Call centers exist to serve the needs of a business, but their top priority is serving the needs of that company’s customers.
The challenge of doing so has changed drastically, especially over the past two decades, as questions that used to require a call can now be answered on the company’s website or Facebook page. Standard business transactions also now get conducted online, so your customers may only call when they need a faster answer, or with a unique issue.
They won’t all be ‘last resort’ communications, but call center managers must realize that each call represents a chance to keep a customer or lose them forever. That makes customer engagement essential. If a caller doesn’t get the information he or she needs, they might be lost. And even if a caller gets answers, he or she may not like an agent’s attitude, or how long they had to wait on hold. There’s a lot more that can go wrong than go right every time an agent picks up the phone.
Here are some engagement tips that help to engender customer loyalty.
Personalize Every Encounter
This involves more than addressing the customer by name (though that is important as well). With workforce management software agents will find it easier to access details of the customer’s most recent transaction, as well as all previous contacts and their purchase history.
Two Answers to Avoid
When a customer calls with a question, the last thing they want to hear from an agent is “I don’t know.” Of course, there will be times when that may be the case, but a better response is “Let me find that answer for you.” If the answer cannot be found within a few minutes, apologize and schedule a time when the caller can be contacted and provided with that information.
Also not recommended – “yes” and “no” answers, when they stop there. Such abrupt responses signal disinterest on the part of the agent. There should be scripted responses that express the same sentiments in a more courteous way.
Less is Not More
The expression “less is more” doesn’t work at the call center. Positive customer experiences are those in which the caller receives additional assistance and other useful information related to their order or issue. This doesn’t mean just ‘upsell’ opportunities, but making sure any other questions they have are answered. In fact, that’s not a bad way to close out the call.
Hire ‘People Persons’ as Agents
There are many qualities that a great call center agent should possess, but one that is often overlooked is curiosity. A people person meets someone and just naturally wants to know more about what is happening in his or her life. They like to talk to strangers and help them out when it’s possible. The best agents do this. They’ll ask questions that generate information that provides greater insight into each customer. They will make the caller feel valued.
Another valuable skill for an agent is the ability to predict questions and anticipate problems before they happen. Some of this will evolve naturally. One way to train new agents is to have them take a tour of a local museum or tourist attraction. The tour guides have their script down pat, know what questions are likely to be asked and always have answers at the ready. Part of the guide’s job description is also to be cheerful, upbeat and enthusiastic – traits that are also important in an agent.
Finally, your agents should feel empowered to make decisions, to stay on a call a few extra moments, even to break a rule every now and then, to preserve a customer relationship. This status is not bestowed on day one. After an agent has been with the call center for a while and has shown good judgment, he or she should then be given the latitude to sometimes take action that may not be in the script.
Mention Self Service Options – But Don’t Push Them
Well-intentioned as they are, recorded messages on menu screens are typically received more with hostility than gratitude. Automation is important, but not when it stands in the way of a caller speaking with a live agent, if that is his or her desire.
You cannot engage customers without engaging agents. That goes beyond the hiring and training efforts previously described. Engagement is an ongoing challenge that affects agents after six weeks, six months or six years on the job.