Customers have been riding the success wagon for businesses for more than a decade now. With digitalization ferociously tapping every possible medium for businesses, customers experience holds more significance than ever. As per research, customer experience will become the biggest game-changer for businesses by 2020, leaving price and product factors behind.
So, as a business owner, you may have a brilliant product with an excellent pricing slab, but it all goes down in vain if you cannot offer your customers stupendous service experience. Now you say that the internet is booming and there are customer behavior data available to help you tap your audience’s requirement, so what’s the need to do something else? You aren’t wrong, however, stats speak otherwise.
Even though online tools are being utilized by the businesses and customers at an increasing rate, 79% of the customers still prefer talking to a call center agent on the phone call. Yes, customers want to be on the phone call when requiring assistance. This is why call centers are increasing each year, no matter how many platforms emerge to assist the customers.
Customers not only stay with a business if the support is good but also recommend it to the friends. This factor eludes a lot of businesses to invest in the call center services. Let’s start this blog with just understanding what is a call center and how does it influences a business’s growth:
What is a call center?
Well, we all know, don’t we? Okay, let’s briefly understand what a call center is. If you are a newbie in this genre, pay attention.
A call center is a premise where a large volume of customer calls are addressed and made to manage requests. There are typically two types of call centers; inbound and outbound.
In an inbound call center, the incoming support and inquiries associated with calls from the customers are handled. Similarly, the outbound call centers reach out to the prospects and customers for different functions like telemarketing, debt collection, conducting surveys, and developing market research reports.
Why call center was needed? Why is it required now?
The burst of call centers happened in the late 90s and early 21st century when businesses realized that they can hand over their extraneous yet essential tasks to offshore specialized service providers for an affordable price. In fact, the initial boom of call centers happened because of the realization that delegating the calling operation to these outsourcing companies can offer a major cost advantage for the businesses.
Apart from this, other benefits like eradication of scalability issues and hiked performance also compelled the business owners mainly in the American and European continent to avail services from call centers.
However, within 2 decades, the entire has taken a 180-degree turn. It’s become the customers’ turf now. Organizations of all sizes are now seeking call center assistance because they know that without providing an impeccable customer experience it’s the end game for them.
The role of Call Centers
Today, India leads this sector with more than 66% of total call centers in the world to its name. Other nations who are also racing in this league are Philippines, Brazil, Bulgaria, Indonesia, etc. Even in the United States, the number of call centers is on the rise, leaving the taboo of high cost behind and subtly focusing on the importance of first-string customer experience.
Recognizing the need for valued customer service, call centers have also up their game remarkably. They have ultra-modern technologies with the latest equipment and state-of-art integration tools so as to provide seamless assistance to the customers. The training schedule of call centers’ agents is also tightened so as to leave no stone unturned. Customer satisfaction is the ultimate prize every business is in pursuit of, which is pushing call centers even more to attain excellence.
The Darker Side
This all may seem and sound so fascinating, right? But there is a catch. Even though a majority of businesses in the entire world are now availing call center services, customers’ feedback about these service providers remains not so convincing.
As said, customers are on the upper edge today and the slightest deflection in their expectations could end your business with a loss bigger than you can anticipate. As per a report from Forrester, when experienced a below-par or lousy service experience, 64% of the customers straightaway stop recommending the business. That’s not good at all for any business.
Also, a customer lost because of poor service deliverance cannot be easily win-back as there is only a 20% probability of doing so.
Along with this, out of every 100 customers, only 10 says that they have an above-par experience with call center agent interaction. So, the damage is continuously being done to the business despite putting in loads of money and efforts. What’s the solution?
Sharpening the call center skills in the agents is the only way out.
The Paramountcy of excellent call center skills
Did you know that call centers are still the second most preferred customer service channel after the online FAQs?
This is so because customers also choose to interact with an agent on the phone call rather than some other medium. Phone calls still hold their dominance in the field of customer interaction.
So, the essentiality of vesting the customer-facing agents with unmatched call center skills increases even more. If you are a specialized service provider, what according to you are the call center best practices?
