Every employee in your call center or customer service department has their own soft skills.
These are the personal qualities and traits that allow you to work well with others, achieve goals and generally perform your job efficiently. The most common soft skills include:
- a strong work ethic
- an ability to communicate well
- problem-solving capabilities
- being a team player
- possessing self-confidence
You have your own soft skills. You have your own strengths and weaknesses in all areas of your life. You may find it easy to bond with colleagues, collaborate efficiently and deal with customers, yet struggle with effective time management.
Wherever you excel and fall short, your soft skills (or lack thereof) affect your performance as an agent. And metrics can help team leaders and managers determine how you can improve.
Understanding Performance Metrics
There are many different metrics to measure performance. Generally, call centers and customer service departments should focus on around five or six metrics to keep their team performing at its best. Too many can make managing performance a little harder than it should be.
Team leaders and managers can learn more about their agents’ soft skills in a quick, simple way by studying performance metrics. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
Average Handle Time
Agents whose Average Handle Time is on the long side may struggle to identify the customer’s problem, due to poor product knowledge or weak conversation skills.
On the other hand, agents whose Average Handle Time is shorter than most probably communicate well, have real initiative and possess strong product / service knowledge.
That would make them a good fit for a team leader role, or to help train colleagues. And let’s not forget that faster resolutions suit customers too: a Forrester report reveals 73 percent feel one of the most important things a company can do to deliver good service is valuing their time.
They could be added to an underperforming team too, to inspire other agents and drive overall performance to a higher level.
Occupancy Rate is a performance metric used to measure agents’ productivity, shedding light on the amount of time they spend on interactions and related work. Low occupancy rates suggest employees may be looking to avoid dealing with customers or have trouble prioritizing tasks.
It’s also possible they’re distracted by colleagues around them. Even if they find focusing on tasks easy, too much peripheral activity could leave them unable to perform at the level they usually would.
These two examples demonstrate how helpful performance metrics are in understanding employees’ soft skills. It’s natural that team leaders and managers would want to improve workers’ soft skills, but you must do so responsibility.
Agents may feel self-conscious about their lack of people skills, organizational shortcomings and other weaknesses, so they must be approached with care. Likewise, you have to utilize those with great soft skills without showing any favoritism.
Make the most of these employees, and your entire workforce (and, as a result, your customers) could benefit from their influence.
Agent Allocation and Appropriate Responsibility Assignation
Specific soft skills can make particular agents ideal for handling certain responsibilities.
For example, an agent with lots of self-confidence and an ability to develop new skills quickly would be an excellent fit to lead a team of agents, especially if they’re lacking in these areas. Just one person who knows how to engage customers, work well with colleagues and adapt to unfamiliar tasks easily can make a big difference on others.
Furthermore, agents with good organizational and time-management skills would be a solid choice to take on greater responsibility. They might find helping to plan learning programs or team-building exercises an interesting challenge, without becoming overwhelmed by the change in their workload.
But another agent, one displaying signs of shyness and poor stress-management, would likely crumble when assigned to the same task. Appropriate responsibility assignation is crucial to ensure staff remain comfortable and satisfied in their role, whatever that may be.
Studying performance metrics and interactions (gathered through quality assurance) carefully makes identifying each agent’s soft skills easier. The best QA software centralizes metrics and offers employees greater visibility, ensuring everyone knows where they stand.
Improving Soft Skills for All Employees
Team leaders and managers can help agents improve their soft skills through effective coaching and training strategies.
Some employees may require more attention than others. A few coaching sessions to help an agent communicate with customers better could lead them to be more confident and efficient, transforming their evaluation scores in a big way. Yet a more intensive program might be necessary for those with weaker soft skills.
Coach and train each employee in accordance with their performance and profile. There’s no point subjecting your entire workforce to, say, self-confidence training if only 20 percent actually struggle with this. Likewise, inflicting cookie-cutter sessions covering interpersonal skills will waste the time of those who find communicating with others a breeze.
Our QA software makes it simple to build tailor-made feedback, coaching and training to suit each agent. Performance metrics can be compared and contrasted in a matter of moments, to track progress and determine how effective said training has been over a set period of time.
Having access to this data reduces the risk of wasting money on ineffective strategies, allowing team leaders and managers to make changes as required. There’s no guesswork or leaps of logic. All the information is right there for you.
As employees’ soft skills improve, agent allocation becomes far easier. Teams can be built to ensure the same mix of abilities across each, creating a more balanced workforce and enabling employees to learn from one another.
Measuring performance with the right metrics is fundamental for any successful call center or customer service department. Not only does this empower team leaders and managers with the data to identify problems, it makes improving performance simpler: you can delve deep into results to determine what work is required.
On top of this, studying metrics helps you understand which soft skills agents bring to the table and which need a little cultivation. A steady coaching and training routine makes boosting performance, agent allocation and appropriate responsibility assignation far easier.
This reduces the risk of putting people in the wrong positions and helps them achieve their potential sooner.
What do you think are the most important soft skills for customer service agents, and how do you encourage employees to improve theirs? Share your insights below!