When you think about what it takes to succeed as a customer experience (CX) associate, things like “a clear voice and a working laptop” might come to mind. And while these are certainly prerequisites to performing the basic job functions, we know that successful CX associates bring more than the bare minimum to these crucial roles.
Those who are directly -interact with customers must cultivate certain traits to understand and service customer requests, nurture relationships, and strengthen brand loyalty in the face of difficult situations. Here are the top six personality traits we look for in our CX associates.
This came out as the ‘winning trait’ in managing customer experiences through the Covid-19 pandemic. We say managing because almost no company was prepared to handle the challenges this pandemic brought. When business as usual fell apart, empathetic conversations with customers helped retain their loyalty during disruptions in service.
To successfully solve problems CX associates need to be able to recognize and adapt to a customer’s emotional state. Ideally, by the time the conversation ends, the customer feels better about the situation. The best way to ensure this (in addition to solving the problem) is to understand and relate to the customer on an emotional level. Every customer experience associate has been on the other side of these conversations, too. You know what it’s like to be a customer, whether a happy one or a frustrated one, so you can channel your own experiences to understand where your customer is coming from, which can help you figure out how best to help.
A great example of the patience required to be a customer experience professional is this record breaking 10 hour call that a CX associate for Zappos had with a customer. While these are anomalies, calls can often last for upto 1.2 hours, depending on the situation. It’s important to stay alert and focused during this time. Customers are your priority and you need to make sure they feel that while speaking with you. A resolution might require you to repeat a single concept multiple times, or to back up a few steps, or to phrase your explanations differently to help customers better understand the solution you’re offering. These situations require a high level of patience.
“Hi! Thank you for calling, how may I help you?” is a ‘system reset’ command for your brain.
Spending 8 hours a day on one call after another, which aren’t necessarily pleasant, requires psychological stamina. It’s worth repeating that there’s no way to know what kind of emotional state customers will be in when they call in, or pick up your outbound calls. Someone may be frustrated with the product or service they received, or they may just be having a rough day in general.. With each new customer call, you’ll need to hit the reset button and greet them with the same enthusiasm and warmth. These conversations can be highly stressful for both parties, so you’ll rely on psychological stamina and emotional discipline to prevent the tension of one call from flowing into the next.
Not only do you spend your days on the phone helping others solve problems, but you also do it with a positive, upbeat attitude. Developing emotional discipline means being able to detach your personal self from your duties, without compromising on the quality of your interaction. It’s not you the customer is upset with, it is the company. You represent the company and will therefore need to stay calm and helpful while dealing with tough calls. A good CX associate brings their solution-oriented energy to the call rather than taking on the customer’s attitude of frustration or concern. A smile goes a long way in both improving your mood and helping you relate to the customer. As a result, your warmth comes through as clearly as your tone of voice over the phone. Customers appreciate speaking with someone who seems truly glad to be on the other end of the line.
People are complicated, and so are the issues we face. As such, not every situation is going to come with a cut-and-dry solution. CX associates need to know what is possible from the company’s perspective and when certain actions are most appropriate. For example, sometimes it will be possible to offer complimentary products or services, but it would be easy to get carried away with this in the interest of pleasing the customer. Associates should use a graduated approach to solving problems, opting for the least expensive options first. Its difficult to get this “right” every time, but you should at least be comfortable making judgment calls and, if necessary, be able to explain why you made what decisions.
There may well be times when the customer simply isn’t going to be pleased about the result of a call, and you need to be ready for that possibility. Some associates, such as specialty collections agents, will need an even higher level of tact than normal to resolve disputes about past due accounts, to educate customers about payment options, and to arrive at agreeable resolutions with minimal escalation. A strong sense of diplomacy will help you combine all the other key traits for success, so you can keep your emotions in check, stay solution-oriented, and also remain realistic while helping the customer feel heard.
All-round emotional maturity in CX associates is essential for successful customer service. We’ve all been on the other side of the call, and we know what it took to keep us loyal to a brand – the quality of our interaction with their representative.