A lot of call center owners think that they are doing everything correctly with their agents and there is simply no requirement for any improvement. This is the worst any call center owner can think of for a business.
Customer preferences are changing swiftly and if you do not act now, I am sorry to say, you are going to be left way behind your rivals.
There is always room for improvement and to make sure that your call center remains on the top, you need to be prepared and inject some of these useful tips in your agents.
Call Center Training Best Practices
Working in a call center is a tough job and seeing the employee churn rate one can simply guess how stressful it can become to provide a stupendous customer experience. Even though all call centers claim to provide adequate training to their agents there are some loopholes that are often overlooked. Offering training is not just about providing soft skill coaching and delivering product knowledge. It is a constant process to nourish and bolster your workforce so as to walk in tandem with the changing customer and market trends.
Here are some of the call center best practices that you need to provide to your team:
1. Capacitate your staff
A lot of customers express dissatisfaction when they are being put on hold as agents transfer the call to their seniors because of a lack of authorization to take action on a few issues. This aspect reduces the CSAT (customer satisfaction score) drastically. No one wants to be put on hold and if customers are calling a service agent, they should have the impression that anyone of the support professionals is capable enough to provide the solution. Also, empowered agents are able to render prompt solutions to the customers, raising the service level remarkably. When agents are given authority to take action, they also feel valued, curtailing the employee turnover rate to an extent.
2. Sterling training
When training agents, what call center skills are you focusing on? A dull and repetitive training procedure is no good for the agents’ productivity. Call center owners should ensure that their agents are provided by versatile training schedule, in which the latter is made to learn about the communication skills along with how to adapt to different situations without the requirement of a fixed script. The more varied training will be, the more learned and engaging customers will become, raising the entire service experience to an apex level.
In addition, to make agents aware of the ambiguities and to provide them with real-time experience of the customer interaction, the coaching schedule of managing calls should be included in the training. Experience is the benefit that agents can leverage on while having on-job call handling. And I don’t mean a role-play call, no. I meant real call handling should be offered in a controlled manner to the trainees.
3. Engage with your agents
The reason why most of the customers experience a lousy service level is that the agents are not content with their companies. Being a call center owner, it is your responsibility to make sure that the agents are interacted with on a regular basis. Conducting a monthly meeting to know the pain of agents would give you a good start. In addition, whenever a customer provides feedback about a positive experience, make sure to circulate it throughout the workplace so that the agents are encouraged to offer best efforts.
4. Direct your senior employees
I have personally known a lot of call center agents and one thing that almost everyone tells me is that no one regularly monitors what they are doing. This means an agent who is taking approximately 100-200 calls each day knows that no one is going to hear the conversation with the customers. Obviously, the assessment of metrics is done in call centers but what about how agents are interacting? Prominent call centers make sure that their higher management professionals take at least a few hours weekly to check the quality of conversation their agents are having with the customers.
Senior employees can offer incentives to their agents in a public manner to encourage competitiveness and zeal to render unmatched service levels among the organization. On the contrary, agents, who are performing below expectations should be provided with clear reviews. This practice will ensure agents’ efforts are being constantly monitored, pushing them to accomplish excellence.
5. Eat with your agents
This one is tricky. Mostly, call center owners are over-occupied to sit with the agents during lunch time. Hence, you should ensure that each team of your workforce is eating together alongside their respective managers. A light interaction among agents and managers would increase the overall team’s productivity. Make this routine a must-have habit and not a choice. Best of the call center solutions providers have compulsorily made this rule to increase the team engagement level.
6. Delegate the training responsibility
Your best-performing agents should be offered the opportunity to coach the new joiners. When the fresh joiners interact with the star agents, it will inspire the former to become more like the latter. This provides your team with a great booster in terms of performance.
7. Always reward
What’s the point of working so hard if the efforts are not even recognized? Best of the call centers and telemarketing companies prize their agents who meet the team targets on a monthly basis. Practices like these will encourage agents to become the awardee, raising the overall productivity and service level phenomenally.
