Phone etiquette can make a significant difference for your business. Harris Interactive found that 89% of consumers have switched to doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.
But what goes into providing a positive experience for your callers? Here are 9 customer service phone etiquette tips to help you ensure that your call center team is hitting the mark every single time.
It seems like such a simple thing, but answering the phone promptly starts calls off on a positive note. This doesn't mean that your reps have to pick up the call the second it comes through. When training new reps, have them aim for answering calls within the first three rings. This gives them time to take a breath and center themselves so they're ready for each call.
The first thing your reps should do after answering a call is to introduce themselves. This differs from what we do in non-business calls. Instead of answering a call with a simple "Hello," your staff should have a script that they follow to ensure that the caller knows who they've reached, the business they're calling, and that the person answering the call is ready to help.
Start with a simple script like, "Hi, this is [your first name] at [your company]. How can I help you today?" From there, your call center representatives can customize the script to match their own personalities (within reason) so they don't sound like robots.
When you talk on the phone all day, every day, it's easy to start talking quickly or mumbling. This is especially true when you first answer the phone. Your warm greeting can quickly turn into confusion for your callers if you're not speaking at a normal pace, speaking clearly, and using professional language.
The words you choose are important. Always be respectful of your callers and stick to the more formal side of language. This doesn't mean you can't joke around with your callers (especially if they're joking around with you), but keep your words neutral and non-controversial.
Oh, and don't chew gum.
It's important to pay attention to callers so you don't miss important information your caller is sharing. This goes beyond simply hearing them talk. Active listening is important for quality customer service.
Active listening is a technique of listening and observation of non-verbal cues (like tone), with feedback in the form of mirroring (paraphrasing what the caller is saying back to them to ensure that you understand). It's a technique commonly used in counseling, training, and solving disputes or conflicts.
Nobody likes being interrupted. If a caller is going on a tirade, it can be so tempting to interject. But it's not going to help the situation. It's best to just take notes and wait until they've had their say so you can take back control of the call and get to a resolution.
This does not mean that call center reps should be expected to sit and listen to personal attacks or racist, misogynist, homophobic, or other abusive language. If the language being used is abusive, call center reps are well within their rights to interrupt and establish boundaries such as, "I want to help you but I can't do that with you speaking to me like that." If that doesn't work, call center agents should hang up.
There will be times when a caller is rude or grumpy. The knee-jerk reaction may be to let them know all about themselves. Instead, encourage your call center staff to stay calm and turn to empathy. It's important to try to understand why the caller is upset while still maintaining a positive and friendly vibe. Even if the caller is still grumpy at the end of the call, it'll feel great knowing that they handled the call well.
A big part of staying upbeat is the words you choose.
Try to always use positive language when interacting with customers, focusing on what you can do for them instead of what you can't do. For example, if you're out of stock for an item your caller wants and you won't be able to get it for another month, don't just tell the caller they can't have it. Check out the difference:
"Unfortunately, it's out of stock. I can't get that for you until next month."
"That product will be available next month. I can go ahead and place the order for you and it will be sent out as soon as we get it."
Which would you rather hear?
You can even turn this into an upsell if you have an alternate product that fills the same need. Just add something like, "We also have this alternative product that does this, this, and this that the original product does. It's a little pricier but it's in stock right now. Would that work for you?"
Nobody likes being put on hold. This is especially true if you've already waited to speak with a free representative. When a caller must be placed on hold, reps should ask them for their permission before doing it and explain why it's needed. Keeping the caller informed will make them feel better about being placed on hold because they understand that it's necessary so their problem can be handled.
Sometimes a caller will ask a question that just hasn't come up before or that doesn't have a readily apparent answer. In those situations, call center reps should be honest. Let the caller know that you don't have the answer but are going to get it for them.
Sometimes it's just not possible to answer a call. Maybe it comes in during a particularly heavy call time, a company-wide meeting, or after hours. No matter why the call goes to voicemail, it's vital that your call center reps return those calls.
We recommend checking voicemail and returning calls at the beginning and end of each day.
