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Article : Making the Call Center Experience as Pleasant as Possible for Your Customers
This article by Symon Edmonds, Marketing Manager for Nectar Desk in Canada, outlines strategies to improve customer experience in your call center. It describes the ethos that a call center should employ in its operations as well as the personality traits that it should instil in agents.
Customer service is the cornerstone of any business. Your ability to give incredible service will ensure a loyal customer for life. But if they experience a rude agent or are kept on hold forever, that client is out of the door for good. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a hideous customer service experience. We know how it left us feeling and how our relationship to that brand instantaneously dissolved. An American Express Survey on Customer Service noted that, "Americans tell an average of nine people about good experiences and tell 16 about poor experiences."
"The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary." - Sam Walton
Unforgettable in Every Way
You want clients to call in and have an unforgettable experience that will lead to their loyalty and trust wrapped up in a beautiful package of positivity. You want to make the best, long lasting impression on your caller so they will continue to do business with you into the future. There are obvious challenges to executing perfect customer service with every call. A Harris Interactive report found that, "according to consumers, customer service agents failed to answer their questions 50 percent of the time." That is quite an alarming statistic. In this digital age where your competition is only a click away you have to make sure that poor customer experience is eliminated.
"You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied." - Jerry Fritz
These days with voice recognition and automatic directories customers are missing the personalized human touch. Talking to a machine often leaves customers feeling exasperated. Right now, call centers are the human face of your business and customer support is critical to maintain a good reputation for your brand. It’s often the only one-on-one, real communication consumer’s might have with your company. The challenges of long hold and waiting times, and bad communication remain major problems for call centers but there are ways to woo your customer when you get them on the line.
5 Tips for Impactful Customer Service
"You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work." - Laurie McIntosh
- Be a Good Listener: The goal is to really listen to what the caller is saying. Don’t interrupt or start responding until you completely have a handle on their grievance or situation. The customer will feel "heard" and validated if you actively listen to them.
"One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say." - Bryant H. McGill
- Honesty is the best policy: Always give straight answers. If you try to distract them from the truth the customer will be on to you. Transparency builds trust.
"Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong." - Donald Porter
- Above and beyond: Solving someone’s problem is the basic solution. When you put in the extra effort it creates ongoing customer loyalty. "Every great business is built on friendship." - JC Penney
- Establish an organized work environment: You need to focus all of your attention on the customer so you must ensure you are working in efficient surroundings.
"For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned." - Benjamin Franklin
- Informed Agents: Training and education on the business, target audience and how best to react to customers will elevate your customer service delivery. You must research the company, past customer complaints and exceptional past customer service practices to be on top of your game. Make sure you are aware of the most frequent complaints so you are equipped to better handle the client.
Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project discovered that, "58 percent of Americans perform online research about the products and services that they are considering purchasing."
Make sure that your customer doesn’t know more about your business and industry than you do.
The Essential Personality Traits for a Call Center Agent
Call center agents are under a large amount of pressure when handling a frustrated caller. In order to transform the angry into the satisfied, happy customer you need to demonstrate specific skills and qualities like:
- Empathy: listen and show remorse. Make the customer feel heard and understood.
- Willingness to help: redirect them to where they can best be served, find all necessary information from the other departments, and accommodate them in a positive, helpful manner.
- Be courteous and confident
- Professional and competent: You must know the software backwards and forwards and know all of the possible scenarios you might be called on to execute.
- Maintain an air of calm: never come across stressed or unsure of how to solve the issue.
- Patience: hear the whole complaint and stay cooperative.
- Have a positive attitude: adopt a positive mindset so you don’t ever get weighed down by a hostile customer. Use positive words and phrases.
Tips and Tricks for Managing Irate Customers
A study by NewVoice found that, "42% of customers switch companies because they are put off by rude or unhelpful staff while 73% of consumers say friendly customer service reps can make them fall in love with a brand."
A call center agent is going to have to deal with their fair share of upset customers and they will need a few tricks up their sleeve to turn the situation around. You might be threatened with violence or loudly shouted at as customers express their rage at you - the representative of the whole company in that moment. Keep calm and carry on…finding the solution.
Try and see the situation from their perspective before you get defensive. You are the first point of contact and don’t take it personally.
You will need to dance these steps:
- Reassure: You can say, "Please explain the whole situation first and then we’ll find you the perfect solution." "I definitely understand why this is so distressing for you."
- Climb in their shoes: You can suggest - "I would absolutely feel exactly the same in your situation, but we will sort out this problem." "Thank you for bringing this problem to my attention." (Note: Don’t suggest the customer is overreacting!) Always ascertain if the caller’s needs are emotional or physical. Someone hasn’t understood how they are feeling or they are upset because they don’t have something they should have. There are a plethora of empathy statements to use in these situations.
- Keep to the facts: with an irate customer, stick to the basic facts and a simple outline so they can focus on their communication thus far. "Let me make sure that I have heard you correctly and have all of the facts straight."
- Build relationship: Be on their side and their anger will be diverted. "Let’s work together to solve this." "If you’re not happy, I’m not happy."
- Sell the Solution: "In my experience the best way to proceed is_____. How does that sound to you?" When you bring them into the process and start creatively finding the right solutions for them, their frustration will dissipate.
- Let them blow off steam: release the pressure valve by letting them vent.
- De-stress: rejuvenate yourself after a stressful call with a hot drink or listen to some calming music, meditate or try a few breathing exercises. Find the best, restorative recipe for yourself.
- Don’t fly off the handle: always try to control your anger.
Planning for Pleasantville
Gartner reports that this year 89% of companies will compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% four years ago, and a company’s call center performance level heavily influences this.
Positive and pleasant interaction with customers by a well-trained agent will grow your customer base and their ongoing loyalty. With a respectful, trustworthy, interested, flexible, empathetic agent that succeeds in going the extra mile for the customers, the business will grow. The call center etiquette guidelines for the ideal customer service response must be clearly defined by managers to ensure positive brand elevation.
Managers must engage in:
- Strategizing with the agents to uncover effective ways to solve customer’s problems.
- Sharing feedback with agents in real-time to motivate them to keep their performance consistent.
- Showering agents with praise for their great efforts and incentivize. (Only 31% of organizations recognize and reward employees across the company for improving customer experience.)
- Allowing agents to speak about their frustrations.
- Offer opportunities for career growth.
With constant monitoring and training a call center agent can be one of the biggest assets for a company. Satisfied customers bring more clients to your door as they are now your brand ambassadors showing their happiness by word of mouth and social media. The more positive customer service stories you create, the stronger your brand will become.
"The customer experience is the next competitive battleground." - Jerry Gregoire
Today's Tip of the Day - The Human Factor
More Editorial From Nectar Desk
About Symon Edmonds:
Symon Edmonds is the marketing manager with Nectar Desk, a call center software provider based in Ottawa, Canada.
About Nectar Desk:
Nectar Desk offers cloud-based contact center software for handling inbound and outbound calls with reporting and analytics.
Published: Monday, March 20, 2017