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Top Traits of Exceptional Customer Service Agents

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Brooke Lynch
02/24/2021

call center, customer experience, agent engagement

The pandemic produced devastating losses for the hospitality industry. With lockdowns and travel restrictions in place, the travel industry is facing what may be its greatest hardship, and hotels and restaurants are struggling to stay afloat. While it’s unfortunate in its own right, the millions of Americans employed in this sector have been faced with an even tougher reality, and yet many are powering through.

In a way, the pandemic created simultaneously the best and worst circumstances to consider a career change. While it may have been a forced shift, it also prompted a greater appreciation and consideration of the soft skills associated with the hospitality industry. And many companies realized this, according to the Wall Street Journal, Walmart reached out to the American Hotel & Lodging Foundation to express its desire to hire furloughed hospitality employees after it announced its plans to hire 150,000 new store associates. 

These skills are valuable in so many industries, especially customer service. Hospitality workers are no stranger to the high-pressure, customer-facing position. They’re also incredibly agile; accustomed to adapting to unique situations while presenting a positive and helpful demeanor when speaking with every customer. Therefore transitioning and reskilling talent with prior positions in the hospitality industry, or recruiting individuals with other valuable client-facing experience can be a way to attract and retain top customer service talent. Additionally, these skills will become even more valuable as industries begin to open up; customers returning to these sectors will expect over-the-top service after their long hiatus. With a revival of the hospitality industry, these qualities of relentless positivity and impressive efficiency will ensure that this influx of new customers brings lifelong advocates.  

In considering new outlets or backgrounds for customer service openings, it’s helpful to look at the wider range of soft skills that many of your most successful agents possess. Here are a few key areas where exceptional agents thrive:

 

The Power of Persuasion

According to Salesforce, persuasion can actually be just as effective on your customer service team as it is with your sales representatives. If agents can confidently respond to every inquiry and effectively ‘persuade’ customers with their ability to provide exceptional, easy experiences, customers will be more likely to work with your brand again. Additionally, this confident mindset can actually turn occasional customers into loyal brand advocates. 

Your customer service team is often the only real, human interaction a customer may have with your brand. Therefore, any conversation can be an opportunity to foster a more positive, exceptional overall impression of the company. When agents feel confident about the product or service they are assisting with, customers will likely gain a greater sense of trust and comfort when using that product. The old saying of ‘you get what you give’ applies as well -- if agents display confidence, it will eventually instill confidence in your customer base.

 

Timing is Everything

While time management has always been a desirable skill for most positions, it’s becoming a key differentiator in the remote environment. It may have been easy for employees to stay on deadline while in the office; but individuals are now working with less supervision and more independence, leaving them to decide how they get everything done. Effective time management, then, sets candidates apart; it gives employers more trust in agents, knowing they will properly manage their schedule, and gives employees the confidence to work within their own timeframe. 

 

Be Flexible 

One of the most important factors to consider when attempting to figure out whether a candidate maintains transferable skills is their relative flexibility. When looking at the day-to-day of a customer-oriented position, it will likely never appear exactly the same. While there may be repetitive inquiries and complaints, there are always outliers -- agents have to alternate between adhering firmly to policies, appeasing upset or emotional customers, assisting with technology, or simply articulating information in a way that resonates in every scenario. 

With this undertaking, agents are forced to wear many hats. In offering a seamless customer experience, agents are expected to offer a ‘one-stop shop’ answering every question with ease. Therefore, this level of flexibility is critical; although some tasks may be assigned to different departments, it benefits agents to become as knowledgeable as possible to facilitate a frictionless experience. By rejecting frequent transfers and providing quick solutions agents can provide stand-out customer service.

Additionally, this flexibility comes in handy when allocating new responsibilities or shifting roles, we saw many structural changes in the past year and a sense of openness is key when determining the right candidate. Flexibility is now a non-negotiable trait. While it may not have been easy to adjust to so many changes seemingly overnight, the most successful agents and supervisors reacted quickly and redirected their priorities to come out on top.

 

Actively Listen

We often talk about AI and quality assurance in determining customer sentiment, but agents should be the best tool of all. Although it may be difficult to analyze every conversation when your agents are having hundreds a day, active listening can help identify prominent issues or successes of your customer service front.

Promoting this sense of active listening with your agents can place more emphasis on the content of interactions rather than the outcome and hopefully initiate more long-term solutions. While agents may get comfortable with their scripts, they should feel inspired to actually pay attention to their surroundings and hear what their customers are saying. Agents will likely feel better prepared for future interactions and customers feel their complaints are being sufficiently recognized.

 

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