7 Customer Service Personality Types

To build high-performing teams, service leaders must identify and leverage the personality traits of their top reps.

When was the last time you spoke with a customer service rep to solve a problem? How long did it take? The answer from a company, a rep and customer is probably ‘too long.’ Lengthy resolution experiences can be taxing to customers and costly for the business.

Research from CEB, now Gartner, identified specific personality traits of high-performing reps that are best able to deliver a low-effort experience for customers. The finding? “Controller” reps perform the best. These reps are talkative, make their strengths known and freely express their opinions. They are outspoken, outgoing and sociable, and they tend to take greater control during social situations.

Service leaders need to understand the impact that rep personality has on their effectiveness at delivering a low-effort experience

Many service organizations still hire the same type of rep they would have hired 5 or even 15 years ago, so service leaders will have to take deliberate steps to fill their frontline ranks with these effective controller personalities.

“Service leaders need to understand the impact that rep personality has on their effectiveness at delivering a low-effort experience,” says Pete Slease, principal executive advisor at Gartner.

Rep profiles

CEB, now Gartner, conducted a global, cross-industry study of 1,440 frontline service reps to determine the personality traits of high-performing, low-effort reps. From this, they identified seven distinct service rep personality profiles. Each of these personalities approach their jobs in distinctive ways.

Gartern: 7 Types of Frontline Service Reps

What you have vs what you need

CEB, now Gartner, finds that service teams today have more empathizers, 32%, than any of the other profiles. These reps are often described as good listeners and collaborators and people who enjoy helping others. Empathizers are preferred by managers and hiring managers when comparing profiles, yet empathizers still underperform.   

Controllers deliver the best low-effort service and perform 10% better than the average of all reps, and yet they are the least preferred type to hire. Why are controllers better?

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“Structured interviews reveal they are driven to deliver fast, easy service and are comfortable using their strong personalities to demonstrate their expertise,” says Slease. “Customers see them as the best problem solvers who provide quick answers, take the lead and guide the customer to resolution.”

Controllers succeed because they provide customers with what they want and need in today’s complex and information-rich world. They:

  • Emphasize fast and easy resolution
  • Have a take action mentality
  • Offer less choice and more guidance in issue resolution

Build a controller service organization

The good news is controllers are no harder to find or more expensive to hire than any other profile. Service leaders who understand the traits of a controller can take advantage of the benefits of this type of rep in their service organization by taking these steps:

  1. Change the hiring focus to screen for controllers
  2. Teach non-controller profiles the skills that make controllers successful
  3. Adapt the climate of the service organization to encourage and reward controller behavior

Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders clients can read more about the Portrait of the New High Performer.