24 Oct The Art of Communication in Contact Centers
With challenges like latency, awkward auto-corrects and improper use of emojis (no, the poop emoji is not chocolate and ‘LOL’ doesn’t mean lots of love) no one needs more communication problems.
This is especially true between customers and businesses which use everything from cell phones, to chat interfaces, to emails, to social posts to connect. Here are ways to improve communication in contact centers and call centers:
Communication Between Agents and Customers
Canned Responses and Scripts
Automated responses and scripts make a customer feel talked at. This is an issue if the canned response doesn’t address the problem. Alternatives?
Agents can increase First Call Resolution with great listening skills which are as important as their responses. Agents can assess how well an interaction is going in real time making adjustments for successful resolution.
Professional response doesn’t have to mean cold response. Agent tone and word choices that communicate confidence in the ability to resolve the customer issue and respect for the customer position are powerful tools. Addressing the customer by name correctly and appropriately creates a more personalized experience.
Maintaining a Personal Experience While Using Automated Tools
Technology and AI assisted self-help options reduce agent load and company cost. How can a business use these tools without creating an impersonal customer experience?
Retaining customer information through transfers so that the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves improves interactions.
If automated systems provide a swift option they improve customer sentiment. Per Zendesk:
“With 73% of consumers saying they want the ability to solve issues on their own, companies can do well to provide a customer experience tailored to self-service.”
During agent-customer interactions, tools like CSAT.AI provide agents real-time metrics informing them if they have actually addressed their customer’s concerns. CSAT.AI also reminds agents to ask customers targeted questions to provide helpful options when appropriate. Client-business relations improve prior to the end of the interaction improving First Call Resolution.
Centers can create a company culture that values their agents. That value is amplified to customers. Scores track improvement over time and provide opportunities to encourage and reward agents. They also give goals for agents to reach, show their performance level and help them provide efficient service.
Knowing when to put a human voice on the phone is key. Automated systems are a real cost saver, as Harvard Business Review has discovered:
“The cost of a do-it-yourself transaction is measured in pennies, while the average cost of a live service interaction (phone, e-mail, or webchat) is more than $7 for a B2C company and more than $13 for a B2B company.”
Still, automated systems only go so far. Customers routed through multiple menus because their issues are not listed become frustrated. A clear method for customers to exit the automated menu for an agent is necessary.
Tracking the number of abandoned calls, time spent in automated menus and agent assisted contacts reveals when a human agent is needed and how menus can be updated to improve customer experience.
Cultural and Language Differences
Call center services are often outsourced to countries outside a businesses’ main customer base. The communication problems that result are often parodied (check Amy Schumer’s piece ).
What are the solutions for an automated system that doesn’t understand a customer’s verbal menu choices or a human interaction that results in arduous attempts at being understood?
When policies or other information need to be clearly understood and repeated recording them in the language(s) of choice provides consistency and relieves busy agents.
Though this works for a company policy it doesn’t work for empathy which experts say cannot be scripted, as indicated in this Fortune article.
Tools like CSAT.AI can assist agents by identifying during an interaction how well they are communicating with the customer and when language has become inappropriate or ineffective without forcing an agent to use a script.
Communication Between Supervisors and Agents
Platforms for Agents
Call center agents have demanding jobs. How can supervisors assist?
When agents are able to express themselves as a group it creates solidarity, amplifies their voices and provides clear guidance to inform management. Group learning situations provide the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback that both agents and supervisors can benefit from.
One on one
There are times when a one on one situation is beneficial. This allows the agent to speak more candidly about problems and concerns without feeling singled out or embarrassed.
Acting on Information From Agents
It is important to actively employ agent contributions. Supervisors can act by:
Value agent input
Contact center agents are the ones dealing with customer issues day in day out. That first hand knowledge is useful for streamlining processes, decreasing costs and elevating customer experience.
With the evolution of AI many routine tasks and basic customer service inquiries can be handled by software. This frees human agents to focus on tougher issues. AI bolsters their knowledge so that they become more valuable agents. Providing tools to reduce agent burden allows agents to grow improving employee retention.
Communication methods have come a long way technologically. Still business is a human enterprise. Ensuring that each aspect of communication in a call center honors every human element improves the experience for all.
Can you hear me now?