Contact Center Trends

WFH edition: 8 skills that every customer support agent should master

Kieran King

By Kieran King

0 min read

Working From Home

Now more than ever it’s time to think hard about ways to preserve and even build new relationships with customers. An exceptionally trained support team that handles all customer queries while maintaining high levels of empathy can go a long way. Support professionals are the name, face and voice of a company, so providing them with the right skill set to engage in successful interactions is key.

At Talkdesk®, our world-class support team has an average Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) rating of 98%. It’s a unique team and our customers recognize that — most of them are support professionals themselves. Based on our track record of customer support excellence, we’ve collected eight essential skills used by our professionals to build and maintain outstanding customer relationships.

1. Predict and prevent future problems

The best support professionals look ahead and offer ways to prevent future problems, proactively improving customer experience. Know the products or services inside and out. Understand the processes and seek information about emerging trends. An internal and external knowledge base can ensure support teams have access to the right resources and can actively contribute with suggestions that make information more accessible, accurate and relevant for peers and customers alike.

Agents have two responsibilities: one to the company and another to customers. Focus on resolving the present problem while preventing future ones from happening.

2. Active listening

Listening to customers is fundamental. They may have had trouble reaching you due to long hold times, they may need something urgently and they may be impacted by hardships in their personal life. They call with a problem and have more information about it than anyone, so listen to every caller with fresh ears instead of assuming to know where the conversation is heading.

The ultimate goal of a good support team should be to personalize every interaction as much as possible. Part of that personalization is to let each customer provide the details of their problem and be emotionally aware of how that problem is impacting them before providing a solution.

3. Protect customers from negative outcomes

Every support professional knows they have a primary goal to solve customer problems and a secondary goal to ensure that the customer leaves the experience happier than when they began. The problem-solving element can be handled via deep product or company knowledge and resource tools, but the emotional element requires a bit of finesse.

Moving too fast or using unfamiliar terminology will force the customer to ask the agent to slow down or repeat the solution. To avoid those negative outcomes, let the customer drive. Move the conversation at their pace, try to match the language they use and check if they are following your directions.

4. Don’t neglect communication and collaboration

Agents are on the receiving end of direct customer insights. The most valuable support providers are passionate about collaborating with teammates to spread information across the organization. Their goal isn’t to just increase their own personal knowledge, but to expand the entire team’s. When learning something new, think about the best way to share with the team, perhaps through the use of collaboration tools. However the team circulates information, knowledge should always be shared as widely and transparently as possible.

5. Never stop learning

There will always be something new for the team to learn. Often that’s keeping up with product roadmaps, new service bundles or special offers. Right now, many businesses are bringing new offers to market to stay competitive. Other businesses, such as travel and hospitality, are impacted differently and support teams may need to prioritize keeping up with rapidly changing policies. Agents need to be 100% knowledgeable from day one.

The best support teams have training programs and learning platforms that support continued skills development, helping agents broaden and refine their abilities.

6. Help customers help themselves

Customers are under pressures that aren’t always visible or easy to understand — especially right now. Positive support interactions aren’t just the ones that solve a customer problem. Make callers feel empowered to solve similar problems by themselves in the future, perhaps through the use of self-service tools.

7. Clear and effective communication

Speak slowly. It’s an easy way to guarantee that customers understand and it also shows a little empathy. Maybe the caller is canceling a vacation he’d been looking forward to for months, or is pregnant and trying to schedule a prenatal appointment while juggling health concerns amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The customer might have many questions, so a slower pace and basic vocabulary is often the best way to communicate clearly and effectively.

8. Stay cool, calm and collected under pressure

People have different ways of coping with uncertainty, anxiety and stress. It’s important to remember that customers might be dealing with current events while also facing the customer service issue they’re experiencing.

No matter how much the customer is panicking, support professionals need to stay calm. It’s important to remember that emotional control is a key element in customer support and displaying a calm attitude will encourage the same in customers.


A good support team is more than just a collection of people armed with a handful of skills. The right team is built of individuals who have a commitment to ongoing education, the emotional ability to handle upset callers and the collaborative attitude to solve problems with them. The combination of technical and emotional knowledge goes a long way in building a personal connection between a brand and its customers.

This is an updated edition. To read the original, go here.

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Kieran King

Kieran King

Kieran leads Talkdesk’s global customer success and CX strategy teams. She is absolutely fanatical about helping customers succeed and a passionate supporter of gender balance.