Soft skills are underrated. This is likely because of the label “soft.” In truth, soft skills can be rather difficult to master. These skills, also called interpersonal skills, require a significant amount of psychological work and neurological strengthening. They aren’t a given. No one is born with the flawless ability to make decisions, and no one walks into their first job with perfect collaboration skills. Although some can be personal traits, it would be hard to find someone who masters them all. Many can be learned over time.
Any employer would be remiss to hire an agent without evaluating, or at least asking about, their soft skills. There are tons of them. Nearly all of them will aid your employee’s performance in some way, and some may be more specific to your line of work. Regardless, you should always be identifying and strengthening customer service soft skills, like those below, in your staff.
1. Ability to listen
This goes without saying for a customer service agent. If you cannot listen to the customer on the phone, you will never solve their problem. Online support staff also need the ability to “listen” to and solve issues. Listening consists of understanding not only the customer's problem but also the way they feel in order to reply the right way.**Customer service tools growing companies can use to scale their customer service**
As much as you train on listening, you’ll get nowhere if your agents cannot communicate effectively. This seems like another no-brainer as far as customer service soft skills go. Listen to the customer, and respond in an appropriate manner. This one is slightly easier to train on than the listening portion. Use role-playing activities and give feedback to work on both skills simultaneously.
3. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence means understanding and managing your emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Managing the customer’s “happiness” is exactly what emotional intelligence is about. This is a core concept that all customer service staff should understand and be able to execute.
Some customers want sympathy. Others want empathy. Sympathy is great - customers will likely appreciate any apologies you give for their issues. But if the customer knows that you not only understand their issue and can see where their frustration is coming from, but proceed to find a solution with their emotions in mind, you are practicing empathy, and your customers will feel much more understood and comfortable in the resolution process.
No customer wants to call your company and get stuck with an agent who is clearly hating every second that they are spending on the phone. Even if agents may not actually be particularly enthusiastic, they need to act like they are when speaking to a customer. If the customer thinks the agent doesn’t care about their work or company, they will think that the company does not care about them.
6. Works well under pressure
Everyone gets nervous. Everyone panics. When an agent is dealing with a tough or urgent situation with a customer, they can’t afford to panic. Keeping a calm voice/tone and speaking coherently instead of in a rushed, confused manner will inspire confidence in your customers.
No customer ever enjoyed being transferred from department to department over and over trying to get an answer. Of course, sometimes it’s normal for agents to ask for help from other departments. But they shouldn’t hand things off unless absolutely necessary. Agents should be independent enough to find answers on their own and deliver them to the customer with confidence, straight from them, not a 3rd party.
Customer service staff deal with many customer issues day in and day out. Those experiences could easily begin to blur together for someone who is not well-organized. Customers don’t want you answering the question that you promised another person you would get for them 10 minutes ago. Agents need to keep their cases organized and communicate the correct information for the specific task at hand.
9. Writing skills
Believe it or not, employers these days consider writing a “soft” skill. Being able to write well is crucial for almost any position. For customer service agents, the ability to craft a carefully-worded but positive, informative, and brief written communication is a must. These kinds of messages help customers feel cared about and important, especially if their issue is going to take some time to resolve or if your agent is busy with other tasks.
10. Follow-up skills
Jumping off from the writing skills, follow up skills are hugely important in customer service. If something goes unresolved, follow up. If an agent needs to get more information and circle back, make sure they know to do it, and how. If the customer feels neglected or forgotten, you’ve lost an opportunity to impress and further strengthen customer loyalty and trust.
Last, but absolutely least when it comes to customer service soft skills, is friendliness. Having a careless or defensive tone should never happen. A friendly tone can be as easy as smiling while customer service staff are or the phone or on the chat with customers.
Although many of these things come with time and training, many can also be inherent to the people you hire.
The best way to train for most soft (interpersonal) skills is through role-playing activities. Practice, practice, practice. Sit down with your agents and pretend to be a customer. See how the interaction goes, and tell them where one of these skills could have been used more. Point out the situations in which these skills are important, and give your agents feedback on how well they execute the behaviors associated.
There are few roles as interpersonal as a customer service agent. The nature of the job is to interact with real people in a meaningful and positive way. These skills are absolutely something worth helping your employees grow. Invest in their ability to succeed in every customer interaction.