Everything I Need to Succeed, I Learned as a Customer Service Agent

5 Lessons We Can All Learn from the Voice on the Other End of the Phone

Have you ever called a customer care line with a minor complaint – only to wind up more frustrated by the time you hung up?

Of course you have. We all have.

Now consider the repercussions of that experience. Nobody’s happy. And nobody wins. Not you. Not the brand you patronized. And certainly not that poor customer care agent who was clearly unequipped to solve your problem or regain your trust in the brand.

Now consider, instead, the opposite experience. You dial the phone and discover, to your joy and amazement, the trifecta of customer care calls:

You felt heard. The agent was competent. Your issue was quickly resolved.

I just had an experience like that.

Then, when I hung up the phone, something dawned on me: I didn’t even get everything I asked for when I first called. But I left with something better: a positive experience that reassured me I could trust that brand.

Something else occurred to me in that moment. The agent clearly had superior customer care skills. But honestly, a more accurate description would be that she possessed superior business skills. I’ll go a step further. Superior life skills.

Think about it. All we really want when we dial that 800# is to feel acknowledged and to find a solution that allows us to feel good about our relationship with that brand.

The human beings who give us that experience are really just doing what our moms taught us when we were little, nothing more. But they’re doing it really, really well.

If you’re considering a job in customer service, ask yourself if you have these 5 skills, traits and habits. If you do, I’m going to make a prediction. You’re going to be wildly successful – not just in this job, but in every job that depends on strong interpersonal relationships. And if you’re in charge of hiring and supervising customer service agents, consider how these traits can make or break your team and the brand they support.

  1. Empathy
    Often, inbound customer care representatives are the front lines of the complaint battle. Disappointed customers may be well be justified in their anger but let’s be honest, they can also be very difficult. Yet, great customer service agents are able to hear their frustration and empathize with it. This one trait is often what turns a bad call into bonding experience. If you solve a problem but fail to show empathy, your customer might not abandon… yet. But they won’t be any more loyal, either.
  2. The Ability to Own Mistakes and Learn From Them
    Let’s face it, a huge percentage of customer service are prompted by product or service mistakes, missteps, late deliveries, or other failures. Often, the first words out of a customer’s mouth can feel a lot like an accusation, even a personal attack. Gracious, competent customer care reps don’t take that bait. They rise above it, acknowledging the mistake or failure and offering up solutions that work.
  3. The Drive to be a Problem Solver
    Let’s face it, all the sweetness, light, and apologies in the world will only make me more frustrated if, at the end of the day, my issue doesn’t get resolved. On-the-spot fixes are ideal but not required. I just need to know that, when an agent says they’re bumping my call up the food chain, they’re not just kicking the can down the road. Being a solid problem solver is no small skill. It’s a cluster of skills, all centered on the idea of being driven to do the right thing, no matter how difficult. Great agents want to make things right, as quickly as possible. More importantly, they’re invested in making sure the same problems don’t keep occurring. They ask good questions, they forward the information to people empowered to create fixes, and they seek follow-up to understand what improvements are being made.
  4. Kindness, Collaboration and Celebration
    Being nice to the voice on the other end of the line is mandatory. Being kind to everyone else on the team is just as important. When problems are solved, when milestones are achieved, when customer surveys are positive, everyone on the team deserves to be acknowledged, not just by “the boss,” but by each other. Great customer service people congratulate each other on a job well done. They also help each other out with information, suggestions, and just general support.
  5. A Passion for People
    If you’re hiring customer service people, start with one, unwavering principle: they need to truly care about people. And if you’re job hunting and don’t love interacting with people? Please, don’t get a job (at any level) that puts you in contact with customers.


by Bobby Matthews
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
Skybridge Americas



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