6 TIPS FOR CREATING A CUSTOMER-CENTRIC CALL CENTER TEAM
Customers today have high expectations and topping the list is an enriched customer experience. According to a recent study, “96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand." Furthermore, recent studies have shown that providing a good customer experience ultimately translates into more consumer spending. Companies must ensure that exceptional interactions become a top priority.
"Nowhere is this truer than in a contact center, which for most companies is the central point from which all customer interactions are managed," says CEO Mark Benioff of Salesforce.com. Indeed, for many businesses, the call center is its backbone. This is where sales are made, problems are solved, and relationships and loyalty are forged or lost. Placing the customer first is the starting point for operating a customer-centric call center, but customer-centricity must be translated into the values and actions that trickle down throughout the entire company; it's the key to winning and retaining customers.
Below are six tips for creating a customer-centric experience with a call center team.
Gauging client satisfaction with data analytics: Strengthening a call center’s capability is greatly enhanced by harnessing the power behind historical and real-time data. According to Forbes Insights, “90% of global executives who use data analytics reported delivering an enhanced customer experience.” Key performance indicators include referral rates, customer retention rates, satisfaction, call answer times, conflict management, and agent demeanor. This knowledge gives organizations a window into how customers are truly feeling about the brand and product experience so that decisions can be made that will result in real improvements for customers, call center agents, and managers.
Traditional data measurements include Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES).
- CSAT is a commonly used key performance indicator that tracks how satisfied customers are with an organization’s products and/or services.
- The NPS, in contrast to the CSAT which measures short-term satisfaction, is meant to measure long-term happiness, or customer loyalty.
- Finally, the CES asks how much effort a customer put into a certain interaction with the company. That is, service organizations create loyal customers not by delighting them in service interactions, but by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily.
These metrics help make informed decisions about average handle time, call routing, first call resolutions, scripts, self-service deflections, and cross-selling.
Understanding your customer base: Developing an outstanding customer-centric service starts with a custom-tailored approach that reflects a deep understanding of one’s customer base. Tracking and mapping all the touch points of the customer’s journey helps the team to gain an appreciation of the customer's perspective. Additional information can be gathered through qualitative and quantitative research methods, such as focus groups, surveys, live chats, website behavior, online customer reviews, and recorded call data.
Demographics and lifestyle factors about your customers will also enrich your understanding of your customer base. These factors include residential location, age, socioeconomic status, education level, occupations, ethnicity, and housing. Such information can be collected by marketing companies or departments within a company. Providing customer data to other departments (e.g., sales, technical support, marketing, etc.) can help to inform them regarding their approach to interacting with the customers.
Call center data can be customized to display such information, which allows the call center representatives to enhance their interactions and make meaningful connections with customers.
Providing excellent listening to resolve problems: Unfortunately, a large percentage of initial contact with call centers start on a negative note; it is therefore the agent's job to transform the situation into a positive one. Thankfully, many of these callers have straightforward needs that can be managed by simply making them feel heard. More generally, the three main steps for achieving a customer-centric call center resolution are by giving the customer undivided attention, listening with engagement to what the customer needs, and providing a satisfactory response.
Listening is the foundation of effective communication and nowhere is this more important than in a call center. Good listening skills include: treating the person with empathy and appropriate language cues; avoiding interrupting the customer; and discerning what emotions are flowing.
Agents should be equipped with creative methods and tools to offer many possible solutions and demonstrate they are willing to go that extra mile to regain trust.
Personalizing for successful customer experience: It’s important to design the call center experience to consistently put each customer front and center. Many clients are looking for a custom experience tailored specifically to their individual needs. Personalized customer service has a variety of benefits for the company as well.
If agents have access to a consumer’s history, preferences and records of past interactions, they can resolve issues more quickly. It also saves the customer the frustrating task of repeating information they’ve already shared with the company in the past. Shorter calls reduce costs and make for more satisfied customers and agents. Happier customers and representatives improve your bottom line.
Active listening also helps. While scripting has a role at the call center, it can make a customer almost feel as if they are not being heard at all, that they are not a priority to the company they are interacting with. Empathetic listening can go a long way towards making someone feel valued.
Investing in agent training: Call center representatives are the touch points that leave a large and lasting impression on the customer. Agents should be educated on the organization's branding and values in order to deliver the service that matches these ideals. Agents should also receive on-going training in solid troubleshooting techniques that resolve issues at the first point of contact.
Customer-centric companies will also be familiar with their agents' areas of expertise and channel customers towards the agent most capable of addressing a given issue. Furthermore, encouraging the development of critical thinking and creative problem solving will solidify a strong customer experience. Training for critical thinking should focus on teaching representatives to gather the right details, check the facts, and assess the customer’s desires or issues.
Continuous soft-skill training is a must. Such topics include:
- Call Structures: This process involves that handling of calls received in the call center and routing them to the appropriate department or subject matter expert for resolution.
- Power Phrasing: Words such as “definitely,” “absolutely,” “certainly” and “fantastic” may be short but leave no doubt in the customer’s mind that the agent is engaged and interested in solving the problem. Their use creates a positive vibe for the conversation, which can be especially helpful if the caller is upset or frustrated.
- Etiquette Essentials: Such maxims include: always introduce yourself and the company; speak clearly and directly into the phone; use an appropriate tone of voice and pace when speaking to a customer, etc.
- Navigating Caller Shuffling: From answering the phone properly, to techniques for transferring and placing a customer on hold, to closing a call positively, agents should be trained to manage all facets of customer interactions in an effective and professional manner.
- Vocal Makeovers: If used properly, one’s voice can have a huge impact on customer satisfaction. When used improperly, distracting vocal mannerisms that sometimes creep into speech can have a negative impact on the call and can leave customers dissatisfied. Agents should be made aware of the most common speaking distractions and learn specific tips and techniques for improvement so they can communicate with confidence.
The power of business culture: A strong customer-centric culture includes a positive workplace atmosphere. Open office layouts boost morale and foster connections. Reducing the typically high turnover rate of call center staff can be achieved by creating an engaging culture with benefits and perks that celebrate success. Focusing on employees is a step that cannot be overlooked when developing a customer-centric culture, as employees who are happy and fulfilled will ultimately serve their clients well.
About Zain Jaffer
Zain Jaffer is the Founder and CEO of Zain Ventures, a global investment company. Prior to this, Zain was the Co-Founder and CEO of Vungle, a mobile tech advertising firm. Taking a customer-centric leadership approach, Zain was an instrumental player in the major growth of the company, generating over $300 million in annual revenue.