Skills to look for when hiring a live chat customer service agent

Efficient, high quality customer care is vital to any business, and live chat messaging is the fastest-growing form of contact for this purpose. For anyone starting a business, therefore, hiring the best possible personnel is vital, and recognizing the requisite skills is essential when choosing the right candidate for the job.

Customer care agents are normally divided into tiers 1 and 2. Tier 1 is the first point of contact with customers. They have a general all-round knowledge of the company’s business and the skills to deal with the most common problems without having to defer to anyone else.  When a problem requires more specialist knowledge and takes longer to solve, it is handed over to a tier 2 agent.

Essential skills

Fluency in the language of communication used by customers

The ability to read, write, speak and understand the language is indispensable to ensure quick responses and efficient handling of customers’ problems. Communication must not only be fast, but often has to take place on more than one level at a time. An agent can be reading a customer’s question while at the same time retrieving their account details or looking up information on the problem they are trying to solve.


With so many agents working remotely, one must ensure that the time zones are compatible with the working hours of the job. For maximum efficiency and job satisfaction, it is best wherever possible to avoid having agents working through the night. If the workday is 09.00-18.00, then the candidate should be in the -1 to +6 range of difference, i.e., their shift would range from 08.00-17.00 to 15.00-24.00, depending on their location.

Good communication facilities

Any customer service agent who is not working with company equipment needs a fast and reliable Internet connection of their own, along with a reliable up to date computer. In some cases, where the company sells mobile apps, a smartphone or tablet may also be required to run the products on offer and understand customers’ questions.

Typing skills

The ability to type fast is essential for anyone working in live chat support. Agents may find themselves conducting conversations with multiple customers at once, so they need to write faster than any of those with whom they are in contact. Although customers may use careless writing and textspeak, all agents should reply in proper, coherent, articulate language.

The ability to multitask

Working in live chat means doing many jobs at once. An agent may be conducting conversations with multiple customers, retrieving their account information, and explaining a problem to a tier 2 agent who is about to take over, all at the same time.

Courtesy and patience

Agents are often the only human contact people have with the company, so they need to have an unfailingly polite and patient manner. They are the face of the brand, and can have as much influence on customers’ perception of the company as does the quality of its products. They need the ability to deal with the full range of customer behavior, including hostility or making unreasonable demands. Customer service is an area where people can become rude and verbally aggressive, and the ability to retain one’s composure is tested to the limit. Agents must have the ability to retain self-control at all times and refrain from emotional involvement in any dispute.

Tier 2 agents

Tier 2 agents are those who take over the more difficult problems from tier 1. In addition to the qualifications listed above, they need to have a deep knowledge of the company’s products and all possible problems they may pose for those who buy them. The skills required by a tier 2 agent depend mostly on the type of business they serve. Besides technical knowledge, they need an ability to explain things in non-technical language to customers. Tier 2 agents may be divided according to their particular skills and expertise, with tier 1 agents choosing which one is best suited to take over the problem at hand.


Finding agents with all the right qualities is not easy, and sifting through the candidates can be time-consuming. But finding the staff with the right qualifications is worth the effort.  Having a strong team of agents pays off in terms of satisfied customers, a better company image, and increased sales and profits.


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