Don’t forget to add these metrics to your quality monitoring scorecard
Publish Date: July 1, 2021 2:05 PM
Customer service can make or break your business. In fact, the 2017 Microsoft State of Customer Service report found that a staggering 96% of consumers worldwide indicate that customer service is the defining factor for them when it comes to brand choice and loyalty, making call center quality assurance mandatory to optimize customer experience.
4 QA best practices
Here are 4 best practices that will keep your contact center performing and your customers happy.
Set up a QA framework
Your QA framework will act as your map to monitoring your call center team, but don’t build it in a silo. Include team leaders and agents, as well as company executives, to ensure a broad range of ideas are included.
It is impossible to accurately evaluate for quality if you set a moving target.
Establishing a framework will make quality assurance scalable and repeatable; and, it will also provide your reps a guideline for handling calls.
It’s so tempting to focus only on correcting agent performance, but spending most of your time picking apart less-than-stellar performances can be demoralizing for your team.
Reps that consistently rate high in CSAT on your QA scorecard should be praised even if their efficiency isn’t great because these agents are taking the time to make a difference to your customers, and that keeps your business thriving.
Agent training and coaching
Now that you know where reps need to improve, you need to provide coaching to your agents based on the data.
Training and coaching should not be viewed as one-off processes.You should provide immediate, consistent feedback to individual employees that goes beyond “here are your quality scores”.
Be open to change
Change is hard. But rest assured that even if you have the best possible quality framework around, there will come a time when it just doesn’t make sense for your company anymore. Listen to your team and pay attention to the data from your evaluations.
Your agents provide valuable insights and feedback on the quality assurance process. Their experience dealing with customers makes them a prime resource for rewriting scripts that resonate.
These best practices are simple concepts that you can adopt today to impact your customer experience through call monitoring and quality assurance.
Source 4 Best Practices for Call Center QA to Optimize Customer Experience
Publish Date: June 17, 2021 9:38 PM
Here are some of the common mistakes we run across when our customers set up call monitoring forms. (i.e. Don’t do these things)
1. One size fits all scoring
Different lines of business and different types of calls should be measured differently.
It’s tempting to try and standardize across business units to ease the burden on your QA team, but in the long run the nuances of each call type will be overlooked and customer experience will degrade.
2. Too many metrics
Having too many metrics can add unnecessary complexity for everyone involved.
Pick the most impactful measurements and try to keep it below 15.
3. Too rigid
Scripting every possible response has luckily been going out of style for a while now.
Certain disclosures should absolutely require strict adherence but when you allow your reps to have a natural conversation with customers you’ll typically see an uptick in overall performance and morale.
Not to mention the positive effect on customer experience.
How you define your metrics and your expectations for your agents should be as clear as possible.
A good way to make sure your QA team and your agents are on the same page is to do regular calibration sessions where you compare QA scores to the reps' self-scored calls. You’ll quickly find out if there’s a disconnect.
5. Impossible metrics
There are some things that your agents just can’t influence.
Please don’t hold them accountable for a customer’s attitude.
Sometimes a customer is just going to be pissed off and stay that way. No matter what your rep does.
A much better metric would be a customer effort score or a customer satisfaction score. It’s better to measure how well the agent did her job instead of how happy the customer was.
6. Rely on manual scoring alone
Human intuition and insight are incredibly important but also very expensive to scale.
Most companies that use manual call scoring as their only approach are monitoring less than 2% of their call volume. No where near statistical significance.
The gap is usually huge too. If you use a sample size calculator for call centers and plug in your call volume for each agent you’ll almost certainly see that you are undersampling by orders of magnitude.
There are tons of solutions on the market today that include speech analytics along with coaching and feedback tools that will allow your QA team to analyze your agents’ calls at scale.
And the pricing on these solutions is getting more and more competitive. Do yourself a favor and demo a half dozen of them throughout the year.
Publish Date: June 16, 2021 5:41 PM
First, let’s start by saying that customer service does not have to be a cost center. Great customer service teams contribute directly to the bottom line.
Here are 4 Reasons why customer service is important to the Company’s Bottom Line.
A quality Call Center allows an organization to:
Now that we understand the value of great customer service, here are 8 metrics that your customer service team can use to grow the bottom line.
1. First Response Time
First Response Time is the amount of time it takes for your call center agents to contact a customer after they submit a query.
