Written by Ian Landsman in

The Top Personality Traits for Successful Customer Service Associates

We focus on building the best customer service software out there, but ultimately people make all the difference.

  • Great actors make characters come to life.
  • Great chefs make ordinary foods extraordinary.
  • Great hosts make wallflowers feel welcome.

Building a reputation for great customer support requires having employees who reflect the key characteristics necessary to be excellent customer service associates.

After all, just because a trailer promises an epic adventure doesn’t mean the movie is; viewers talk and, all too often, ticket sales drop off radically after the opening week (here’s looking at you, Batman v. Superman).

The same goes for businesses. You can promise greatness from your products and services, but follow-up with exceptional customer service is a must. Employing individuals that are going to make users feel appreciated is central and will go a long way toward building a reputation of providing great support. To do so, you need to hire the right people and provide ongoing customer service training.

"What does your company stand for? Do your employees know it? (I hope so!) Just as important, when you hire someone, do you check to ensure that the potential employee’s core values align with yours?" (Shep Hyken, Forbes)

Let’s pretend you’re hiring right now. What personality traits should you be looking for?

Patience

It’s a virtue, after all. You no doubt have explained how a problem has been self-induced by a customer several times already. This, after proper set-up was already explained in detail on a prominent page of your website.

Additionally, you’ve also listened as another customer gave a comprehensive backstory to the issue you’ve been prepared to solve since your conversation began.

Or perhaps you’ve heard a different client’s question and, sighing loudly, mulled over how much of a headache you’ll have after sorting it out. Is retention of this one client that worth it?

Patience is probably something most of us could work on in our professional and personal lives, but it’s a critical element of good customer service.

Patience means not cutting off the client’s question mid-sentence because you’ve answered it before and know where it is going. Patience is what makes customers feel heard and, equally important, supported. It’s what makes them feel confident you’re going to exert the necessary effort to help them achieve their goals, and you’re going to do it with a smile.

Which leads us to…

Friendliness

And not the fake, phony kind.

On a stressful day, you might struggle to put on a happy face when a customer contacts you. That’s understandable, but you try hard, right? It shows.

Your customer will see right through a representative who is clearly not invested in the company they work for or their own happiness and satisfaction.

Friendly customer service means putting customers at ease. They make them feel welcome to ask more questions, consider more options, and, ultimately, make more purchasing decisions.

But if the person you have answering your phone sounds annoyed at being interrupted? If the employee entering the office ahead of the customer doesn’t hold the door open? If the person on the other end of the live chat shows no empathy for the problem being discussed?

You can probably say goodbye to customer retention.

Optimism

This is just friendliness again, right? Always see the bright side, smile on face, “have a great day!” and a wave as the customer exits the room (or signs out of the live chat).

Let’s go beyond that. A genuinely optimistic support person has a few key qualities.

  • They’re invested in helping your company grow, and believe it can.
  • They actually care about your customer’s experience, and they firmly believe what your company offers - along with the support they provide - can result in a positive experience. With both of those factors in place, you’re less likely to see headlines such as, “Confessions of a Comcast customer service rep: 'I don’t personally care.'
  • They don’t jump to negative conclusions, and assume problems can be solved.
  • They balance their optimism with honesty, giving members of the public and your internal team real answers that help everyone make progress.

Optimistic customer support providers really believe they can provide great service, and therefore, try harder and do provide experiences customers notice and appreciate.

Now, that list reminded us of…

Problem-Solving Skills

This is a big one, because what is the point of voicing a problem to a business if the business is in no way prepared to help solve it? That’s the quickest way to say to your customer: “Hey, have you met my competitors?”

Being able to solve a problem requires a few key strengths:

A strong understanding of the product or service you offer. Your customer service rep must understand every use case of your product, and how it benefits your various audience segments. This will help them more quickly identify how to satisfy the customer’s questions and/or complaints about a recent purchase - or address reason they’re opting not to continue with their purchase.

Confidence and intelligence. Your employee must evoke a sense of control over the situation. They’ve seen this before, and they know what to do. You (the customer) need not worry.

This sense of competence must be conveyed in all manners of communication, whether talking or typing (no spelling and grammar errors!), in-person or otherwise.

An ability to work efficiently. Working with urgency is a must. The customer has to see their support person acting quickly to help them. But don’t swap out quality for speed. Your employees should be able to arrive at the right solutions that benefit everyone involved, quickly.

An ability to read between the lines. Sometimes, the customer doesn’t know all of the right information to tell you. Sometimes, the problem or need they think they have is not in fact the whole picture.

Sometimes, the angriest customer’s problems are simple and the quietest person’s needs are emergent.

Your best representatives are going to be the ones who knows how to ask the right questions, will understand what your customers are telling them, and can fill in the gaps based on their own knowledge and experience. They’ll also be able to read their customers’ tone to understand when they are feeling upset, frustrated or confused, and adjust their actions and the conversation accordingly.

Finding the Right People

We just ran through a few of the key traits of great customer service representatives. What do all of them have in common?

These personality traits aren’t listed on résumés.

These aren’t past job titles, or academic institutions, or skills and experience built over time you’d spot on a piece of paper. These are personality traits to be spotted in the very first interview, and must be maintained in every interaction thereafter.

Luckily, there are plenty of great individuals out there with the right personalities waiting to match their stellar customer service skills with a brand that’s a joy to represent.

And when you find them, they’ll make all the difference.

Presented by HelpSpot

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About the author

Ian Landsman of UserScape

Ian is the founder of HelpSpot and also podcasts at Bootstrapped.fm.

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