13 Call center skills for agent success

Pradeep Vasudev

August 4, 20236 min read

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Call centers play a pivotal role in shaping your customer experience, which in turn, hinges upon your skills as an agent. Agents are the frontliners in the customer support equation — and it’s critical for them to have the necessary call center skills to act as problem solvers, empathetic listeners and sometimes even brand ambassadors to deliver positive customer service experiences. 

 Customers are likely to spend 140% more after a positive customer service experience. 
Zippia 

In this blog, we delve into the key skills that call center agents require to thrive in their roles — and how you as an agent can create meaningful connections that will improve your customer experience. 

Table of Contents

Importance of acquiring the right call center skills for agents 

An agent with the right call center skills can ensure their own success in providing great customer service, and also the success of the entire call center operations. 

How does that happen? 

Armed with the right skills, you as a call center agent can help with:   

  1. Enhancing customer satisfaction: Call center agents who possess exceptional communication and problem-solving skills can swiftly address customer inquiries and concerns. This makes customers feel satisfied and valued, positively impacting your customer satisfaction scores. 

    A well-trained agent armed with the right skills can also efficiently resolve customer issues right during their first interaction. High first call resolution (FCR) rates imply a reduced need for repeat calls and improved overall efficiency in operations, making customers happier and in turn improving customer retention rates in the long run. 
     
    Learn more: Tips to improve your first call resolution

  2. Boosting employee morale: Equipped with the right skills, you will feel more confident and empowered as an agent, which in turn improves job satisfaction and motivation. High employee morale also translates to a more positive work environment and reduced attrition rates.

  3. Building customer trust: Modern customers want to know they are being heard and understood. Trust is essential to cultivate long-lasting customer relationships — and being skilled in active listening and customer empathy creates genuine connections that build trust with customers. Also, helpful, relevant support conversations can improve customer satisfaction, in turn influencing customer retention and loyalty.

  4. Handling challenging situations: Call center agents encounter a diverse range of customers, including those who may be upset or frustrated. With the right people skills, you can handle these tense situations with composure and professionalism, de-escalating crises and turning negative experiences into positive ones.

  5. Embodying your brand’s values: You need to effectively convey the company's values and mission in every customer interaction. As the brand’s ambassadors, call center agents need to ensure that each conversation reflects positively on the company and supports its objectives. Competent service with a professional touch creates a lot of positive buzz, which in turn boosts your brand’s image and reputation. 

In the next section, we will delve into the specific call center skills that are crucial for agent success and how they positively impact the customer experience. 

Essential call center skills for agents 

Here are 13 important skills needed for every call center agent to provide memorable customer service experiences: 

  • Active listening 

  • Effective communication 

  • Empathy/emotional intelligence 

  • Problem-solving abilities 

  • Product knowledge 

  • Time management 

  • Multitasking 

  • Patience and resilience 

  • Conflict resolution 

  • Adaptability 

  • Upselling and cross-selling expertise 

  • Technical proficiency 

  • A learner mindset 

Now let’s discover how each of these skills translate to a better support experience, both for you and your customers. 

Active listening 

Being an active listener is paramount in understanding customers' issues fully. You should focus on the caller's words, ask clarifying questions and be willing to patiently listen to customer queries and concerns to fully understand them before assisting.

How to improve active listening skills as a call center agent 

  • Focus on listening to the customer's words without interrupting or assuming their needs

  • Paraphrase customer queries to reassure them that you understand them and to establish a genuine intention to help.

Effective communication 

Exceptional communication skills are the bedrock of a great customer support experience. You always need to articulate information clearly, maintain a professional tone and adapt your communication style to suit each customer's needs and preferences. 

How to improve effective communication skills as a call center agent 

  • Practice speaking clearly and confidently to convey information effectively. 

  • Use positive language and avoid technical jargon to ensure customers understand you. 

Empathy/emotional intelligence 

Demonstrating empathy allows you to connect with customers on an emotional level. Agents with high emotional intelligence can navigate delicate situations with sensitivity, making customers feel heard and valued. 

How to improve empathy and emotional intelligence as a call center agent 

  • Put yourself in the customer's shoes to understand their feelings and concerns. 

  • Control your emotions during interactions to respond professionally and empathetically. 

Learn more: How to show empathy in customer service

Problem-solving abilities 

As a call center agent, you might encounter a wide range of issues everyday. Possessing strong problem-solving skills empowers you to identify root causes, explore viable solutions and implement effective resolutions promptly and efficiently. 

How to improve problem-solving abilities as a call center agent 

  • Analyze past cases to identify common issues and effective resolutions. 

  • Collaborate with experienced colleagues to learn from their creative problem-solving approaches

    7 steps to problem solving as a call center agent

Product knowledge 

You need to have a deep understanding of the company's products and services to provide accurate information and address customer inquiries confidently. Without strong product knowledge, you might take more time to resolve issues or transfer the call too many times, leading to friction and customer frustration. 

How to improve product and service knowledge as a call center agent 

  • Study product manuals, attend training sessions and seek clarification from product experts to fully understand its features and capabilities. 

  • Sign up for regular product updates and engage in quizzes — this helps you refresh your knowledge and reinforce your understanding.

Time management 

Efficiently managing call handling time is crucial for call center productivity. You need to strike a balance between providing quality support and maintaining reasonable call durations to keep customers happy, satisfied and confident in your support initiatives. 

How to improve time management skills as a call center agent 

  • Set time goals for each call type to maintain efficient call handling. 

  • Leverage advanced call center software that will help improve your productivity. For example, smart routing capabilities can help customers reach the right agents quickly, and canned responses can help you respond faster with pre-approved messages.

