When customers contact a business by phone, the first and perhaps only point of contact may be with virtual call center agents that work on an organization’s behalf. Customers that have had a positive interaction with a well-trained call center agent reflect beneficially on the company — and vice versa, when a customer has a negative reaction, that customer can develop a negative perception of your company, and share the experience by word of mouth. In order to increase the likelihood that customer call center agents create positive interactions on a more regular basis, there are a number of ways for agents and managers to conduct themselves to strengthen your brand in the eyes of your customer base. Let’s take a look at 7 important tips for call center professionals to follow when interacting with customers.
#1 – Always Be Courteous
Virtual call center agents must treat each and every caller with courtesy. This means that agents should always strive to be polite and accommodating, tailoring their behavior and responses to put the call at ease. One simple way to achieve this is to address a customer by their preferred name. Agents can do this by asking how they prefer to be addressed (ex. Mike vs. Michael), use clear pronunciation of their name and continue to use this name consistently during the call (and possibly future interactions). Similarly, virtual call center agents should adjust their tone of voice to put callers at ease. Agents that remain calm, speak clearly and “talk with a smile” can diffuse any resentment that callers may have while disarming callers that feel that their needs and wants aren’t being addressed.
#2 – Always Be Professional
Throughout every conversation, agents must maintain a professional demeanor to ensure that they are in line with corporate values and goals. This means that while agents should be courteous, they have to adhere to the style and tone appropriate to the company’s aesthetic. For instance, a virtual call center agent may make small talk about the latest sports game with a customer who is on hold while waiting to connect with an athletic wear company; on the other hand, this is not the most appropriate line of conversation for a bank, where the expected tone would be more formal. Virtual call center agents should be regularly briefed on quality standards, but also held accountable for their interaction by monitoring calls.
#3 – Always Be Respectful
Every customer should be treated with respect. Agents should act rationally and understand the caller’s needs from their own point of view. This includes making an effort to accommodate them and anticipate pain points in the customer’s interactions. As an example, a caller might have a simple, regularly-occurring problem that requires a simple fix. Perhaps it is a router that just needs to be reset due to a power outage in the area. Virtual call center agents should understand that not everyone has the same aptitude and experience, but respect this person’s attempt to resolve their problem with compassion and understanding. Conversely, if an agent is being abused by the caller, the agent should make an effort to understand the frustrations of the caller and seek to negotiate a working middle-ground. Some customers may feel the need to vent to their agent, while subtly understanding that respect is a two-way street — if they are continually abusive, agents can inform the caller that their behavior may compromise the effectiveness of communicating in such a fashion.
#4 – Always Be Honest
Honesty is the best policy. Call center agents must always be honest with customers, as this builds trust and rapport in a company. Agents should never lie, but they also shouldn’t guess or make up an answer, which could backfire or sabotage a company. If a customer has a problem that is beyond their competence level, then the call center agent should calmly explain that they can either a) ask a manager about this particular question, or b) the customer will be transferred to an employee who can accurately address their needs.
#5 – Always Be Confident
Call center agents must be confident in their abilities to ensure that customers are receiving the best care. Well-trained and well-managed staff can ensure that your company is equipped to handle difficult scenarios, but confidence can also subconsciously put callers at ease, as they feel that they are being cared for by a competent part of a company — not just a call center agent who’s “winging it.”
#6 – Always Be Interested
Taking a genuine interest in the customer’s question or concerns is a crucial step to ensuring that customers feel that their calls are legitimate. Call center agents should know that every call is unique, despite the surface-level monotony for both the agent and the caller. Small talk and banter, while a customer’s call is being processed, can spark some interesting discussions that may address the root of a customer’s problem or address hiccups in the company’s system. A simple “How is your day going?” can spark an interesting conversation and keep a call lively. It also builds rapport, where customers can feel special, even if their problems are mundane.
#7 – Always Be Flexible
Always expect the unexpected. While it may seem like a paradox, call center agents should be prepared for any and every situation when receiving calls. They should know that every call is unique and may require maneuvering in ways that require changing the course of a conversation when necessary. For instance, if a customer recently lost one form of their identification, the agent can list other valid forms. Barring that, the call center agent can switch to other sources of verification. Then, if that’s not obtainable, the agent can work from the perspective of, “what would I do if I were in their situation?” and come to a reasonable methodology. Sometimes applicable information will be obtained that can lead to the solution, while other times, an agent could be dealing with a scammer. Above all, call center agents should be flexible and keep the customer informed of the reasons for the change.
Author: Tom Senkus