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Call Center Agents and the Art of Negotiation - Carol Evenson - Blog

Call Center Agents and the Art of Negotiation


A call center agent has a very challenging job. Whether getting to the bottom of an online order gone wrong or calming a frustrated help line customer who has run into a roadblock, an agent must possess many soft skills in order to be successful. Besides being well informed about their company and products, a good call center employee will be flexible, empathetic, patient and not easily rattled. Communication style is also very important in reaching a resolution that is satisfactory to both parties. It requires give and take, talking and listening. In other words, they need to be skilled in the art of negotiation.


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Seller Initiated Calls

When you think about call centers, you may think of a room full of operators making telemarketing calls. In this scenario, the agents must begin by overcoming the recipient’s desire to hang up the phone. Once past that hurdle, their job is to convince the person on the other end of the line to buy what they’re selling or do what they’re asking. This can be a daunting task, since the customer is not the one who initiated the call and may have no interest in the product or service.


Customer Initiated Calls

Online retailers may utilize a customer support center to help resolve issues with merchandise, delivery problems or customer complaints. In this case, it is the customer who initiates the call. Software companies generally use a call center model for customer support questions. In this example, the caller is most likely already frustrated with the situation and wants a speedy resolution. Regardless of who initiated the call, the agent must be able to keep their cool, listen carefully and interact with the customer without letting emotions escalate on either side. Some people are better suited to this than others, and communication style is key.


Agent Communication Styles

There are three basic styles of communication: aggressive, passive and assertive. The aggressive communicator can be difficult to interact with. They are easily angered, will always try to dominate the conversation through constant interruption and may ignore the other person entirely. The opposite communication style is passive, where the individual will agree with everything the customer says and make no attempt to protect the best interest of the company they represent. Neither of these styles is ideal in a call center environment. The assertive communicator is best suited to this job. They will listen and respond in a professional manner and work calmly with the customer until they arrive at a solution that makes both their customer and their employer happy.


Negotiation Skills

The assertive communicator, armed with excellent product knowledge, is poised to become a good agent. However, their education is not quite complete. Call center employees go through a variety of training sessions, including practice calls, working from a script, and dealing with simulated angry customers. They must also learn their specific industry, product or service and their employer’s guidelines. What may be lacking in these employees’ development is negotiation training.


Education Programs

Much has been written about teaching, learning and developing negotiating skills. There are companies whose businesses are focused on teaching employees to be good negotiators. It is an important skill for everyone, not just call center agents. Imagine a world with no yelling or slamming down of receivers; a world where arguments don’t escalate, and people engage in a rational give and take conversation until an agreement is reached. While it isn’t realistic to expect that everyone in the world will suddenly develop an excellent negotiating style, there are many resources out there for people who want to try.


The Bottom Line

 It costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain one. That’s why some retailers are willing to make money-back guarantees or allow returns with no questions asked. Call center employees have a tough job, because every interaction is supposed to end with a satisfied customer, though they rarely receive a call from a customer who wants to talk about how happy they are. Given what is riding on the exchange, it makes sense to give the agents all the tools they need to be successful.



Publish Date: April 17, 2020 7:58 PM

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