“Amazing service begins with engaged leaders,” writes Sean B. Hawkins, in a recent Call Center Weekly article. Hawkins should know. An International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) Advisory Board Member and past winner of that organization’s “Global Call Center of the Year,” Sean focuses on driving contact center culture and technology innovation. Sean shares his thoughts and tips on improving customer satisfaction in the call center industry.
What are the top skills every customer service agent should have?
Technology and processes can be taught with training. Yes, there is a level of expertise required to fulfill certain roles. But in customer service, none of these supersede the need for superior soft skills. As a customer facing role, it is those interpersonal skills that matter most. Empathy, sympathy, problem-solving, good communication, and kindness are very high on my list of requirements here.
As both a contact center team leader and business consultant, what are some of the key indicators of customer service success?
I think there are several, but I’d say the keys are strong leadership and employee engagement. This plus providing a great product or service that consumers want to purchase, use, and advocate for. Each of these directly contributes to the viability, strength, and potential growth of any company.
What is the biggest customer satisfaction challenge that businesses face today?
I think businesses often find it difficult to secure internal buy-in at all levels of their companies, vertically as well as horizontally. Customer satisfaction advocates must reside in all areas of the company – and not simply be confined to the contact center and customer service teams. Every employee must be able to see the impact, directly or indirectly, they have on customers. This is often not the case when you are removed from direct customer contact. Furthermore, when leadership across the company isn’t evangelizing customer satisfaction, it doesn’t become a priority or way of life.
You have come to know leaders throughout the call center industry as well as in broader business circles. Which has had the most influence on your personal growth?
My family is my biggest influence for many reasons. Their love and belief in me keep me focused. In the call center business, networking within the ICMI community has connected me with leaders and mentors, and teachers who have helped shaped my understanding of the business, the commonalities we share, and the challenges we all face, regardless of industry, in elevating the customer experience.
Sean Hawkins has over 15 years of progressive customer service leadership experience in the public, private and government sectors. He has led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries. Additionally, he's implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers. Connect with this inspiring industry influencer on LinkedIn and Twitter.