Building a customer support team is no simple task. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies need the best human capital possible to drive brand loyalty and customer retention. The “perfect” hire may not exist, but there are a few essential soft skills to look out for in a prospective customer service agent that indicate a suitable personality and skill base to deliver excellent customer service. Here are the intangible soft skills and qualities we believe are essential when recruiting for customer support teams.
1. Strong command of neutralized English
One of the top complaints by customers in customer service interactions is difficulty in communication due to language. Indeed, English is a complex language and people in native English-speaking countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia often have varying regional dialects and subtle nuances that an international agent may not be able to replicate. Rather than trying to accent match, a better approach is to neutralize an agent’s accent.
Agents should be screened not simply by their proficiency but also their ability to neutralize their accent. A neutral accent is the most understandable by a majority of English speakers and therefore agents with neutral accents tend to earn higher customer satisfaction rates. Asking the candidate about different work scenarios during the interview process gives him or her the chance to show the depth and breadth of their English-speaking ability.
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2. Tonality & Attitude
According to a study conducted by consulting firm Software Advice, 65% of customers preferred an informal tone compared to a formal tone when speaking to a customer service representative. However, 78% of customers surveyed in a separate study indicated their dislike an overly informal tone.
So should tone be formal or informal?
There is no black and white answer of course. The best tone is one that balances friendliness and empathy with professionalism and product (or service) knowledge. Customers want to get the fastest solution to their issue, but not be rushed or treated rudely. Humanising responses to show personal convictions is a great tactic by which agents can show empathy.
Tone and attitude can be gauged during the interview process and improved further through targeted training that emphasizes conversational skills during customer service interactions.
Effective customer service also requires agents to be mentally flexible. Customer service agents in today’s omnichannel contact center environment must be able to navigate customer interactions across a variety of mediums including phone, email, live chat, and social media. Furthermore, upon analysing the customer’s calling history, the agent should be able to effectively tailor his or her interactions to a customer’s mood.
For example, if the caller has called multiple times about the same issue, he/she will likely be frustrated when calling in again – especially if the issue has not been resolved. It’s best then for the agent to be extra polite and empathetic while attempting to guide the customer to the solution.