Customer service is all about the ability to find creative solutions on the fly. And when it comes to finding the qualities of a good call center agent, first call resolution is imperative in any customer support role.

Delighting customers means having the problem-solving skills required to help them get their issues resolved the first time around. Though the term “troubleshooting” may bring technology to mind, the concept isn’t exclusive to the technology industry. At its root, troubleshooting is the ability for any employee in any industry to think on his or her feet, and use the tools at hand to come to a quick and viable solution that leaves everyone feeling happy and satisfied. It’s the ability to problem-solve.

Six Essential Problem-Solving Skills in Call Center Agents

Though no candidate is perfect, finding the qualities of a good call center agent during the pre-hire process can help you create a customer service team that not only meets and exceeds your customers’ expectations, but leads to more frequent first-contact resolution. When hiring for a customer support role, there are six key technical support competencies to keep an eye out for in your candidates.

  • Learning: One of the most important characteristics of customer support employees is learning quickly. Being open to new ideas and information is one of the key signs a candidate is a good learner. After all, a large portion of the role of a call centers and customer support involves taking in new information in quickly and create effective and satisfactory solutions.
  • Applying information: Companies grow, change, and procure new management. There are a myriad of structural shifts that can lead to new policies, which often means a change in how certain customer issues are handled. The ability to learn new information coupled with the ability to apply that information while maintaining company policies (and keeping the customers happy) makes for an incredibly strong customer service employee.
  • Communicating: Is the employee a clear, concise verbal communicator? Can he hold a friendly conversation with an upset customer while entering all the correct information into the system? Getting the details of a customer’s problem is critical to solving it, and the ability to communicate clearly and concisely is essential in coming to a resolution during the first call without long pauses or hold-ups in the conversation.
  • Teaching: Walking a customer through fixing his or her problem over the phone or via live chat requires some degree of basic teaching skills. Employees who are calm, diplomatic, and exhibit a balanced sense of empathy will likely have the most success in helping customers solve their issues.
  • Empathy: Tech support and customer service representatives have to deal with a high volume of frustrated callers. However, it’s important for workers not to let customers’ negative energy impact their own. Otherwise, workers risk getting burnt out far more quickly, which can lead to a decreased rate of one-call resolution. Employees who can handle pressure with tact and diplomacy while remaining objective are likely to be more effective troubleshooters (and get burnt out less quickly) than those who over-empathize with the customer.
  • Problem-solving: Being resourceful sometimes requires putting pieces together that aren’t necessarily supposed to connect. Customer service agents who can think outside the box and are willing to take calculated risks to find the best solution to the customers’ problems will see the most success in creating positive customer experiences.

How to Pinpoint Problem-Solver Skills During the Pre-Hire Process

No customer wants to call twice. Fortunately, finding talent that is more likely to have a higher rate of first call resolution during the pre-hire process isn’t an impossible task. When it comes to picking a problem-solver out of the crowd, there are lots of tools managers can use to pinpoint candidates with troubleshooting abilities.

1. Utilize Problem-Solving Assessments Like Simulations

Hiring assessment tools are the most accurate means of measuring a job candidate’s ability to learn information quickly and apply it effectively. These tools can be used to create a job simulation that evaluates how new hires will perform in a role and environment highly similar to the ones for which they are interviewing. Evaluating job candidates against performance is critical in improving call quality and customer resolutions.

2. Ask the Questions a Skilled Interviewer Would Ask

The internet is a powerful tool. There are hundreds, if not thousands of websites and forums offering smooth, polished answers to every standard interview question out there. Chances are most candidates will be privvy to this information, and may use it to get a leg up on the basic questions.To get a feel for how well an employee can troubleshoot (and to avoid a long string of canned answers), it’s good to ask candidates tailored questions that require specific, tailored answers.

3. Look for Problem-Solving Skills in the Candidate’s Language

First call resolution hinges on a representative’s ability to be positive with customers. When interviewing, it’s important to pay attention to the answers interviewees give for the less traditional questions. Does she use positive language that naturally builds a rapport? Does she maintain eye contact and stand tall while conversing? Though candidates can and do ramp up their enthusiasm during the interview process, the words they use during a simulation and an interview can serve as positive indicators (or red flags) interviewers can use as a guide in their final decision.