Connecting with customers can be a challenge, but empowering your agents and giving them the tools they need can make this easier, for example:
- Empower Staff to Solve Customer Issues
- Enable Your Team to Create Genuine Connections
- Focus on Your Agents
This article outlines sixteen practical ways contact centre leaders can help their agents better connect with customers.
How to Connect with Customers
To find out what contact centres can do to connect with their customers, we asked our panel of experts for their best advice.
Here are 16 practical tips to connect with customers:
1. Empower Staff to Solve Customer Issues
Empowering your staff is a way to connect with your customers more effectively. When staff members are empowered, they can make decisions that solve customer critical issues, reducing the need for escalations.
This leads to an improved customer experience (CX) and an increase in first contact resolution (FCR) rates.
When customers feel that their enquiries are being addressed quickly and efficiently, they are more likely to be satisfied with the overall experience.
Not only does staff empowerment boost the customers’ experience, it also improves the staff experience.
By empowering your staff, you demonstrate trust in their ability to make decisions, which can boost their morale and motivation levels, which ultimately can lead to improved retention rates.
As a result, they are more likely to provide excellent customer service, which can help build stronger relationships with your customer base.
Thanks to Ben Booth at MaxContact
2. Enable Your Team to Create Genuine Connections
Isn’t it frustrating when customer service feels scripted or insincere? People appreciate and remember authentic, helpful support.
Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer said, “True hospitality is always thoughtful, reflecting a perfect blend of thinking and feeling.”
This highlights the elements of great customer experience: thinking to solve problems, and feeling to create genuine connections.
The best support teams make this easy by using tools, processes, and training to easily diagnose and solve problems. Empathy, thoughtfulness, and more training will empower individuals to offer their genuine selves.
- “How’s your day?”
- “Where are you from?”
- “What’s your favourite sports team?”
My response to an agent’s attempt to connect will vary with my mood and confidence in the product or service. It will also depend on whether my problem is solved. But ultimately, forced connections will fail.
Empower your team to think clearly and feel genuinely so they can foster memorable connections.
Thanks to Ryan Wang at Assembled
3. Focus on Your Agents
Provide a great EX (employee experience) and set agents up for success with relevant, modern, AI-powered training and coaching:
Long seminars and dated training materials are ineffective and time-consuming. Consider AI-driven microlearning, which delivers small, interactive learning modules as part of the flow of work, allowing agents to quickly complete them between calls.
Managers should be able to quickly and efficiently prep for coaching sessions with easily digested, real-time performance data and guided actions to help inform and act on performance discussions.
Deliver learning and coaching at the right time to empower your call centre agents to better assist customers and meet KPIs (key performance indicators).
Thanks to Andrea Meyer at Centrical
4. Hire Agents With Emotional Intelligence & Empathy
Emotional intelligence is an essential skill for call centre agents. They need to be able to connect with customers, understand their needs, and provide personalized solutions.
According to our 2022 Customer Service Index: Business Decision Makers Report, more than half of global respondents shared that agents need emotional intelligence and empathy due to the increasing complexity of customer interactions.
Hiring agents with excellent communication, problem-solving, and customer service skills is important.
But today, with the increasing adoption of AI and automation, the role of call centre agents is also evolving.
AI can handle low-value, repetitive tasks, reducing call centre agents’ workload and allowing them to focus on high-value interactions that require empathy and emotional intelligence.
Call centres need to bring a true collaboration between agents and AI to deepen customer loyalty and build strong relationships
For example, within the car insurance industry, an intelligent virtual agent can help customers renew their yearly insurance, while a live agent who can provide emotional support and guidance can be invaluable when customers are dealing with stressful situations such as car accidents.
Thanks to Sarika Prasad at Five9
5. Take Social Media Seriously
Nowadays, the reputation of every company can be won or lost on social media. Call centres that use social media to connect with customers have the opportunity to build trust and win referrals.
