Nine Skills Every Call Center Agent Needs

In order to meet the growing demands of customer communications, many call centers have expanded their operations to include other forms of communications, such as email, instant messaging, and social media.  Because of this expanded role, agents need to be able to communicate in a variety of different media.

Agencies need to enlarge their capabilities beyond verbal communication skills, which have, until recently, been paramount.  They need to train their employees to develop writing and reading comprehension skills for email and instant messages, and to develop their body language and visual observation skills for video chat.

Clients expect immediate replies across whatever communication route they choose, and call center managers need their agents to be able to meet these goals.

Here are nine key job skills required for success in a call center:

People skills

Call center agents must be able to communicate effectively with people they don’t really know, ask appropriate questions to understand their concerns, and offer effective solutions to their problems.

Excellent marketing communications skills across channels

Contact center providers must now speak with customers across several channels, including email, texting, and video chat.  Every agent doesn’t need to master communicating in all these channels, but it is important for an agent to effectively utilize whatever communication channel they’ll be supporting.

Professionalism and Courteousness

Some customers may be frustrated that they are not speaking directly with company representatives regarding the issue they want to resolve. Agents must be hypersensitive to a customer’s emotions, always have a courteous demeanor, and display empathy and tolerance during their conversations with customers, regardless of the communication channel.

Excellent problem-solving skills

Customers often contact a call center with complex problems that are difficult to explain. Agents must listen to the customer, identify the main concern, and offer alternatives that satisfy both the customer and the organization.

Ability to learn and apply large amounts of information

During training, agents and centers must learn a substantial amount of information regarding products, services, plans, and procedures. Providers also need the capability to maintain a good part of this information and, in instances in which they don’t have an immediate answer, understand how to navigate across a lot of systems to find the correct response to the customer’s concern.

Ability to declare and meet quantitative goals

The contact center environment is extremely metric driven. Agents frequently have quantitative goals, and they are measured and compensated on these.  Metrics regarding call quality, average resolution time, attendance, and occupancy will all be used to determine an agent’s effectiveness.  Agents must be comfortable working in an environment where almost all their activities are supervised, tracked, and reported.

Capacity to work in a highly structured environment

The contact center environment is very highly structured. Agents must adhere to strict schedules, deal with a large volume of calls, and follow detailed attendance and punctuality polices.


Call centers are continually evolving, adjusting services and features to attract and retain clients. In most cases, agents are notified of changes regularly, but there are times when the client knows about an alteration before agent does. Providers must be versatile in this ever-changing environment and must be flexible enough to change quickly.

Ability to work independently and find answers

Even though members of call center work on teams, each contact with a customer is unique. Agents must be comfortable working on their own and proving unique solutions to their customers, with the assurance that, if they cannot address their concerns immediately, they have a supportive organization that will help them find the most effective solution quickly.


Call center agencies require agents with a diverse group of skills to assist customers across several different channels in a very complex and challenging environment. It isn’t an easy job to do successfully, but for those who have the right skills and training, there is a tremendous level of satisfaction in helping customers in their time of need.

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