February 11, 2021

When Being “Soft” is a Good Thing

As a trusted quality assurance company that helps dozens of call centers monitor and improve their performance every year, we at Call Criteria have heard the full gamut of reasons why agents are let go.

While overall lack of commitment and an inability to convert leads are some of the more common triggers leading to agent dismissal, one of the broadest and reoccurring concerns resulting in agent termination is an agent’s inability to exhibit soft skills effectively.

The very phrase implies something trivial and insignificant, and yet, soft skills are the glue that holds a team together.

In fact, sources confirm that sales agents at L’Oreal with soft skills training sold $91,370 more than their less trained counterparts, resulting in a revenue increase of over $2,000,000.

Additionally, according to the General Accounting Report officer, recruiters trained in soft skills save the U.S Air force $3,000,000 in cost expenditure every year.

So what exactly is considered a soft skill then?

The Oxford dictionary defines soft skills as personal attributes that allow an individual to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. Some notable attributes include:

  • -Identifying common problems through active listening
  • -Understanding a person’s motivations for taking action
  • -Ability to learn from and accept constructive criticism
  • -Respecting differences and working as part of a diverse team
  • -Displaying strong time management and organizational skills

Similar to learning a foreign language, soft skills can be developed and improved upon by studying and practicing them daily.

It’s important to note that while some of your agents may be naturally endowed with certain soft skills, it’s just as important for them to polish their existing skills, as it is for them to develop new ones in areas they are lacking.

Four steps to improving and developing your agent’s soft skills

Lead by example

  • The work environment and company culture that you set as a manager or supervisor plays a huge role in encouraging or discouraging the development of soft skills
  • If you want your agents to work well together and have them exploit the benefits of soft skills, you need to show them how it’s done
  • Consistency is critical in order to avoid sending mixed signals regarding how certain situations should be handled and approached

Offer well-rounded training opportunities for your agents

  • The most successful contact center teams consist of members who have skill sets that complement each other
  • Help your agents set skill-related goals for themselves during performance review processes and give them access to resources they can use to achieve their goals
  • Access to free tools or online courses allows for flexible learning schedules as an alternative to training your agents internally

Make it a habit

  • Create a safe environment where agents can practice their new skills without judgment, preferably in small groups at first
  • Additionally, you could have your agents lead team meetings to help them develop their public speaking and group dynamic management skills
  • As is the case with most everything, repetition leads to refinement, so practicing frequently whether through mock drills or live scenarios will surely contribute to their soft skills growth and development

Relate, educate and evaluate

  • Make it clear to your team that in order to keep themselves relevant in the 21st century (rather than be replaced by automation or robotic technology) they need to build skills that are uniquely human
  • Promote continuous learning by setting up an office library with books related to soft skills such as Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or John C. Maxwell’s How Successful People Lead
  • Utilize self-assessment tests like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or 3rd party evaluations by companies like Call Criteria which provide actionable data to help strengthen soft skill areas which require the most attention

Something as intangible as soft skills can be difficult to measure due to the subjectivity which often arises when attempting to evaluate such character traits and skill sets.
What is quite clear though, is that if you don’t help your agents develop their soft skills, you may soon find yourself operating a contact center filled with exceptionally skilled, yet completely ineffective agents.
For more information on how to begin measuring your agent’s soft skills and to develop an action plan, contact us today.