aren’t as common.
Sure, simple inquiries or popular questions should be a breeze. Especially if the product or service isn’t too complicated. But once a more technical understanding comes into play for a more elaborate type of product, it may be worth breaking your teams up. This makes it easier for agents to hone in on the details and better solve a customer’s issues.
This segue’s into an agent’s ability to solve problems. The right knowledge about a product or service arms an agent with the necessary tools to solve a customer’s problem. Representatives should be able to identify a problem, find a solution (which could come in the form of an upsell), and defuse any possible tension. This is all part of the process.
It takes the right training to get to this step. It takes great organizational skills, empathetic responses, great communication, and a firm grasp on a product or service in order to reach this skill.
The Right Training Gets The Right Results
Your agents have a tough job. It takes a lot of skills in order to provide great service and great customer experience.
With the right mentality and investment in your agents, you can create training programs, simulations, case studies and environments for your representatives to learn the necessary skills and get you the results you need.