The customer experience that your call center delivers is critical to your organization’s reputation and success. In fact, there are few other instances in which your business has as much direct communication with its clientele than during a customer service or support call.
A single conversation can permanently alter a customer’s entire impression of your brand and make or break their trust in your solution. A whopping 61 percent of consumers stopped transacting with a business after one poor service experience, according to the 2018 State of Global Customer Service.
In other words, all it takes is one bad call experience to jeopardize an entire customer relationship. And if your call center makes these poor interactions a habit, it can cost you dearly.
But while companies spend a significant amount of time and budget developing their sales teams, marketing assets, and product delivery, many organizations overlook opportunities for improvement within their contact centers.
Here’s how to improve customer experience in call centers using five straightforward tactics:
1. Listen to Customers
This might seem like overly simple advice, but you’d be surprised how many call centers base their entire workflow — including scripts and escalation protocol — on assumptions and spotty, outdated data.
A line once added for clarification might now come across as irrelevant or condescending to more sophisticated customers. Similarly, highly technical information may be so far over some customers’ heads that it frustrates them.
To ensure you’re delivering the best possible experiences, take time to listen to your customers and learn more about their challenges and needs.
Here are a few things you can do to better tailor your experiences:
Listen for new frequently asked questions
As your offering and the market evolves, callers may pose new questions about your solution. Ask agents to keep a list of questions they hear often, or survey a random sampling of recordings to identify queries not currently addressed through your existing script or FAQs. Encourage agents to add these questions to your knowledge sharing platform so that when other agents hear a question that’s new to them, they can quickly check the platform to see if it’s ever been asked.
Understand who your callers are
Keep in mind that customers who reach out to your call center may have already engaged with other parts of your company. For example, let’s say you work for a B2C retailer who sells high-end cameras. A customer might chat with a support agent on your company’s website to get advice about what camera to purchase, read the support documentation that comes with the camera, and then reach out to your call center to troubleshoot an issue. They’ve already interacted with your company through several channels, and understanding the path they’ve taken can help your support agents deliver efficient assistance.
Conversely, if you work for a B2B company, you may communicate with multiple customers from the same account. For example, a senior executive may sign off on the security software that your company offers, but a mid-level SysAdmin may be the person handling day-to-day operations— and the person who’s more likely to contact your call center. When you know more about the roles and responsibilities of the people calling, you can better customize the experience.
Get Aligned with Your Market Research Team
If your company conducts market research, your support teams may have access to a wealth of customer insights—as long as they know where to find them. Work with your market research team to ensure that they’re communicating their research results to your contact center employees, and giving your employees a place they can go to refer back to existing research. Seeing this research will help your contact center employees get a better understanding of customer trends and behavior, ultimately allowing them to deliver a better customer experience.
Identify the stage of the customer journey
Depending on the structure of your contact center, some callers may be prospects, some may be new customers, and others may be loyal brand advocates of many years. Take time to understand the unique needs of callers at each stage of the journey and tailor your service accordingly.
2. Hold Empathy Training
Empathy is one of the most important soft skills for call center agents. Many people dialing a contact center are either facing an obstacle or need information quickly. These callers may be stressed, frustrated, and irritable. To help defuse the situation and promote a better customer experience, it’s essential your agents demonstrate empathy.
But while most people have plenty of compassion for others, they’re not always able to adequately express it — especially amidst the repetitive duties of phone work.
To help develop empathy skills, hold a customer experience training for call center agents with a focus on compassionate language. Roleplay upset customer scenarios to help agents feel more comfortable using this phrasing.
3. Improve Call Center Agent Experience
Plenty of research shows a strong correlation between happy employees and satisfied customers. When workers are empowered and participate in a healthy business culture, they feel more confident and engaged in their work — which leads to better customer service and stronger business outcomes.
Call centers are well-known for high turnover rates, which is often driven by toxic cultures, poor leadership, and low pay. Here are a few ways you can improve employee engagement and, by default, the customer experience:
- Create an employee recognition program
- Invest in employee wellness
- Provide more reliable equipment and comfortable workstations
- Improve benefits packages
- Offer bonuses and other compensation incentives to high performers
- Ask for employee feedback (and address it)
- Hold regular team-building activities
Remember: call center reps are at the frontlines of customer communication. The less engaged they become, the more poorly it will reflect on your brand.
“A happier workforce is clearly associated with companies’ ability to deliver better customer satisfaction,” write Glassdoor economists Andrew Chamberlain and Daniel Zhao in an article for the Harvard Business Review. “Particularly in industries with the closest contact between workers and customers.”
4. Give Reps the Resources to Succeed
It’s nearly impossible to eliminate hold times entirely. After all, reps may need a moment to locate information, escalate a call to a manager, or research an issue to ensure they’re offering the best possible solution.
But, in some instances, hold times can become a crutch for underprepared agents. And the longer or more often a caller is placed on hold, the more frustrated they become. When an agent is not only unable to resolve someone’s concern, but also constantly makes them wait, this can leave an indelible and poor impression of your brand.
The best way to cut down on hold times is to prepare reps for a variety of scenarios. That means scheduling regular training and refresh sessions and providing them with easy-to-access resources where they can quickly find information and solutions for customer concerns.
As a contact center leader, it’s also important to identify common knowledge gaps that are causing your reps to place customers on hold. Contact center reps can’t be expected to memorize the answers to every question a customer might possibly ask, but they should be able to refer to a knowledge base whenever a customer asks something they don’t already know the answer to. They should also be able to contribute questions and answers as they arise so that your knowledge base continues to grow.
And that brings us to the final tactic for improving the call center customer experience.
5. Implement a Knowledge Sharing Platform
A great call center agent is not only positive and courteous, but also confident, self-sufficient, and knowledgeable. And the best way to help your reps foster these skills is by providing them an accessible, user-friendly knowledge sharing platform.
Reliable knowledge sharing can:
- Streamline onboarding
- Promote faster resolutions
- Increase first call resolution rate
- Eliminate the spread of misinformation
- Prevent the loss of tacit knowledge
- Empower employees at every level
When reps have access to all the up-to-date information they need in one centralized platform, they’ll be better prepared to provide high-quality service. And because they’ll feel more supported, they’ll sound more self-assured and trustworthy, too.
When your organization’s customer experience ratings begin to dip, it’s easy to feel panicked and assume you need to invest in better sales processes or marketing efforts. But while supporting those departments is crucial to success, don’t forget about investigating your call center activities. By implementing these five tactics, you can improve the customer experience in your call center and strengthen your brand’s reputation.