Your Customer Service Agents Need These 10 Skills

AI, effective communication, and more — see the customer service skills that make the biggest difference for your business.

Have you ever called customer support only to speak with someone who can't help you? Or they were oblivious to your frustration? The interaction not only makes you angry at the customer service agent, but it also alters your trust in the company.

This is why good customer service is so critical. It improves customer satisfaction, retention, and even revenue. And in today's competitive marketplace, when companies offer exceptional customer service, they stand out. Positive interactions and a reputation for excellent customer service can attract new customers and retain brand loyalty. That’s why it’s important to identify the top customer service skills that help agents provide above-and-beyond customer experiences.

Whether you’re a leader who’s looking for ways to improve customer service hiring and training — or a contact center agent who’s looking to excel in the role — it’s important to know how to harness the power of both hard and soft customer service skills. Let’s get to it.

Hard customer service skills

Hard skills — often referred to as technical or specific skills — are the practical abilities and capabilities that an individual can demonstrate in a measured way. Hard customer service skills are abilities that agents can learn to perform job-specific tasks to improve the customer experience. When customers know they are speaking with a knowledgeable agent, they feel they’re in good hands. This builds trust and leads to customer loyalty.

These are hard customer service skills that have the most impact:

Product Knowledge

Having in-depth knowledge of the products or services being offered is a crucial customer service skill. This involves understanding the features, specifications, and benefits of the offerings. It also means being able to address customer inquiries and provide accurate information.

The right training starts with a deep-dive on product features, benefits, common issues, and troubleshooting steps. This can include virtual or in-person classes, knowledge base articles, product manuals, and hands-on practice. Create a buddy system where new hires shadow experienced agents.

And if you’re an agent, ask about learning opportunities to expand your knowledge. Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something, even if it’s during an interaction with a customer, so that you can escalate it through the proper channels. This lets leadership know you need additional training and helps to build trust with customers.

Technical expertise

Require all contact center employees to take training courses on your service console basics. Understanding the ins and outs of your organization’s service console helps your agents to be more efficient, effective, and productive. Familiarize agents with the tools, software, and technology they will use to support customers. This includes CRM systems, ticketing systems, chat platforms, voice systems, and any other relevant software or applications. Provide hands-on and shadowing training to ensure they are comfortable using these tools. Gamify the training to add some fun and to reward those who complete it first.

Encourage your agents to use digital collaboration tools, which eliminate the go-between in case management. Agents can directly route cases to the right experts to reduce the escalation or tiers in handling cases.

It's important that your agents are proficient with your technology. Encourage them to share their experiences to identify any blockers that may be impacting their success.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is used to improve the customer experience and create more efficient interactions. Automation and chatbots can help streamline workflows, address customer requests faster, and proactively anticipate customer needs.

AI tools make routine tasks like service responses and knowledge article creation more automated, which in turn give agents more time to focus on complex cases. Agents need to be comfortable with this technology, especially as it evolves.

Help your customer service agents stay relevant with AI by continuing training on their own software as it develops and conduct their own self-development through courses on Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online learning platform.

Omnichannel Awareness

Customer service is not just for phone calls, it’s now an omnichannel experience. Agents handle a variety of synchronous and asynchronous engagement channels and learning the proper etiquette for each type of channel is important for each platform.

For example, social media and text messages are more informal and agents can use emojis, while email communication should state full sentences for clarity. Provide ongoing training for agents about new and emerging platforms and the appropriate communication styles for each to improve the online customer experience.

Multilingual Skills

Many companies operate in diverse markets and cater to customers from different language backgrounds. Multilingual skills allow customer service representatives to communicate effectively with customers who prefer or require assistance in their native language. This enhances the customer experience and builds rapport.

In addition, using a customer's native language allows agents to provide a more personalized and tailored customer service experience. They can engage in meaningful conversations, ask relevant questions, and offer assistance specific to the customer's cultural context and preferences. This personalized approach builds trust and strengthens the customer-agent relationship.