You can’t treat social media as an afterthought. It’s vital to respond to messages, comments, and especially complaints in a timely fashion.
That means you’ve got to apply the same rigour to forecasting and planning social interactions that you apply to the more established channels.
Have you got a service level (SL) goal for social media? Do you consistently achieve it? It might be time to focus on SL for social.
6. Get Personal
Use the customer’s first name – but always ask if that’s OK first. Addressing customers by their first names is a simple but effective way to make a connection with them and build rapport.
Within reason, agents should engage in small talk and get to know the person on the line. That comes naturally to some people more than others, so it’s important to include it in your quality monitoring practice and provide coaching and training to those agents who need it.
Small talk should always be genuine. And of course, in peak hours or when you need to minimize AHT, it’s time for agents to be friendly, polite – and succinct.
7. Be There When They Need You
Customers hate hearing “your call is important to us, so please listen to some distorted music until an agent becomes available”.
They hate having to be transferred or put on hold when the first agent they speak to can’t handle their query.
Those things happen when you fail to accurately forecast the number of contacts you’re going to get for each queue, fail to schedule the right number of agents with the right skills at the right time or fail to have a solid plan to react when you encounter an unplanned spike or high sickness levels.
Hint: a good workforce management tool will make doing those things a breeze!
Thanks to Chris Dealy at injixo
8. Get Sentimental
For organizations to build a loyal customer base, it’s essential to understand their customers’ behaviours, preferences and expectations.
Capturing voice of the customer (VoC) across listening posts can uncover invaluable insights on customer attitudes, such as brand perception, negative feelings on service or even product faults.
Using technology to capture these interactions, as well as analysing the sentiment, is vital in building up knowledge on your customer base.
This includes capturing sentiment to recognize and identify customer preferences – be it positive, neutral or negative, or even more complex emotions like frustration.
This deep intelligence helps organizations better understand customer needs, including understanding preferences like what products or services they enjoy or may benefit from, of if they are in a challenging situation and need additional support.
Using these insights can help organizations connect with their customers on a deeper level, as well as provide personalized messaging and services to build loyalty and satisfaction in the long run.
Thanks to Frank Sherlock at CallMiner
9. Be Responsive and Respectful
Often customers are the ones to reach out and connect. This is a golden opportunity to nurture loyalty with the right actions.
A crucial part of this is respecting customer time. Timely advice is both replying promptly and not dragging out interactions or delaying resolution with irrelevant offers or over-the-top scripting.
There is a sweet spot in most businesses for AHT (Average Handling Time), one which maximizes customer satisfaction and optimizes costs.
To do this can take an agent’s full attention: active listening, identifying and acknowledging the customer’s needs while also taking note of their tone of voice and word choice, which can signal a lot.
By accurately ‘gauging the temperature of the room’, agents can find the best way to deliver answers in a timely and respectful manner. And of course being kind is fundamental.
10. Be Accessible
Connecting can mean different things to different customers. Organizations can connect much more effectively if they communicate on the topics, platforms and in the style that resonates with their customers.
This means knowing which channels, tone of voice or terminology and themes are most accessible and relevant.
If you don’t know that, you can’t meet customers where they are and it places the onus on them to find and interact with your services, increasing customer effort.
By removing as many barriers to engagement as possible it’s much easier to establish and maintain connection.
Don’t forget that being accessible also means making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to promote universal accessibility, as per the UK Equality Act 2010.
A foundation for this would be a mixture of traditional and digital as well as voice and text-based agent-led channels.
11. Acknowledge the Individual
It is, of course, possible to connect with an audience; however, individual connection is much more powerful and reliable, though it can rely heavily on an agent’s actions.
It’s also why there is a constant drive to apply personalization and approach each person as an individual rather than just another customer.
Perhaps you only offer a handful of products, but even so, sales interactions should be personal, not transactional, and agents should avoid making assumptions.
By being more consultative and conversational, you help customers see why the advice or product is relevant to them.