Contacting customers in the shortest amount of time possible will not only lead to more satisfied customers, it can also lead to more repeat sales and reduced customer churn. Adding this metric to your call monitoring form can immediately improve customer experience and call handling efficiency.
2. Average hold time
Managing your hold time for your customers is critical to ensuring they have a good experience with your brand.
3. Post-call survey rating
The first thing to recognize when it comes to post-call surveys is that they are not the same as customer satisfaction scores.
Confusing these two metrics can frustrate your customers and skew the intended results.
A post-call survey should be only about one thing – the call the customer was just on.
This information will tell you what training your agents need, how your call center’s current approach is working, and if the agent is working out.
4. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
NPS has become a hallmark of customer success and is widely used across industries to track the approval rating.
The process of determining your NPS is simple; using a 0-10 scale you you ask your customers the following question: How likely is it that you would recommend [your brand] to a friend or colleague?
NPS provides a good indication of your customer’s overall impression of your brand, and higher NPS scores are linked to repeat customers and referrals.
Similar to the NPS, a Customer Satisfaction Rating (CSAT) is a good indicator of the success or failure of your customer relationship management program.
The difference is that a Customer Satisfaction Rating is typically measured on a five-point scale rather than a 0-10 scale.
You simply ask each customer to rate their level of satisfaction with your brand on a scale from 1-5.
6. Customer Retention Rate
Customer retention is a metric that allows you to see how many of your customers you keep (or retain), each time a renewal period passes.
Retention is measured at certain ongoing intervals (e.g., monthly, quarterly, or annually) which can differ depending on your business. Knowing this time period is important when calculating your retention rates.
7. Service Quality (ServQual)
Service Quality (ServQual) is a tool developed by Valerie Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman and Leonard Berry based on research they did while writing the book, Delivering Quality Service.
They found that customers care about five very specific characteristics, when it comes the service they receive from brands like yours.
In order of importance, these are the top 5 characteristics of ServQual:
Using customer assessments, you can determine where your call center meets or exceeds customer expectations and where you fall short.
8. Employee Engagement
The final metric to measure and track is employee engagement.
Employees, such as your call center agents, are the ones within your organization who will interact directly with customers.
Happy employees lead to happy customers.
If you put in the effort for your employees, research shows that they will put in the effort for your customers.
Many quality assurance software solutions give you the freedom to measure and track these metrics in your customer service call center. Implement them today and watch your business grow as your customers and employees become happier.
Publish Date: June 15, 2021 7:07 PM
With several months of practice under your belt you’ve probably experienced the snafus, goofy internet connections, and virtual headaches that come with a remote QA and coaching program.
On top of the scheduling difficulties, the disconnect between teams is taking a toll. Walking the call floor was an easy way to get a feel for how things were going. What’s morale like? Am I hearing any raised voices? Is there too much silence? Simple things that you could pick up on almost immediately are missing. It’s like losing one of your senses.
Reps could boost each other's morale and share tips on an off day and adopt best practices from their peers just by being in the same room and overhearing their conversations. Now it takes direct intervention to help them get back on track.
Thankfully, we’re living in a time when technology has enabled our world to keep spinning during a global pandemic. With so much software available, we’ve seen several unique tech stacks evolve to enable quality assurance to continue to have an impact from anywhere on the planet.
On one hand, there are the homemade (literally) workflows that jump from slack to calendly to zoom to a google sheets call monitoring form.
On the other hand there’s been a rush of innovation to develop end to end remote work solutions for the call center by CCaaS and WFP providers as well as purpose built, stand alone remote quality assurance software solutions.
COVID-19 forced everyone’s hand, but now that we’re trending back to normal we have a choice and we have experience in both worlds. What is going to happen with the call center workforce?
Across tech industries, remote work appears to be here to stay, but in call centers we’re faced with a unique work environment that low income employees might have difficulty maintaining and that the business might not be able or willing to support. Although, the tech stack above has made this much more affordable and much easier than ever.
The responses have been mixed about maintaining a fully remote workforce in call center environments. Often the feeling is that a hybrid model with 25-50% of employees working from home will be the right solution, but there are benefits and drawbacks to each model.
Whatever happens, the skills and technology that you’ve mastered during quarantine will stay relevant. It’s worth keeping them sharp and further adapting them to easily flex between on premise and remote quality assurance tasks.
