Call centers are at the heart of modern customer service and that makes active listening an indispensable CX tool. As call center managers, you have the power to train and encourage your agents to become active listening experts; enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Bonus: It makes your agents’ jobs more interesting, too.
In this blog, we’ll take a close look at what’s involved in active listening. We’ll share some practical steps and insights on how to teach this vital skill to your call center agents.
The Power of Active Listening
Active listening sounds simple, but it’s much more than just hearing and decoding words. Active listening is about understanding, empathizing, and responding thoughtfully in a conversation. It’s surprising how few of us truly engage on this level – and it matters more than you might think.
Customers notice when they are met with empathy and understanding, and they love it. In fact, 79% of customers say they prefer businesses that show they understand and care. Your clients will reward your efforts to know them with loyalty and repeat business. As a call center manager, it’s essential that you ensure your agents are equipped with the right skills to deliver this kind of superior customer service experience.
Step 1: Teach Active Listening with Comprehensive Training
Effective training lays the foundation for exceptional performance. Start by introducing the concept of active listening to your agents. Explain its importance and highlight real-life scenarios where active listening can turn a routine call into an extraordinary customer interaction.
Create engaging workshops that combine theoretical knowledge with practical exercises. Role-playing sessions can be incredibly valuable, as they give agents a hands-on opportunity to hone their skills in a safe environment. There are plenty of resources online and organized workshops and courses you can take advantage of, too.
Step 2: Help Your Agents Develop Empathy
Empathy forms the heart of active listening. When agents genuinely understand and relate to customers’ concerns, they are more likely to empathize with them, and their connection strengthens. You can teach this skill by sharing compelling stories from successful customer interactions to illustrate the impact of empathy.
Better yet, have agents share their own stories of particularly successful interactions. Encouraging them to examine and describe these feelings will help them open up to engaging with customers in a more empathetic way.
It’s also a great idea to incorporate empathy-building exercises that encourage agents to step into customers’ shoes. These exercises could involve discussing challenging scenarios, brainstorming solutions, and sharing personal experiences.
Step 3: Encourage Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions stimulate meaningful conversations. Teach agents to avoid closed-ended queries that elicit yes or no responses. Instead, encourage questions that prompt customers to share their thoughts, feelings, and needs. According to Zendesk, asking open-ended questions in customer interactions can increase customer satisfaction by 15%. Imagine the positive impact on your call center’s performance.
Open ended questions tend to start with words and phrases like “why” or “how” or “tell me about” rather than “do you” or “would you.”
Step 4: Active Communication Encourages More Interaction
Teach agents to use affirmative verbal cues such as “I understand,” “Tell me more,” and “How can I assist you further?”
For agents who interact using video calls, emphasize the importance of nonverbal cues such as nodding, using appropriate tone and pitch, and maintaining eye contact.
55% of communication is nonverbal and includes things like tone of voice and thoughtful pauses.
Step 5: Mastering the Art of Paraphrasing
Paraphrasing is a powerful active listening technique. When agents summarize their customers’ statements in their own words, it ensures they’ve understood, and it also reassures customers that their concerns are valued. Customer satisfaction scores can increase by 12% when agents paraphrased customer issues.
Call-Back Technology Enhances Customer Service
While active listening elevates customer interactions, integrating call-back technology takes customer service to new heights. Fonolo’s call-backs allow customers to request a return call from an agent, eliminating long wait times and reducing frustration.
By managing call volumes and reducing stress, call-backs support agents to do their best work and engage with their callers in more focused, meaningful conversations. Call-backs also positively impact the KPIs that matter the most, such as a 32% reduction in abandoned calls and a 62% improvement in customer satisfaction (Forrester.)
Enjoy the Journey
Remember, active listening is a journey, not a destination. Stay on the right path by continuously assessing your agents’ progress, providing constructive feedback, and celebrating their successes.
By following these steps and embracing the power of call-back technology, you’re not just creating satisfied customers; you’re cultivating brand advocates who will champion your business’s excellence.