    Respond quickly to customer queries with Sprinklr's AI-powered Smart Responses

Multitasking 

Juggling multiple tasks during a call is often necessary in customer service. Effective call center agents can handle note-taking, system navigation and active listening simultaneously, without compromising the customer experience in any way. 

How to improve multitasking skills as a call center agent 

  • Practice note-taking while listening to enhance your ability to process information quickly and efficiently. 

  • Using keyboard shortcuts to switch between applications can help agents be agile and save a lot of precious time during resolutions.

💡Pro tip: Switching between applications and taking notes is still time-consuming — and that’s exactly why you need a customer support solution with omnichannel capabilities and AI-powered call summaries. Using it, you can focus more on providing a great support experience and worry less about how you’d be able to do it. 

Patience and resilience 

Call center agents encounter challenging situations and irate customers more frequently than we think. Cultivating patience and resilience equips you to handle such scenarios professionally, without taking any negativity personally.

How to improve patience and resilience as a call center agent 

  • Share experiences and coping mechanisms with team members for mutual support. 

  • Take short breaks between intense calls to avoid burnout. You can also take a short stroll, or even do some quick stretches before you jump on to the next call.

Stretches an agent can do for managing call center stress

Learn more: How to manage call-center stress and become a happier agent 

Conflict resolution  

De-escalating conflicts is a valuable skill that can help you turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal advocate. You should try to remain calm, acknowledge concerns and offer practical solutions to diffuse tense situations. 

How to improve conflict resolution skills as a call center agent 

  • Role-play challenging scenarios with colleagues to build confidence in situations involving potential escalations, and to test out your techniques in a safe environment. 

  • Use a calm and composed tone and acknowledge customer grievances while offering solutions; an agent losing their cool while resolving issues can only do more harm than good. 

Learn more: How to Turn Your Customers into a Community of Brand Advocates

Adaptability 

The ability to adapt to different customer personalities and varying types of interactions is essential for any customer-facing function. Be versatile with your approach, ensuring customer interactions remain positive regardless of the situation.

How to improve adaptability as a call center agent 

  • Participate in cross-functional training programs to handle various call types confidently. 

  • Collect feedback through customer surveys to understand user preferences and adapt your approach to a diverse range of customers. 

Upselling and cross-selling expertise 

Apart from addressing customer queries, skilled agents can identify opportunities to upsell or cross-sell relevant products or services, contributing to increased revenue generation. 

How to improve upselling and cross-selling skills as a call center agent

  • Understand customer needs before proposing relevant upsell or cross-sell options. 

  • Highlight the value addition of additional products and services to increase customer interest — don’t try to sell your customers a product/service, sell them a use-case that they struggle to handle on a regular basis. 

Technical proficiency 

Proficiency in call center software, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and other call center technology enhance agent productivity and enable smooth interactions. 

How to improve technical proficiency as a call center agent 

  • Enroll in technical workshops to enhance proficiency in call center software. 

  • Quickly seek IT support for any technical challenges to maintain seamless interactions and keep your operations running without any hiccups.

A learner mindset  

The call center landscape is ever-evolving, with new products, services and customer expectations arising regularly. For you to be successful, you need to embrace a growth mindset, seeking opportunities for continuous learning to stay updated and relevant.  

How to cultivate a learner mindset as a call center agent

  • Regularly set aside time for self-study, exploring trends and best practices to stay on top of your customer service game. 

  • Join online forums or discussion groups to share knowledge and learn from peers. 

Now that we’ve learned all about the skill-specific ways to improve your customer service, we'll explore how you can collectively improve all these skills in the next section. 

Best practices to develop your call center skills 

Becoming a highly skilled call center agent requires dedication, practice and a commitment to continuous improvement. Here are some of the most common and proven strategies to comprehensively improve call center skills, that are adopted by agents worldwide. 

  1. Participate in comprehensive training programs: Engage in formal training sessions that cover essential call center skills — such as effective communication, active listening and escalation management. These programs may be provided by your employer or through external workshops and online courses. 

  2. Revisit recorded calls and interactions: Take advantage of call monitoring and recording systems to review your interactions with customers. Analyzing these recordings objectively allows you to identify strengths and weaknesses in your approach and constantly improve the quality of your support.

  3. Shadow top performers: Observe and learn from experienced, high-performing call center agents. Shadowing them during live calls provides insights into their successful strategies and techniques.

  4. Seek mentorship: Request mentorship from experienced leaders or colleagues who have excelled in the call center environment. A mentor can provide guidance, share experiences and offer personalized support for your growth.

  5. Leverage artificial intelligence (AI): AI has really transformed the customer service experience for both agents and customers alike. With features like AI-powered analytics that help identify areas of improvement and AI-based sentiment analysis that can gauge customer emotions during interactions, you can now constantly deliver empathetic, helpful responses to your customers, all the time every time. 

Sprinklr Service widgets showing insights on sentiment, language and location.

Adopting these strategies and investing in your personal and professional development can help you continuously evolve as a skilled call center agent. It also helps you focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences and achieving long-term success in your role.  

Final thoughts 

Call centers have an important part in customer experience management, and you as an agent play a major role in determining the quality of this experience. Empowered with the right skills, you can consistently provide great experiences and keep your customers happy.  

We’ll do you one better — embracing unified contact center solutions and AI-driven productivity boosters can help enhance efficiency through valuable insights, while significantly reducing your workload. Through the process of upskilling and embracing modern contact center technology, you can leave a lasting, positive impact on customers — solidifying the call center's role at the heart of exceptional customer service. 

Interested to know more? 

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Soft skills in call centers refer to interpersonal and communication abilities that enable agents to interact effectively with customers. Some examples include:  

  • active communication and listening 

  • problem-solving 

  • time management.

Sprinklr Service
AI Agent Assist

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