Customer service representatives are the frontline touchpoint for your company. It is important to hire and retain agents that deliver the right tone as well as great customer service. During every interaction with customers, agents have the responsibility to create positive outcomes by tuning in and understanding what matters to the customer.
Here are a few pointers to help you find the right person for your next support tema opening.
Agent emotional intelligence (EQ) is key to providing positive customer experiences. An agent with a high EQ is able to make sure the customer feels heard and valued. Let’s take a look at what traits play into EQ.
Active listening is the platform upon which trust is built. Active listeners have more patience when solving problems and are better able to understand issues. Customers don’t like to be interrupted. They prefer to be heard and understood the first time around.
Paying attention to details your customers give you is not only important for effectively meeting your customer’s needs but it also demonstrates that you value them. Communication skills like paraphrasing (I hear x, y and z happened) and using phatic expressions (mmhms interspersed while listening) to encourage and acknowledge during conversation go a long way in creating a positive customer experience.
When the customer feels that agents hear where they are coming and empathize with their plight, it encourages further trust. Accurately labeling a customer’s experience (“that must be very tough”) demonstrates empathy as does ownership of a problem. Agents that insist on seeing a problem through( “I am going to stay on this call until this problem is resolved”, particularly during a transfer) garner more loyal customers and encourage sharing their positive experience.
Being able to turn a negative experience into a positive one requires creativity. It is often hard to see the good in the bad. But, an agent with high emotional EQ can find ways to craft and mold the customer’s experience.
Establishing a rapport from the get go communicates to your customers your ability to empathize and actively listen. This rapport builds trust in the relationship and your ability to meet their needs. Agents with high EQ establish a rapport with customers by using mirroring and paraphrasing.
Choosing the cream of the crop
So, how do you make sure you are hiring not only the best agents for your contact center but ones possessing a high EQ?
“Must have” criteria
Deciding what the most crucial skills or experiences new hires must have is the first step. The hiring team must be aligned on what these must have criteria are. Agreeing not to move forward with a candidate if they do not check all the must have boxes is essential.
Get the team involved
Ask your customer service team what they think are essential qualities pertaining to the job a new hire must have. No one knows what the job requires more than those who do it day in and day out.
Use your network
Leverage your social media following by posting job openings in these outlets. Rather than hiring the best of who applied you can shift to hiring the best person for the position. The number one reason for attrition in the contact center is simply hiring the wrong person for the job.
Give applicants a real-time look
As part of the application process, applicants can sit in with agents while they are fielding customer’s calls. That way, no one that you hire will leave citing the position was not as advertised.
This can range from roleplaying various scenarios to playing games that have been developed to assess for specific skill sets. Simulations can give you insight into how your customers will feel when interacting with this prospective agent. Furthermore, you can assess their EQ during these simulations.
Listening skills can be evaluated by having a conversation with the prospective agent about something they know a lot about. Are they able to remain calm and not interject? If they can listen to you ask a long winded question about their favorite book, they are likely to be able to do something similar in the contact center.
Sometimes gold does stay
Once you have hired the best person for the job, you want to keep them around. There is no use putting effort into the hiring process if you are just going to lose that agent in the long run.
Leadership and training
Retaining agents possessing important customer service skills starts with leadership. Let agents know there is value in the interactions they have by sharing metrics garnered from feedback and quarterly reports. Ask what you can do to make the contact center better tomorrow. Observe agents in their work stations to gain insight into how they interact with their environment and how to improve it.
It is important for leadership to convey that possibility exists and provide training. Checking in with agents with how you can improve their experience and offering training to do so demonstrates their importance to you and that you are willing to invest in them.
Give agents the power to solve problems with confidence using their native skills. You can prepackage what agents can offer to shift the experience from negative to positive. Agents do not need to ask for approval when offering these compensations. They have the ability to apply the right solution as they see fit.
Creative ownership has been shown to decrease agent attrition rates by 15%.
Keep agents engaged
Technology, such as IVR, can be used to do rote activities. It can recommend a campaign, employ auto dialing, or gather basic information. Leveraging technology enables agents to do the work that is uniquely human. They can utilize the emotional EQ that is so important in customer experiences.
When agents are engaged they don’t feel as if they are just cogs in the machine. They are expected to do creative work. The expectation keeps them engaged just as much as the act of creativity.
Make coming to work a cheer not a chore
A positive work environment is just as important to prevent attrition as good pay. A Gartner study showed that the second most important thing to employees, after compensation, was work life balance. Companies that realize and respect this have higher retention rates than those that don’t.
Allow breaks and encourage agents to talk not just with customers but with each other. Make the call center a place that being in is a positive experience in itself.
Leverage technology to create a hospitable working environment. Utilize configurable agent desktops, AI, and IVR to make interacting with customers as smooth as possible. Cloud contact center solutions are scalable, secure and reliable, encouraging flexibility in the workplace.
86% of people that have a positive experience with a contact center say they would do business with them again. Hiring agents possessing important customer service skills is the first step to creating that positive experience customers crave. Decreasing attrition rate is the second. Thankfully, today’s technology makes it easier to hold on to the agents you so value.