This approach also extends to seeking customer feedback. Changing aspects of service based on feedback or personally asking individual customers for their opinions shows that their opinion is valued and heard.
Thanks to Sarah Aldridge at Odigo
12. Offer Personalized Experiences
Offering personalized experiences is a great way to connect with customers. Nowadays, customers not only appreciate but also expect personalized experiences, so it’s key for contact centres to tailor interactions to each customer.
This could include using their name, referencing previous interactions, and/or making personalized recommendations based on their preferences.
Using data is also key when it comes to connecting with customers. Data insights can provide a view into your customers’ behaviour and preferences.
Contact centres should use this data to continuously improve their processes to better meet customer needs and build stronger relationships with their customer base.
Thanks to Drew Naylor at MaxContact
13. Master the Art of Emotional Intelligence
Remember, ‘people buy people first’, so building positive emotional connections with customers is critical to a successful customer experience.
- Do your agents really know what customers are feeling?
- Can they pre-empt what will make or break a good customer experience?
Discover connections between specific customer feelings and values, then evoke these emotions at moments that matter within the customer journey.
Using speech analytics to identify the moments that matter provides vital intelligence about a customer’s mood.
Sentiment analysis automatically determines customer sentiment by utterance and looks at those utterances in the context of the words in the interaction for a deeper understanding of the
complete customer experience.
Mastering the art of emotional intelligence is not a one-off event, it requires commitment and practice.
Contact centre leaders should continually monitor and measure customer sentiment to highlight changes as customer journeys evolve. Only then can leaders find sustainable ways to connect with their customers.
14. Fast-Track Your Way to Brand Guardianship
When 97% of consumers say contact centre interactions impact brand loyalty and revenue, it makes sound business sense to give agents everything they need to better connect with customers.
Build a team of brand guardians to deliver stellar customer service performances. The best part about brand guardianship is it requires minimal effort and financial outlay.
Start with your own contact centre PR and promote agents widely throughout the organization as the go-to resource for CX best practice.
Equip employees with soft skills such as empathy, active listening, and patience, then encourage them to create a compelling storyboard that makes your organization stand out from the crowd. Offer rewards to those who share their brand story successes and learning with others.
Invest in new tools and technology, but choose wisely. Focus on Voice of the Customer (VoC) analytics solutions to help agents fully understand and connect with customers every step of the customer journey.
15. Make Knowledge Work for You
Connecting with customers effectively depends on accessing the right information at the right time, but many contact centres suffer from information overload. Make knowledge work for you using these simple steps:
- Build a positive knowledge culture by appointing designated knowledge evangelists who help create and share content.
- Consider making contributions to the knowledge base a cornerstone agent KPI then celebrate milestones in its usage.
- Proper knowledge base training is essential. Scheduling time for agents to become familiar with where they can find data and how to apply the knowledge they obtain is a great way to help them connect with customers.
- Modern agent-assist analytics applications track conversations in real time and can help by spotlighting knowledge gaps.
Go one step further to drive this ‘power of knowledge’ connectivity across the whole organization. Integrate the contact centre knowledge base with other corporate systems to create a true business intelligence solution.
Funnelling CX insights from within the contact centre allows all departments to better connect with customers.
Thanks to Graeme Meikle at Calabrio
16. Make Use of AI Technology
There is huge untapped audience that businesses should pay more attention to in order to truly connect with all their customers.
Using outbound proactive AI, businesses can reach out to customers that haven’t yet reached out to them.
This type of solution can run intelligent, human-level conversations with these customers to fully address issues before they arise.
This solution anticipates the needs of the customer and fully automates personalized conversations across all channels.
It can engage customers over days, weeks or even months to accomplish specific milestones like renewing an annual policy or rescheduling appointments.
This gets rid of the need for any self-service or inbound, reactive interactions, and businesses can interact with a previously untapped audience to deliver seamless CX to all their customers.
Thanks to Elizabeth Tobey at NICE
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