What are the most important customer support skills?
We want you to find people who are a great fit in your service scenario. People whose required skills are must-haves, not nice-to-haves.
23 December
6 min read
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We can all agree that the old way of hiring customer support agents is outdated, right?

Picking service representatives who accept the lowest wages no longer cuts it. Besides being ethically problematic, it’s also off-target from a focused consumer experience perspective.

Hiring people who aren’t that good can sledgehammer your reputation and your bottom line. Nearly 100% of respondents in a Zendesk service study said bad customer service changed their buying behaviour. Close to half continued to be affected, even 2 years after the initial experience.

Finding high-quality talent to serve your loyal customers matters. Picture your agents as merry elves turning consumer frowns upside down. They fulfil wishes, fix sticky situations, and spread cheer. Your talent is your public face. They represent you to your customers.

So how do you find the right people to navigate customer journeys? Luckily, you don’t need a magic wand. All you need is a hotlist of skills to look out for and you’re good to go.

The Control Quotient

There’s a favoured personality type for service recruiters. It’s the ‘Empath’. This archetype is service-oriented with good listening skills and a desire to help others.

However, studies by Gartner and Harvard Business Review indicate a top-performing personality type successful at reducing customer effort. And, news flash, it isn’t Empaths. It’s the ‘Controller’. This personality type delivers the maximum customer satisfaction according to both studies.

Problem-solving is the Controller’s raison d’etre, so it isn’t surprising that customers sing their hosannas. They have strong opinions and show their expertise by taking charge of customer interactions. Controllers are efficient at getting the job done.

However, thanks to more traditional views of customer service, Controllers are the least favoured by managers and companies. Even though they come out as top performers in actual practice.

Let’s take a look at the ‘Control Quotient’ (CQ) that makes these people such high-quality hires for customer service. By cheering the particular skills that high CQers possess, we hope to throw professional bouquets instead of brickbats their way.

After all, it’s Superman solving the world’s problems, not his mild-mannered alter-ego, Clark Kent.

Solutions-oriented

High-CQ reps thrive on being able to evaluate situations on the spot. They’re also good at finding solutions to complex customer issues. And since 90% of customers rate issue resolution the highest, Controllers come out on top.

Imagine your customer flailing in a jungle river. Who’s going to be the best help? Someone who wrestles crocs, chops vines, and swings them out of there quickly.

Ownership

Controllers like to exercise ownership of situations. They have take-charge personalities and view work as a domain of expertise.

Customers prefer them because they take the initiative quickly and come up with innovative resolutions. They even take constructive feedback on board as a natural outcome of assuming responsibility.

Work ethic

Controllers display a strong work ethic. Being task-oriented, they do whatever it takes to finish the job. Their determination and commitment to providing high-quality support make them exemplary employees.

Think of them as the Duracell bunny. They’re still going long after other battery types have spent their charges.

Resilience

Service reps have to regularly enter the battlezone of belligerent customers, and Controllers fare well here.

Being detail-oriented, they’re able to remain in control of stressful situations. By applying critical thinking and adaptability, they can resolve many problems.

What could be better than a customer service rep who demonstrates resilience in volatile moments?

The Emotional Quotient

Workers with high emotional intelligence are easy to like. They are good communicators with healthy interpersonal skills.

While having a high CQ is great for problem-solving, EQ matters because customers still rate the personal touch as critical in their interactions with support staff. According to McKinsey, 70% of the customer’s journey is based on their perception of how they’re being treated.

Should the milk of human kindness slow to a trickle, your customers will quickly switch to a competitor.

Hiring talent rich in emotional intelligence gives you better communicators adept at conflict management. High EQ agents can boost positive feelings, soothe frazzled nerves, and affect your company’s bottom line.

Empathy, active listening, teamwork, diplomacy, and good communication skills are all hallmarks of a high EQ.

The nicest thing about high EQers is their ability to voice their opinion while respecting others’ views. Consideration and respect are key skills to have in almost all service scenarios.

The Intelligence Quotient

When we say IQ, the image that springs to mind is a labcoat-sporting MENSA-professional jotting down important thoughts on a clipboard. However, as defined by Encyclopedia Britannica, IQ is the relative intelligence of a person. An IQ score is a measure of someone’s reasoning ability.

It’s always good to look at your talent’s educational qualifications and IQ scores. It helps you gauge how talent uses information and logic to answer questions or make predictions.

But remember, IQ isn’t the sole measure of success. Intelligence must go hand in hand with many interpersonal skills and personality traits to become a performance indicator. These extra categories include CQ & EQ, opportunity, and even a little luck.

Intelligence does matter. Just not as much as you might think.

What Customers Want

Microsoft asked 5,000 respondents, “What is the most important aspect of a good customer service experience?” Over a third said it was having their issue resolved in a single interaction, however long it took.

Judging talent based on handling time is common error. It stems from an incorrect assumption about what customers want.

McKinsey research suggests what customers actually care about is transparency and accurate resolutions, even if these take longer.

As Callie Field, executive vice president of customer care at T-mobile said, “If all you ask people to do is bring down their handle time, they can do that. But if you empower them to do more, they can do that too. And they’ll do it really well if you give them the tools and get out of their way.”

Ensure the skills and qualifications you look for are the ones required for customer satisfaction.

And, remember, you can attract high-quality talent by empowering your agents, so that they can truly shine.

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