Call centers get a bad rap for being stress inducing, soul sucking, and just plain dreadful places to work.
That may be true for some, but if you’re a savvy call center leader, making the most of your work, and walking away from each day unscathed, is completely possible.
Not all of us know the secret to keeping a positive and productive outlook at work, but thankfully we have the Internet for that.
Reddit, the popular site best known for viral memes and gifs, has a number of threads dedicated to the contact center.
In these ingenious forums, veteran call center employees share tricks of the trade, words of wisdom, and general hacks that have helped them to enjoy working in this environment.
We’ve compiled 25 of the best contact center life-hacks from these Reddit threads, to help you become more successful in this field of work—and avoid sitting in a straitjacket:
1. Use the mute button
The mute button is a great feature for venting (very cathartic on stressful calls). Just keep in mind it can be your best friend when it works, and your worst enemy when it’s not working.
2. Don’t let customers know if you’re a novice
NEVER say or give off any kind of hints to the customer that you’re a newbie. It makes the customer less confident in you and they could use it against you later in the call.
3. Take lots of notes
Make your notes as you go. Most employee computers have access to a note pad. Open it up and—briefly—write down the steps you take while you are helping the customer. Then when it’s time to close the call, you will have your notes already done, and just copy and paste into your Call Log.
5. Don’t be hard on yourself
You’ll learn best through experience, so don’t be hard on yourself! Analyze the complicated calls and take notes in case the issue comes up again. Also…don’t be afraid to seek the help from your colleagues. Listen to their calls when you’re not on one yourself, and pick up on what you like or what you think are good techniques.
6. Show empathy, not sympathy
Show empathy to the clients, not sympathy. Don’t cry with them, but let them know that you’re there to help and listen. You’ll take care of their situation the best you can. If the customer knows that you genuinely want to help it will calm them down.
7. Question everything
If you have a question, research it then ask your supervisor. If the supervisor tells you something that conflicts with your research then press the issue and ask more questions, don’t just go with what they tell you.
8. Speak naturally
Use your natural speaking voice and cadence whenever possible. If you sound relaxed, it can help relax the customer in turn, leading to better calls.
9. Don’t be afraid to put a customer on hold
Don’t be afraid to put a customer on hold so you can ask for advice from a colleague or supervisor.
11. Find something to fidget with
Buy silly putty, a Rubik’s cube, or other fiddle toy. Do you macramé? Bring your cord. You’ll be sitting a lot, with varying periods between phone calls. The goal here is to keep yourself engaged one way or another.
12. Have fun with your callers
When you talk with a smile on your face, the caller can hear it. Make a fake grimace until it becomes natural; no one can tell the difference, except for the guy in the cubicle across from you, and I guarantee you, he’s seen worse.
13. Be nice to your coworkers
Be nice to all your coworkers. The last thing you want ifs for them to hate you. If they do hate you, it’s not the end of the world. Eight months ago, I had a call center nemesis. Nowadays, we’re buying each other birthday presents and making inappropriate jokes.
14. Share your stories
If you get a weird caller, share the story. At least some of your coworkers thrive on gossip, and can probably give you tips for handling situations in the future.
15. Dress for fun
Come in wearing a batman mask. Come in wearing one of those “riding a pony” costumes. Come in wearing your pajamas!
Contact center life can be monotonous and uninspiring. Having some fun with your outfits (with permission from your boss of course!) breaks the monotony and lifts your spirit, as well as the spirits of everyone around you.
16. Own up to mistakes
If you mess up, tell your supervisor IMMEDIATELY. Firstly, because they’re probably going to find out anyway, and secondly because you want to establish a reputation as a trustworthy, honorable person for when you really mess up.
17. Get to know your knowledge-base
Learn your agent information database. Learn how to get around it quickly. If it has a search engine, which most do, focus on putting in the correct keywords to get the script or article that you need to solve the customer’s problem. For example, sometimes “credits” will be found under “adjustments”.
18. Focus on finding out real issue
Troubleshoot the issue that is actually happening, not what the customer believes is happening. For example, the customer says, “My router isn’t working”. Instead of just taking that at face value, ask probing questions to find out the true problem, like “Are you seeing any error messages on your computer screen? Are the status lights on your router off, on or flashing?”
19.Take time with computer novices and the elderly
Understand that many elderly people do not see the computer and the internet service as separate entities. When they say “My internet is broken”, they may very well mean that they don’t see a particular desktop icon they are used to seeing, or that their homepage has changed. Many detailed probing questions are necessary to deal with these type of folks correctly.
20. Bring wet wipes
Sometimes it might seem like your station is all yours, but it’s not. Do your part to keep your desk, headset, and any other equipment clean. And bring wet wipes. Just trust on me on this one.
21. Make use of your spare time
Bring a book, crochet needle and yarn, cards to play solitaire, school books or something that can help you study between calls. Also bring snacks—healthy preferably—and sit next to someone you enjoy speaking with.
22. Move up when you can
If you’re able to grow from being an agent to being a manager or director, do it. We need more people who have been in the agent’s shoes leading the team.
For Call Center Managers:
23. Stock up on spare equipment
Get plenty of spare equipment for your agents. Phone bases, headsets, keyboards, mice, screens and seats will all get broken, some within the first week, as a few agents will play employment roulette just to find out what they can get away with.
24. Move to the cloud
Move your contact center to the cloud. It may seem like a big undertaking at first, but it will require less maintenance and you’ll see a return on your investment sooner than you think. That’s why more than 60% of contact centers are expected to move to the cloud by 2021.
25. Get your hands dirty
Take calls. When a site director frequently sits with agents and takes calls it helps to create a positive team environment. Some will even take calls and transfer the “sales” to agents to bolster their numbers.
Here are some other things great contact center managers do every day.