When I started working in a call center back in the communication dark ages, we just had phones, desks and lots of paper to count calls and sales made each day. Our agents had little to support their efforts and what they did have for interactions was also paper driven. Customer files were tucked away in desk drawers, to be pulled out only when absolutely necessary.
Today, we have highly advanced technology to power phones and data in our centers, and we also have wonderful tools to help our agents be successful not only on their calls, but across multiple communication channels.
The tools we provide our agents for customer interactions are only as good as the agents using them.
Their ability to engage with the customer is a major key to their successfully creating a great experience and lasting impression. Helping agents to be more proactive in knowing and engaging with their customer is a daily challenge.
Sometimes it’s the seemingly small things that can have a big impact.
Updating and confirming customer information
In the rush to meet metrics focused on speedy response and high volume call handling, agents are often missing the chance to check customer data on file to verify and confirm what is on record.
While sitting with agents during customer interactions, I’ve seen missing phone numbers, blank spaces where emails could be entered, and other missing or sometimes “old” data that fails to be updated with the customer. When I ask why, the agent will often tell me that they need to keep the calls brief and that information takes too long to check. Some will even add that they are only focused on what they are trained to do, or get monitored and scored for, so they don’t bother doing anything extra.
We need to coach agents to use data verification as a way to engage and show appreciation. One simple but often missed opportunity for the agent is to check how long the customer has been with us and say thanks.
Don’t assume anything about your customer
During recent coaching with an agent, the calls we listened to were all polite and professional, but the agent never asked questions. I asked the agent why they didn’t ask the customer any questions regarding their needs. The agent replied, “Well, they called and told me what they wanted. Why should I ask?”
Once we discussed the benefits of finding out more about the customer and making sure that she was proactively assisting rather than just reacting to something the customer said (and may not really understand fully), the agent said she realized the was missing the opportunity to connect with the caller. The agent also felt asking and confirming would open the door for cross-selling too.
Engage with your customer
Our customers are telling us that they want appreciation and to have personal recognition during interactions with agents. Some agents are losing this personal touch and sound like robots. Even their emails are cut and pasted forms that offer nothing personal to customers.
Too many agents are focused mainly on the process of the call, and are often coached and trained more on that than on the soft skills needed to show we value the customer’s continued business.
This happens too frequently during phone orders, where opportunities to interact are often provided by the customers themselves.
I recently monitored an agent whose customer commented about the dress she was buying, “Oh I just love this color blue”. There was silence except for the agent’s nails clicking on the keyboard. The agent finally spoke, saying, “You should receive this in 4 to 5 business days.”
The customer’s voice tone lacked enthusiasm as she replied, “OK…thanks” and ended the call.
ENCOURAGE your agents to interact and engage with customer to create a personal touch. Coach them to use customer data, questions and comments to make the customer feel important and valued. It doesn’t take a lot of time on a call to create a positive impression or a negative one.
My article first appeared on the MindTouch blog.
Filed under: Call Center, Call Skills, Communication, Contact Center, customer engagement, Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty, Customer Service, Customer Service Skills, Proactive Customer Service | Tagged: Call Center, Call centre, Communication, contact centre, customer engagement, customer experience, Customer satisfaction, Customer Service | 2 Comments »