With the battle to retain customers (and business-salvaging revenue) intensifying, it’s never been more important to ensure that your agents are giving the kind of service that will keep customers coming back.
We have compiled ten customer service behaviours every contact centre agent should have – particularly in these trying times.
1. Understand Where Their Customers Are Coming From
When agents are able to quickly empathize with customers’ circumstances – why they have sought a particular product or service, why they are upset about the level of service provided, and so on – potentially explosive complaints can swiftly be defused.
Let’s say that yours is an online stockist of groceries, sporting goods and general homeware. An advisor who is able to promptly analyse the caller’s order history will notice certain trends – a significant proportion of pet-based products, for example.
As a result, it should become immediately clear just why the customer is so upset about the delayed delivery of their pet products and, perhaps being an animal lover themselves, the agent should be able to tailor their soft skills accordingly.
2. Solve Complex Problems Quickly, on Their Own Initiative
Agents who are able to resolve complicated queries quickly and at the first point of contact will help build customers’ trust in your organization.
Agents who are able to resolve complicated queries quickly and at the first point of contact will help build customers’ trust in your organization, and develop its reputation as one that is efficient and dependable when it comes to putting things right.
With minimal supervision, your best advisors will be comfortable in performing their own research of any given situation, analysing their findings, coming up with various solutions within the bounds of their remit and, finally, determining the best course of action to take.
3. Be Able to Adapt Their Style of Communication to Mirror the Customer
Agents who are able to analyse their caller’s demographic early on in a conversation will be able to reflect their style of communication and, as a result, have a far easier time building rapport.
Although expert-level tone mirroring cannot easily be taught (it tends to develop naturally with time and experience), there are some decent rules of thumb that can be followed even by day-one agents.
These include: speaking more slowly for the elderly and those for whom English is a second language; avoiding the use of technical terms unless quite sure that the customer is familiar with them; and, conversely, using some of the dialectal mannerisms they might display.
Strategies like these should lead to the query being resolved more quickly and to a better standard, and leave the customer with a positive, memorable impression that will have them coming back for more.
Read our article Professional Language for Customer Service for examples of professional language for customer service that can be used in different scenarios.
4. Be Ready and Able to Listen in Full
Following on from this, agents should open each call demonstrating an unreserved willingness to listen to the caller’s concerns.
Once GDPR requirements have been satisfied, advisors should avoid jumping to conclusions as to the cause of the call, and instead allow the customer to explain their query or grievance in full, interjecting only to give verbal nods or when absolutely necessary.
Though this may seem a potential waste of precious resources (there is, after all, likely to be a long queue of other customers waiting to get through), allowing the customer to explain their problem in full with give the agent a better idea of the bigger picture and allow them to offer the best possible solution – one that will address all points raised and, as a result, prevent that unnecessary repeat call.
It’s a win-win situation for both parties.
To find out more about developing listening skills, read our article: How to Train Active Listening in the Contact Centre – With Four Exercises
5. Be Adaptable to New Software and Ways of Working
With today’s constantly advancing technologies, it is important that your agents are enthusiastic learners who see the benefits, rather than the inconveniences, of your business decisions.
For example, whilst the less dedicated employee will likely see the introduction of a seemingly complex new software package as a pointless and daunting exercise, the more adaptable agent will see the implementation period of this technology as a small hurdle on a journey that will make their job easier in the long term.
In the same way, glass-half-full agents who tend to focus on the silver linings are likely to adapt more easily to changing work environments, and provide better service as a result.
An obvious example of this would be the recent government order to work from home where possible. Rather than focusing on the negatives – less direct guidance from managers, less contact with their friends at work, and so on, the more optimistic agent will focus on the time and money saved travelling to and from work and the better work/life balance that comes as a result.
6. Adapt to the Customer’s Situation
Similarly, the agent who is able to determine their customer’s geographical location, by paying attention to their accent, for example, or noting their billing address, will be able to provide a far more empathetic service than those who pay little regard where the customer is calling from.
It may be, for example, that the caller’s area has made nationwide news recently for its flash floods, or that the entire district has been plunged into a regional lockdown.
With the client’s circumstances in mind, the agent will be more likely to understand why their caller seems so stressed, impatient and irate, and to sympathize with their situation rather than take this behaviour personally.
The resulting, almost subconscious, change in the agent’s approach should lead to a quicker resolution and a far less stressful experience for all concerned.
7. Understand That the Customer Has Already Demonstrated Great Patience
It’s practically a given that a caller will have waited much longer than usual to get through to an agent. In fact, it’s not uncommon for customers to wait on hold for upwards of half an hour before managing to speak with someone and finally have their concern addressed.
This fact should be acknowledged and apologized for from the outset; thereafter, agents should be especially mindful of the inconvenience their customer has already suffered, and understand that they will naturally be more prone to irritation than they would be under the usual circumstances.
Great care should be taken to remain polite, resolutions should be given as quickly and efficiently as possible and, needless to say, any further hold times should be kept to an absolute minimum.
8. Good Organizational Skills
As well as the obvious (being ready at their workstation in time for work, staying punctual with their breaks, and so on), agents who take certain steps to stay organized will vastly improve the customer’s experience, as well as their own working life.
Agents who take certain steps to stay organized will vastly improve the customer’s experience, as well as their own working life.
Staff should therefore be advised to keep all necessary software open throughout the day, so that they can quickly flit between programs in accordance with the nature of the call.
Other ways to remain organized include staying up to speed with changing company policies, maintaining familiarity with new soft skill techniques and, in the case of webchat advisors, keeping a document with pre-prepared script excerpts and phrases which can be copied and pasted to cut down on typing time.
9. Be Mindful of and Committed to Their Daily Targets
Despite the great importance of patience and empathy on the part of the agent, it remains imperative to have clear limits when it comes to the time that can reasonably be dedicated to each call.
When clients begin to use their call time in an unproductive way (for example, when the exasperated customer begins to repeat the same information or the elderly, bored or overly-friendly caller lapses into subjects unrelated to the actual query), this ultimately neglects other customers, who will need to queue for longer as a result.
Therefore, agents must be able to detect when a call is in danger of becoming unnecessarily drawn out, and to take action to wrap up the conversation.
This can typically be done by: politely steering it back to the matter at hand; summarizing the resolution; offering assistance with other relevant matters; and, finally, ending the conversation.
10. Be Resilient – but Have Boundaries
Fortunately, the majority of your client base knows that contact centre agents are essentially acting as intermediaries between themselves and the company.
Whilst this means that the majority will not take their frustrations out on them, there does remain a good proportion who will inevitably become belligerent and treat the agent as though they were personally responsible for climate change, third-world debt and any other earth-shattering crises they can presently think of.
Some will delve still deeper into the realms of abuse, hurling racist, sexist or otherwise bigoted insults at the call handler.
As upsetting as these experiences can be, agents must be resilient enough to know that such attacks are not a reflection of their worthiness as employees or as people, but rather are an indicator of the caller’s intolerant world view. With this assurance in mind, advisors may warn once, twice and, should the caller’s demeanour not immediately improve, end the call.
To find out how to define a policy for what an abusive customer looks like and how the contact centre can guard itself against them, read our article: A Policy for Dealing With Abusive Customers
With thanks to George Dixon for this great article.
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