5 Must-Have Soft Skills For Customer Support Agents

Soft Skills image

Soft Skills

plural, noun.

personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.

This the dictionary definition of ‘soft skills’. Typically, soft skills go beyond the pre-schooler ability to say “please” and “thank you” at the right moments. A positive flexible attitude, the ability to deal with people and common sense come to mind as must-haves for any good support agent.

There are probably a handful of soft skills that must be a part of the arsenal of an excellent customer support agent.  But a combination of the five given below will generally be helpful in moulding a nice support agent into a well-rounded and superlative customer support executive.

Resilience

Fairly straightforward. Hostile clients? Rude customers? People who vent their frustration on you? Chances are, a busy support agent might come across one or more such clients on a regular basis. Some might even move the poor agent to tears. This is where resilience comes in.[pullquote]When the going gets tough, resilience gives a support agent the wherewithal to dig deep and move forward.[/pullquote]

In the words of Dean Becker, the president and CEO of Adaptiv Learning Systems, “More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails.“ This is true for leaders of nations and it is true for customer support agents. When the going gets tough, resilience gives you the wherewithal to dig deep and move forward.

Self-confidence

Unlike Resilience, which can be a bit of a nebulous concept, self-confidence isn’t. It is a quality that is the foundation of many bigger qualities, one that leads to better things. In the customer service industry, self-confidence leads to customer confidence. Why? Because it makes it easy for the support agent to remain in control at all times, even when he’s in a tight spot.

It helps the agent to do his job the best way possible, even when the clients are doing their worst. As tennis great Arthur Ashe said, self-confidence is an important key to success.

Patience

One skill that goes hand-in-hand with self-confidence, is patience. It is a virtue, yes but sometimes, it can be hard to be virtuous when you are at the end of your tether and are faced with one of the most challenging calls of all time. What’s a person got to do? Well, digging deep is one and drawing on hitherto untapped wells of patience is second.

In the words of a Hebrew philosopher, “the test of good manners is to be patient with the bad ones”. And your good manners may be all that stands between a great day for your product and a bad one!

Communication

I don’t know if this will be acknowledged as a true soft skill by many but to me, the ability to understand others and make oneself understood is most definitely a soft skill. It is one that needs to be honed diligently as great communication is the key to many great things. And as a support agent, communication is key for success in their chosen career and for growth.

Communication goes beyond just the words we use. Good communication  is a fine blend of the words we use, the way we transmit them and how we present them. In the case of face to face interaction, body language also comes into play. What is key is that the style and method of delivery must be always tuned to suit the personality of the customer we are communicating with.

Being a team player

A no-brainer, right? After all, who needs to be a team player more than a support agent? There is no place for solo fliers and ego in a customer support team and unless everyone pulls forward together, your company and its product might as well wave the flag and call it quits. A stellar team can boost the popularity of a

A good support agent always pulls together, along with the rest of his team and the common goal is  the only goal in sight. He listens actively, is a great sharer, is flexible , co-operative and is 100% committed. In fact, a good team player has a whole lot of other soft skills in his arsenal – which is why, he / she is a prized asset!

To get a good read on a customer, especially one who isn’t sitting across the desk from you, one needs a good dash of Emotional Quotient (EQ) as well, to go with the pre-existing and welcome supply of soft-skills. Every human being is blessed with a certain degree of emotional intelligence, and emotional quotient is a measure of that. Emotional Quotient is what gives a person the ability to sense things without them being pointed out explicitly. In the business environment, EQ is vital because it helps a person leverage his/her awareness of emotions for workplace effectiveness.

A potent combination of the five soft skills we have listed above, coupled with a good dash of EQ will result in a great customer experience. After all, that is the goal we are all striving for, right?

Agree? Disagree? Share your views with us and tell us why.

Lavanya Donthamshetty

Writer. Apple-lover. Follower of big brands. Interested in talking about all things customer support. Follow me on Twitter @lavanyad