Like any profession, it’s very common for call center agents to fall into bad habits. That’s where management comes into play. It’s so important to keep tabs on their performance and quality of service. It’s easy to get caught up in numbers and KPIs, but in the end, if your customers aren’t having a good time, it defeats the purpose of your contact center altogether.
These offences are prevalent and great places to start when addressing your agent performance:
Transferring callers unnecessarily
For most customers, an ideal call center experience consists of a one-stop interaction with a single, knowledgeable agent. Being bounced around between departments, repeating their issue over and over again can be infuriating.
Here are some of the reasons agents transfer their customers, and some steps management can take to resolve these issues:
Look for trends; if customers seeking technical support are being funneled to accounts and billing, you may have an issue with your IVR.
If your agent feels they are ill-equipped to help the customer with their issue, they may feel it’s best to transfer them to someone who can better deal with their concern. Consider cross-training your agents so they can support a broader range of inquiries with confidence.
They put customers on hold too often
Ah, the dreaded awkward silence. No one loves sitting through those instances, especially with a frustrated customer at the other end of the line. Many agents will use the ‘hold’ button as a brief escape to look up additional information or even take a breather from a tension-filled call.
This technique can be a lifesaver during challenging calls — it’s always better to put an irate customer on hold and compose yourself than risk offending them. However, spending additional time on hold can increase customer frustration even more, especially if they just came from waiting in a long call queue.
If you find your agents are relying on this tactic too often, it might be time to intervene. Encourage your agents to practice small talk with their customers during these periods to build rapport — this can translate to a more positive customer perception of your brand down the road!
They don’t pronounce customer names correctly
One of the great things about being a call center agent is the opportunity to chat with people from all walks of life. With that said, your team needs to be mindful of their preferences when addressing them during the call.
Mispronouncing names is one of the most common offences — and one of the simplest to address! If there are any doubts, agents should ask the customer how to pronounce their name at the beginning of the call and ensure they pronounce it correctly throughout the conversation. This helps create rapport right off the bat and shows the customer that your business sees them as an individual, not just a ticket number.
Here are some other common courtesies that your agents should be practicing:
Check for any indications in the customer profile that they might have a different preferred name or nickname, and ask them how they would like to be addressed.
Asking a customer’s pronouns can go a long way in building a healthy relationship, especially with your LGBTQ+ customers. This might be awkward for agents to ask on the fly as it’s a growing, yet still uncommon practice. To ease the burden off your agents, consider including preferred pronouns and transgender/non-binary options in your customer profiles.
Often, agents will refer to their customers by their official titles. But people’s titles can change all the time! Confirm their title at the beginning of the call, and update either profile accordingly.
They ask for irrelevant information
Your customers might not be the experts in the room, but they can tell when you’re asking for irrelevant information. This tends to be a challenge for agents who lean heavily on scripts.
There are a couple of downsides to this practice. First, it wastes the customer’s time; second, it gives the impression that the agent doesn’t know what they’re doing; and third, it doesn’t benefit anyone.
If you find that your agents are uncomfortable going off script, take some time to find out why. Are they afraid of taking risks for fear of reprimand? Have they had a chance to practice this skill? Find the root causes and address them — empowering your employees is one of the best things you can do to boost customer experience!
They ask customers to repeat details
Your IVR is a great way to collect information from your customer before connecting with an agent. But if the agent immediately asks for the same information, it can sour the interaction right away.
There are a few reasons why this occurs. It may have to do with your agents who are hesitant to go off script — but more often than not, it’s an issue with your operations. It’s worth it to take some time and revisit the customer journey, from IVR to agent. This will eliminate any redundancies and streamline the process!
They redirect customers to other channels
What agents sometimes fail to realize is that when it comes to resolving issues, the call center is meant to be the final step in the customer journey.
There are a few reasons for this. From a financial point of view, the voice channel is the most expensive to maintain as it requires employing many agents. But it’s also proven to be the most preferred method of service, as customers generally prefer a human touch when addressing their issue.
Most companies take an omnichannel approach to their contact center in an attempt to direct customers with more basic inquiries to their website, chat systems, and online FAQs so their agents can focus on resolving unique and complex cases. Agents should always assume that the customer on the other end of the line has exhausted all other options and is looking for a human to help resolve their issue.
Of course, there will be customers who jump straight for the phone for even the most basic questions, like business hours and shipping policies. In these cases, relay the information they’re looking for verbally, and if appropriate, ask them if they would like you to email them links to your website in case they need to reference the information in the future. Trust us; the customers will appreciate you going the extra mile for them!
Their information is inconsistent
Your company likely has a million and one policies and promotions going on, and for an agent, it can be tough to stay on top of the changes. However, the moment your agent relays outdated or incorrect information to a customer, they lose all credibility in their eyes.
Sending your agents a newly revised script with tiny tweaks and edits isn’t always enough for them to internalize the changes. They need to be well versed in their knowledge of the company’s products or services, so treat them like ambassadors and experts.
Consider holding regular meetings to discuss any high-level changes to the business, as well as any details that will impact their day-to-day role. Are there any anticipated topics or questions from customers they should be prepared for? Encourage your agents to ask questions so they can move forward in their role with confidence and clarity.
They use condescending language
Agents should remember to communicate on an equal level to the customer. The moment you use condescending language, you’ll lose their respect and trust.
Of course, it’s not always that simple. Customers can become frustrated and even angry, which can make it challenging to manage the call. They may try to dominate the agent, making it difficult for them to resolve the issue. One of the most common phrases agents will use to try and diffuse the situation is “calm down.” We can tell you right off the bat that this rarely works — when’s the last time someone calmed down when told to do so?
The issue is often not the phrase itself, but rather, how it’s received. While the agent may think they’re demonstrating patience and control, the customer will likely interpret this remark as condescending. Taking time to practice active listening and really hear the customer’s frustrations will likely prove more fruitful.
Here are some other phrases to be avoided:
- “As I told you before…”
- “Why didn’t you do this instead?”
- “Didn’t you check our website?”
- “There’s nothing I can do.”
They don’t show empathy
There’s nothing worse than connecting with an agent who gives off an “I hate people” vibe. It sets an uncomfortable tone right off the bat and makes the customer feel like they’re a burden.
The best call center agents are the ones who do customer service through a human lens. They understand that customers are people dealing with problems they don’t know how to solve, and do their best to provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere — even over the phone.
Here’s a list of things call center agents with empathy do:
- Smile — they may not be able to see you, but customers can hear your smile when speaking over the phone.
- Make every call unique — the best agents don’t treat every interaction the same. Different customers always call for a different approach.
- Take time to listen — frustrated customers can tell when you take their issues seriously and work to resolve their issue.
- Celebrate a job well done — they get genuine satisfaction from solving the customer’s issue, and the customer can sense that joy even over the phone!
They forget their customers are human
With hundreds of inquiries flowing through their dashboard each day, it can be hard to remember that customers are people and not ticket numbers. After all, the only real impression they get of their customer is a voice on a headset: not the easiest way to form a relationship.
As mentioned previously, it’s a good habit to make small-talk with your customer and get to know a bit about them. Make a point to learn three key things about them within the first 10 minutes of the call that have nothing to do with their issue. This will help you visualize them a bit better and make the interaction more natural.