That flexibility could be the key to unlocking future profits as your company adapts to whatever outside influences come into play.
Publish Date: June 15, 2021 4:50 PM
If you want your contact center to offer the best service, quality assurance is the way to make that happen. QA is a necessary piece of customer satisfaction. But how do you standardize the level of service that customers get?
This guide is going to give you a head start understanding call calibration.
What Is Call Calibration?
Calibration is a way to establish and define expectations so you can make sure they’re being met.
In a call center setting, calibration involves getting a team together to review calls based on a standard set of expectations.
This process, in turn, helps keep your expectations standardized so all agents understand what qualifies as a quality customer interaction. Plus, it helps ensure that call ratings are consistent even if your standards change.
What’s So Important About Call Calibration?
Call calibration is a valuable process for your call center. Here are 5 ways call calibration helps your business.
Establish a Process:
Call calibration helps you set up a scalable and repeatable process for quality assurance.
Define Quality Standards:
When you know what your standards are, it’s a lot easier to share and enforce those standards throughout your organization.
Ensure Consistency and Fairness:
Call calibration means consistent feedback—no matter who in your company is providing that feedback.
Call calibration also gives reviewers the chance to leave comments to provide actionable feedback for agents.
Refine and Refocus Your Training:
One of the most lasting benefits of call calibration is that you’ll be able to use the results to refine your agent training and seen improvements faster.
How to Do Call Calibration for QA
Step 1: Build a Calibration Process
Before you implement call calibration for QA, you need to establish a process. There are three basic ways to approach this. First, you could have reviewers review calls separately and then discuss them together. Second, you could have reviewers review and discuss calls together. Third, and this is our favorite, you could have reviewers and agents come together to review and discuss calls.
Step 2: Set a Baseline
Your baseline is how much your company allows for differences in reviewer ratings. If the differences in ratings are below the baseline, your ratings are good to go. If not, you need to move forward with additional discussion.
Step 3: Identify a Facilitator
Call calibrations and quality assurance are important and deserve time and attention. They also need someone to step up who is willing to be responsible for coordinating the efforts.
Step 4: Enable Agent Self-Scoring
We also encourage you to implement self-scoring for your agents and not leave them out of your call calibration process. Agents will be able to analyze their performance from an emotional distance and help them provide better customer service.
Step 5: Use the Data
After your call calibration sessions, it’s time to decide what to do with the data you have. Don’t just file it away or you’ll never get the benefits of the work you’re putting into this process.
The data gives you a chance to review and refine your process and give feedback to the reviewers themselves. It’s also a great tool to help you refine your call QA scorecard.
Step 6: Perform Calibration Regularly
Finally, to get the most benefit from call calibration, you should be doing it regularly to identify opportunities for improvement. We recommend making call calibration sessions a weekly occurrence.
Calibration Session Best Practices
Now that you have a call calibration structure in place for quality assurance, let’s explore some best practices that will make your process even better.
Create a Scorecard:
Document exactly what you’re monitoring and why it’s important to your business.
Follow-Up on Feedback:
Don’t make this a one-and-done. Follow up with agents about the feedback they’ve been given to clarify their understanding and ensure that the feedback is having an impact.
Save and Share Best Practice:
Save the calls that highlight what you want to embrace as best practices for your call center and use them for training.
Review the Outliers:
Don’t just focus on calls that fall within your average call handling times. You can learn a lot from the ultra-short calls, calls with longer handle times or multiple holds, transferred calls, and calls that have been escalated.
Focus on Customer Outcomes:
While it’s important to make sure that agents are meeting the basic call expectations and meeting established standards, don’t limit your call calibration to that. It’s also important to look at how agents are contributing to customer experience and satisfaction.
Promote Best Practices:
Agents need to understand why call calibration matters and believe in the metrics on which they’ll be judged.
Don’t Use Calibration as a “Gotcha”:
Call calibration shouldn’t be used to catch poor performers being poor performers. Instead, you could randomize your call selection and even get agents themselves to analyze calls on a rotating basis. Plus, getting your agents involved in the call calibration process keeps them interested and engaged in the process.
Publish Date: June 14, 2021 6:58 PM