8178618370_3657062e31_zWe all know that the customer comes first when it comes to call center interactions, or at least they ought to. Focusing on the customer is sometimes lost on performance metrics and script adherence. When the focus has shifted among agents and customer care has taken a back seat, it may be time to reevaluate what makes for an effective call.

Below are 5 tips to help agents focus on customer care:

1. Use empathy

Interacting through a screen or a phone eliminates the face-to-face communication that often helps us feel connected to another person. Language and tone are the only indicators of a person’s emotion and intent. Call center agents have to be tuned in to these indicators in order to put themselves in the shoes of their customers. If call agents feel entirely removed from the customer, whether through rigid professionalism or script requirements, they will struggle to provide quality service.

Simply giving validation to a customer’s frustrations goes a long way. Before tackling an issue, agents should take moment to express what they would feel if they were the customer, then quickly express their plan of attack to inform the customer on the process and help them avoid becoming agitated, guessing what steps are being taken to resolve the issue.

2. Focus less on AHT

It is up for debate among professionals whether Average Handling Time is a good metric of agent performance. Some say that focusing primarily on AHT is a lazy way to manage and is often incomplete in offering solutions to keeping it low. Proponents of focusing on AHT as a key performance indicator say that it helps agents to be conscious of how they are using their time on a call, which can lead to greater productivity.

Whether you support the heavy focus on AHT or not, it cannot altogether be overlooked. Instead, try to find a balance between encouraging agents to be efficient with their time and effectively working through customer needs. Managers would be benefited from reviewing successful calls that had low average handling times and successful calls that had higher average handling times to find out what non-value steps can be eliminated.

3. Be proactive

If an agent is made aware of a customer’s distress, especially if the reason behind their distress is the fault of the company, allow the agent to be proactive in giving discounts, vouchers, free shipping, or taking other compensatory measures. Not only can offering these perks diffuse tension, but they help a customer understand that their concerns and their business are worth more to you than the cost or inconvenience of the perk. 

4. Be personable

Though automated systems save time and help direct calls appropriately, when we get connected to an agent, no one wants to talk to another robot. Make sure agents don’t become impersonal in the name of professionalism. Abiding by step one will really help in this. Have agents put themselves in the customer’s shoes in the context of the tone of voice they use or the simple small talk they engage in. Encourage agents to use the customer’s name. Take a look at their profile and ask about their hometown or wish them a belated happy birthday. It does not take much time to help the customer feel connected and valued.

5. Ask for feedback

Call center agents are in the unique position of being able to ask for direct feedback from customers. This feedback, especially when reported through proper channels, can be invaluable to managers in improving systems and operations. Requesting feedback also allows the agent to show the customer that their needs are the number one priority of the call. Have agents take the opportunity to ask if there is anything more they can do and if they customer’s concerns were resolved at the end of every call. These are quick and simple questions that ensure the agent is being thorough and that the customer’s needs are being met.

If your company uses surveys to collect feedback, have the agent mention the survey to the customer. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer directly if there is any reason that they would not give top ratings. This opens the door for honest feedback and valuable material for evaluation.
Employing these 5 tips will help call center agents have meaningful conversations and produce positive outcomes for customers. 

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