8. Eradicate incompetency with speech analytics
Technology has enabled us to not just gather data but analyze the irregularities or the issues in your agent’s conversation. This can be done through speech analytics that offers an excellent room to improve the agents’ communication level. You can find out where the agents are lacking in their conversation and provide them an on-target training to weed off any sort of inefficiency, making your call center the best in the market.
9. Targets and KPIs
“What is measured, can be managed” is an excellent saying that fits in every business. Yes, you have offered some unparalleled training to your agents. Now what? How will you see if the agents are actually conforming to your expectations? For this, call centers set some specific KPIs and time-bounded targets so as to keep a close check on realistic goals and assess the actual performance of your agents’ efforts.
10. Draw the line
Metrics can be elusive at times. An agent who is handling most customer calls in a day may or may not be offering the required level of service experience. So, a suitable distinction should be made between call precision and customer service levels. This avoids the unfair rewarding of the agents on the basis of single metrics and also presents with you an opportunity to address the spaces where coaching is needed.
11. Customer data
If you really want to serve the customers in the best possible manner, it becomes quintessential that your agents possess in-depth knowledge of the former. Having proper information about customers empower your agents to identify the bottlenecks and weed off the issues from the root. So, train your agents to not just collect the customer data (as it is done by numerous tools) but to utilize that information to enhance the service experience and increase the profit of your company.
12. Knowledge is power. Learn daily
Typically, call center jobs are tedious. The routine is quite monotonous. This is one of the greatest factors that lead the employees to feel disconnected from their jobs, offering below-par or sub-par service experience and ultimately leaving the company. To avoid this, ensure to motivate your employees to learn something new on a daily basis. Make them understand that the more insight they gain the better they will become.
13. Induce Positivity
A lot depends on how you communicate with the customers. Until unless your agents learn to improvise their speech with the correct tone and circumstantial molding of words, providing the first-string customer experience becomes quite tough. For instance if the customer calls up to inquire and order some product and if the same is not available in the stock, how to deal with this?
Instead of saying, “I cannot deliver the product before next month. I am sorry”, your agent should say, “The product will be available next month. I can place the order right now if you like so. You will be the first one to get the product next month.”
This type of conversation changes the game of service experience entirely. Train your agents to change the negatives into the positives by the choice of words they use in a conversation.
14. Never say ‘never’
Support agents are there to serve customers. Even there is nothing a support agent can do, there is always something to offer. Remember no customer wants to hear the words “I am sorry, I cannot help you with this issue”.
You have to empower and train your agents to not just provide the solution in a timely manner but also to be problem-solvers. There is a solution to everything, it may be not exactly how the customer wants, but something is always better than nothing. No call center agent should say they can’t do anything regarding any issue. In case of a complex issue, agents should overlook the swiftness metric and just focus on satiating the customer in the closest possible manner.
15. Keep calm, keep winning
Customers, most of the time, are frustrated, irritated, angry, and agitated when reaching the support department to register complaints, irregularities, etc. In these times, a call center USA agent should make sure to hold nerves and be calm. The most important thing to remember in a situation like this is to not lose cool. Some customers scold, abuse, and say personal things to agents. Any reaction from agents’ side can ruin your company’s image instantly and will impact your business performance eventually. Hence, agents should be adequately coached to handle pressure situations and be empathetic about customers’ issues. Make your agents remember that no customer personally attacks them. Customers are just angry because what they expected from the product might have deflected in terms of performance, operation or some other manner. So, agents should listen carefully and then calmly apologize and present the compensation or solution accordingly.
Customers are your bread & butter. You cannot afford to make even the smallest mistake when communicating with your customers. Train your agents to be on their toes all the time. Motivate them to do the best and reward them when they deliver. Keep a transparent and open communication environment in the organization to reduce the employee turnover rate. Follow the above-stated tips and see the rise of your call centers’ performance. For further queries, comment below. Thanks!