Sign up to get full access to all our latest content, research, and network for everything customer contact.

Best Personalities for Customer Service Agents

Add bookmark

Matt Wujciak

Whether you consume business research, work in a contact center environment or simply have common sense, you’re aware that bad customer service is costly. It, in fact, leads to billions of dollars in losses each year.

Not simply bad for the bottom line, bad service breeds customer hostility. Those customers direct their hostility at agents, who are literally getting abused as consumer behavior becomes increasingly less tolerable in the automated, digital age. Taking a look at the ever-so-chaotic airline industry, for example, a recent CNN article stated that all airline customer service agents  surveyed by the government reported being verbally harassed by passengers. And 1 in 10 said passengers attempted to physically assault them in the last year.

While agents are currently bearing the brunt of bad customer service, the right agents have the power to positively transform the customer experience. Finding the best-equipped agents has never been more imperative, so we took a look at 3 personality styles you should know.

Read More: Why Agent Motivation Should Be Your Biggest Performance Goal



According to a Harvard Business Review study that categorized 7 different genres of customer service reps, empathizers are the most desired by managers. This is unsurprising given the widespread emphasis on “human” connections.

Research confirms that customers do not, however, feel the same way. Empathizers tend to fall in the middle of the pack for key performance indicators like customer satisfaction and average handle time; their scores markedly trail those of controllers. Think about it for a second. When your luggage gets sent to Frankfurt, Germany instead of Athens, Greece, a date goes awry because the reservation was never recorded in the CRM system, or your credit card information was compromised and you’ve been on hold since the last time the Jets won a game (not even a playoff game, just regular game), you don’t feel like receiving empathy. You want resolution.

Read More: Understanding the Evolution of Customer Centricity



Only 2% of managers said they would hire controllers ahead of other types. However, they achieve the highest level of performance out of any genre of customer service agents. Controllers focus less on asking customers what they’d like to do and more on telling them what they should do—the aim always being to get to the fastest and easiest resolution, while balancing a personal connection in an attempt to retain customer loyalty. The conversation may be pointed, but it still feels decidedly human and off-script, as if it is a friend giving need-to-know advice. Not simply better at finding solutions, controllers tend to shun generic language and prescribed checklists, especially when their diagnosis suggests that customers have already invested significant time trying to resolve an issue on their own. Controllers are taking matters into their own hands to solve the problem, in turn creating a higher level of personalization. Isn’t that the objective of empathy in the first place? 

Read More: What do Apple, KFC, Johnson & Johnson, and Coca-Cola Have in Common?



We love to say that competition breeds excellence, but when it comes to customer service agents, competitors actually perform at the lowest rates. They tend to focus more on surpassing other employees and organizational branches, as opposed to competing with different companies, resulting in poor team chemistry and communication. Anyone who has taken away business values from sports teams will tell you that combining strengths on a team can create a synergistic effect where the solution is greater than the sum of its counterparts (the concept of 2 + 2 =5).

Take a look at Chick-fil-A’s award-winning customer service model, for example. According to,  “Rather than pit stores against each other to encourage competition, Chick-fil-A wants its franchisees to feel as though they are all on the same team,” which is actually an uncommon approach among restaurants in the fast food industry.. That might just have something to do with why Chick-fil-A reigns as the most significant brand in the mind of the U.S. consumer among fast food restaurants,  according to Business Insider). And when training customer service agents, the privately owned restaurant’s management teams emphasize personal interaction and results over procedure… Hmmm sounds a lot like controllers.