Great customer service agents are invaluable in any business. Not only can they make your customers happy in an instant, but they can completely change the perception of your company.

Finding these great agents, however, isn’t easy. Here are twelve customer service skills all great agents need and what you should look for when building your team…

1) Product and industry knowledge – This skill is required because it’s a huge confidence boost to agents. Not being able to properly communicate due to a lack of knowledge or being called out by a customer can be damaging to a company’s reputation. A good customer support training program can get agents up to speed quickly.

2) Positive outlook and attitude – This is a skill that won’t benefit from a training program at all. Instead, a positive outlook starts when an agent wakes up every single morning. It’s how they see the world and this mindset rubs off in each interaction they have throughout their day, including with customers. You can help by providing a positive work environment that they look forward to being in every day.

3) Excellent listening and information retention – Agents often work with a customer when something is wrong or broken. Everyone is in a hurry to fix the issue, with the customer often trying to quickly solve the problem and speaking rapidly. This is when an agent needs to be able to listen and decipher the key pieces of information they need to do their job. Sometimes asking a customer to repeat themselves can make things worse.

4) Situational awareness – This skill is all about knowing not what questions to ask, but when to ask them. Agents that are aware of the situation at hand can respond appropriately to customers so they can resolve their problems in an intelligent manner. Agents lacking this skill can easily get out of their comfort zone and into bad situations.

5) Authenticity – Being able to accurately read a situation also enables you to be authentic with your response. All agents have unique personalities, and customers are savvy enough to detect when an agent is holding back. Assuming the agent has a positive outlook, let them be themselves and express their personality. The agent will feel more confident and they will also be more likely to get authentic responses from the customer.

6) Empathy – Part of being a great agent is being authentic, especially when empathizing with customers. Being sincere with your empathy when something goes wrong shows a customer that your company cares about their business. They’re more than just a line item on a balance sheet, their success is important to you.

7) Clear and concise communication – Hitting the right mood and emotion with customers is great, but great agents also do this in a way that doesn’t feel drawn out or overblown. Clear and concise communication, both written and verbal, is often required to get customers leaving the conversation with that “wow, they did a great job” experience.

8) Tech-savvy – Another way to create that “wow” moment is by finding support agents that are tech-savvy. With powerful customer support software solutions available today, agents have seemingly unlimited information at their fingertips. An agent that can get the information a customer needs in minutes instead of hours will always impress.

9) Adaptability – An agent that is both tech-savvy and adaptable is awesome. They can bounce between multiple channels as needed based on volume fluctuations to work on different customer issues. One moment they’ll be answering simple questions in live chat, the next they’re attempting to tackle a complex ticket via the customer portal. Agents that are adaptable are the glue that holds support teams together.

10) Creative problem solving – So many businesses undervalue this skill, yet it’s one of the defining characteristics of great agents. Finding an agent to answer basic questions isn’t tough, but finding one that can solve a seemingly impossible problem for a big customer is challenging. An agent capable of “thinking outside the box” holds tremendous value to any business.

11) Willing to grow their skill set – It’s not uncommon that creative agents are also the most willing to grow their skill set. Companies should embrace this thirst for learning and knowledge by sending these agents to relevant training and conferences. You’ll meet their desire to grow professionally and they’ll come back with great ideas to improve the way you work.

12) Thick skin – The last skill is here for a reason. Being an agent isn’t an easy job, and even great agents will encounter angry customers that are upset and just want to be heard. These are scenarios where an agent needs to have thick skin and understand that the actions or words of the customer are not because of something they’ve done. Being able to brush off these conversations and not take them personally is a skill that keeps great agents balanced and ready to tackle the next issue.

As you can see, not even a handful of customer service skills truly defines a great agent. There are so many skills that agents need, especially if they work with a wide variety of customers, to exceed expectations and create the experiences you want customers to have with your business.

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