The customer experience that your call center delivers is critical to your organization’s reputation and success. There are few other instances in which your business has as much direct communication with its customers as during a 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. The cost of poor customer service is simply too high.
To start improving your call center operations and elevate your customer experience, try these 10 tips:
1. Listen to Your 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how many call centers base their entire workflow—including scripts and escalation protocol—on assumptions and spotty, outdated data.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 offerings and the market evolve, 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 management 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 retailer that 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.
When you know more about the roles and responsibilities of the people calling, you can better customize the experience.
2. 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. 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.
3. Hold Empathy Training
Empathy is one of the most important soft skills for call center agents. Many people reaching out to 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, your agents must 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 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.
4. Personalize the Customer Journey
Have you ever started shopping, then left the platform to perform a task and returned to an email recommending related product options and reminding you to check out your shopping cart?
Then congrats, you’ve experienced the power of personalization.
Personalization makes the customer journey smoother and drives positive brand sentiment. In fact, 80% of consumers say they are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences.
And personalization doesn’t have to be limited to the pre-purchase part of the customer journey. Ensuring call center agents have access to information about the customer’s past interactions with the brand can help them provide a personalized experience.
5. Use Customer Journey Mapping
Customer journey mapping visually illustrates customers’ processes, needs, and perceptions throughout their interaction and relationship with your brand.
When you look at the journey maps alongside core metrics, you can get a better understanding of the customer experience and where there are issues and opportunities for improvement.
Customers at different stages of the customer journey will interact with your customer service team in different ways. You can improve the customer experience in your call center by communicating with your customers based on where they are in their journey.
For example, a contact center agent should take a different approach to a conversation with a customer who just discovered your brand and called to find out more about your products versus a returning customer.
6. Show You Value Employee Ideas
As Melina McPhee, Manager of Global Customer Care at the Estee Lauder said in a virtual fireside chat with Bloomfire, “The most important thing in a company is listening to the people right on the front lines. It’s a disservice to the company if you’re creating a space where people don’t feel safe sharing their ideas.”
Employees who feel valued are more engaged at work and more willing to help customers. Give employees different ways (both anonymous and non-anonymous) to share feedback in the format they prefer.
For example, one-on-one meetings with managers could be an opportunity for non-anonymous feedback. Anonymous employee surveys could be another option. And when you get the feedback, act on it.
7. Improve the 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 the call center employee experience 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.”
8. Use Tech to Create Breakthrough Customer Experiences
Chatbots can save up to 30% in customer support costs and can help businesses by speeding up response times and answering up to 80% of FAQs.
Technologies such as chatbots and automated phone systems can help automate and facilitate routine tasks, reducing friction for customers who are trying to resolve straightforward issues. However it’s still important to balance human customer service with technology. For example, while customers might turn to a chatbot or knowledge base to find answers to frequently asked questions, your company should still make it easy for them to contact a call center agent when they need help resolving a more complex issue.
9. Implement a Knowledge Management 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 management platform.
Reliable knowledge sharing can:
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.
10. Empower Your Employees
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 customer 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 agents 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 their company’s knowledge management platform 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.
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 ten tactics, you can improve the customer experience in your call center and strengthen your brand’s reputation.
This blog post was updated and expanded in June 2022.