Soft customer service skills

While technical knowledge will always be important, soft skills — or interpersonal skills — are equally essential. These customer service skills determine how an agent interacts with customers and makes them feel. For example, was the agent empathetic and understanding? Were they respectful throughout the interaction?

To improve customer service soft skills, here’s what to master:

Effective communication

According to recent research, 60% of customers say it generally feels like they’re communicating with separate departments, and 66% often have to repeat or re-explain information to different representatives. To make sure your agents are hitting a high note during every interaction, coach them to use clear, straightforward language, and stay focused on the customer throughout the conversation. One way to hone this skill is to review and evaluate recorded customer interactions as a training exercise.

For agents: keep every interaction positive. Sometimes a customer is angry or feeling defeated, so it’s important to approach every engagement with an open mind. It’s your job to steer the conversation toward a positive outcome, while acknowledging the customer’s concerns. What does this look like in practice? Thank them for their patience, understanding, and continued loyalty. Connect with them using customer data like where they are from, tips on their purchases, or advice on how to use your service better.

Active listening

No one likes to repeat themselves, least of all frustrated customers. Active listening helps agents gather relevant information and address customer needs quickly and accurately.

To improve this critical customer service skill, practice makes perfect. Conduct group activities where agents practice active listening with their colleagues. This can help them develop their skills and learn from each other's experiences. Encourage agents to provide feedback to their peers on their active listening techniques.

You can also share examples of active listening in customer service scenarios. Use role-playing exercises or video demonstrations to illustrate how active listening can positively impact customer interactions. Highlight both verbal and nonverbal cues that indicate active listening, such as nodding, maintaining eye contact, and summarizing or paraphrasing the customer's concerns.


In customer service, empathy is the capacity to affirm a customer's feelings and understand their frustration — even if the problem is out of your control. In fact, 73% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, yet 56% say most companies treat them like numbers.

Demonstrating empathy is an essential customer service skill. Train agents on understanding customer emotions, and handling difficult or irate customers. Share strategies and techniques for de-escalating conflicts, managing complaints, and turning negative experiences into positive ones. For example, provide agents with a list of empathetic phrases like, “I understand how you feel” and “I hear you,” while offering a solution and next steps. Use results from sentiment surveys after service interactions to see if agents are making customers feel heard.


Adaptability is a soft customer service skill that means easily adjusting to changing circumstances. Every customer service agent must be able to adapt to change.

As a leader, foster a positive team culture that encourages collaboration, knowledge sharing, and support among agents. Conduct team-building activities, encourage open communication, and create an environment where agents feel comfortable seeking help and sharing experiences.

And agents: remember, your managers are always there for support. Be sure to ask for additional customer service training on adaptability if needed and also keep leaders in the loop if you need to escalate an issue. Part of honing soft skills is bringing in your team for help.

Time management

Effective time management allows customer service representatives to respond to customer inquiries promptly and efficiently. By prioritizing tasks and allocating time effectively, representatives can provide timely assistance, minimizing customer wait times and reducing frustration. This is especially important as service teams often face high call volumes or a large influx of inquiries. Yet, 78% of agents say it’s difficult to balance speed and quality.

As a leader, set realistic goals with your contact center agents up front. Make sure you are clear on important metrics — whether that’s first-call resolution or customer satisfaction scores. Then agents will know if it’s more important to stay on the line and resolve the issue or to quickly escalate the case and move on.

Master your customer service skills

Customer service is an evolving field, and it’s important to keep up with the latest developments. Encourage your agents to participate in continuous training and professional development opportunities to keep their customer service skills fresh. This can include workshops, webinars, industry conferences, or online courses to enhance their skills and stay updated with industry trends.

In addition, use this list of customer service skills in this article as a checklist when hiring new agents. Although all agents have different strengths, the ones that tend to be strong in the above areas are more likely to turn out to be high performers.

For agents, the biggest takeaway for you is to work to improve these critical customer skills, so you can excel in your role. This will not only help to improve customer experience, it will also help you advance your career.


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