Your call center agents are key to your company’s success. They are the first point of contact with your customers and responsible for how your customers view your business. Thus, they are ultimately responsible for your bottom line.
The problem is that many call centers are caught in the past. They are still stuck on outdated metrics and ways of handling customers that don’t match up with today’s customer expectations, which can result in poor customer service experiences that lose sales.
In the end, exceptional customer experiences all come down to really good customer service calls. In this article, we break down the anatomy of a customer call, best practices, and the quality assurance metrics essential for success.
Understanding Your Call Center Agents and How They Work
The first step to a really good customer service call is to understand your agents. These individuals represent your brand at every level, and how they perform will have innumerable benefits or consequences. So, before we get into customer service call center best practices, let’s take a look at your agents, in particular, their brains.
Your agents use three parts of their brains on every call, knowing how each works and what it’s responsible for will help ensure you always excel in your call center.
- The Frontal Lobe: The Frontal Lobe makes up 41% of the brain and is responsible for thinking, judgement, and creativity. This is the most engaged part of your agent’s brain and is responsible for helping them think on their feet and go off-script.
- The Parietal Lobe: The Parietal Lobe is key to communication. This part of the brain is responsible for language and tone choice, which can make or break a customer call. While you can give your agents a script to follow, they’ll choose their language and tone, impacting how the caller perceives the entire interaction.
- The Temporal Lobe: The Temporal Lobe is responsible for our feelings and short-term memories. This is where empathy exists and can make the difference between a successful or negative call. It’s also the most difficult to train, tending to be something that is either natural or not.
7 Customer Service Call Center Best Practices
Now that you know how your agent’s brains work, what can you do to take this information and transform it into an exceptional call center? It’s all about implementing seven crucial customer service call center best practices.
1. Focus on the Important Elements of Every Call
Every call has an impact on the overall success of your call center, which is why it’s essential to ensure that every call has the necessary elements for success.
Watch Tone of Voice
Everyone adjusts their tone of voice throughout the day depending on who they’re talking to and what they’re talking about. The key is using a tone that matches the other person. When it comes to call center agents, that means matching the tone of voice to their customers,, which creates empathy and helps move the conversation along. Look for a confident and upbeat tone.
Listening is the most important skill your agents can demonstrate. Customers hate nothing more than talking to a customer service representative and feeling like they weren’t heard. Even if your agents have heard the same question a thousand times, they still need to actively listen. The key is to pause for breath and not rush any call so the customer feels they’re being listened to.
Speak at a Normal Speed
It can be tempting to speak slowly so the customer understands you better or to speak more quickly to get the call done. In either case, it’s not what you want. You’re not trying to make a sale or make the customer feel talked down to. Instead, your agents need to speak as normally as possible—not too slowly or too quickly. Speaking normally can also help your agents listen better.
And don’t be afraid to adjust your speaking speed based on the customer. If they have an accent and appear not to speak English as a first language, they might require a slower speed.
Use the Right Language
Only 7% percent of meaning is derived from the actual words we use. However, that doesn’t mean that language isn’t important. When you are only speaking with a customer over the phone, the language your agents use can make a big difference in the result of the call.
Give your agents the freedom to be themselves, using humor and personalization on every call. However, make sure to explain when and how best to express themselves to promote trust, and when to focus on the basics.
Your average call, email, or chat will always use a few common questions such as “How are you?” and “What seems to be the problem?” The key is to make sure that every question is valuable, which means knowing the difference between the three main types of customer service questions and how they can be used to help the customer.
- Open Questions: These questions are great for getting the conversation going and identifying the issue quickly while demonstrating empathy.
- Probing Questions: These types of questions allow you to delve deeper into the customer’s answers, to find out what exactly is going on.
- Closed Questions: These yes or no questions allow you to confirm that you understand the customer and have addressed their issues effectively.
Questioning is one of the most important skills your agent can demonstrate, and a few good questions can make all the difference.
Customers want to feel like they have a connection with your agent, which is why it’s so important to build rapport. It increases respect and understanding between your agent and the customer and is essential to a successful call. The good news is that there are easy ways to build rapport and demonstrate connection.
- Break the Ice: The first few seconds of every call are essential, so it’s important to break the ice at the beginning and disarm the customer.
- Listen Carefully: As we said above, listening is important. Nothing will annoy a customer more than ignoring their needs.
- Mirror the Customer: Empathize with the customer, mirror their tone and voice, and demonstrate that you’re on the same page.
Closing the Call/Chat
Just as the call opening is important, so is closing the call. You cannot get off the call or close the chat too quickly. The end of your message is essential, which is where there are a few things you should do at the end of every call.
- Confirm next steps
- Be proactive about preventing future problems
- Ask if there are any other questions
- Genuinely thank the customer for their time
- Use the customer’s name during the final appreciation
2. Demonstrate Emotional Intelligence Skills for Success
Every successful call demonstrates the same critical skill: emotional intelligence. It’s this skill that helps your customers feel like they are heard and understood, which is crucial for customer satisfaction. When your agents demonstrate emotional intelligence they:
- Anticipate customer requests
- Deliver explanations and justifications
- Educate customers
- Build rapport
- Provide emotional support
- Offer personal information
3. Manage Customer Expectations
The channel your customer uses to communicate with you can dictate their expectations. For example, a customer on a phone call will want to be answered as quickly as possible. However, someone on live chat may require an even quicker response, 30 seconds or so. While email could have a response delayed by as long as 24 hours.
When managing expectations, it’s also essential to understand what’s really important to your customers. This can change with the times, and so you must constantly update your performance metrics to make sure they match today’s customer experience.
4. Be Open to Going Off the Call Center Script
A loosely defined call center script can be helpful. It works for certain types of calls and can provide the necessary guidance, which can keep things on track to avoid the negative.
However, a complete call center script is not what any customer wants. It makes the caller feel like they are not heard and are just another customer. Instead, there needs to be an option for your agents to go off the call center script and personalize the experience, building rapport.
5. Treat Every Customer the Same
No matter if your agent is talking to a celebrity or the Average Joe, they should receive the same level of customer service. This is especially essential in today’s world of social media. Influencers come in all shapes and sizes and can be indistinguishable from another customer. One bad experience with an influencer could damage your brand reputation very quickly.
6. Don’t Forget Omnichannel
Calls are not the only way you communicate with customers. In fact, most of your customers will probably communicate with your team through multiple different channels including email, social media, and live chat. As a result, your agents need to be able to handle customer service interactions however they come.
7. Cross-Pollinate Your Agents
Turnover in the call center is fairly high. The reality is that when it comes to your call center agents, half are there because that’s what they want to do for their career while the other half just want a job. That means that you need to ensure that your career-focused agents are spread out throughout your contact center because they will be the ones to enhance the overall customer experience.
Also, by moving agents between different channels (calls, chat, email, etc.) and areas, they’ll bring best practices with them. This will help you highlight what might be missing and how you can optimize each channel.
What Call Center Metrics Measure Success?
Typical call center metrics include calls handled, average handle time, and first contact resolution. But while those metrics are important and tied to agent performance, they can’t really tell you if you’re providing quality service. Instead, you need to dig deeper into your quality assessment to understand just how well you’re doing.
To do that, it’s essential to take a step back and identify which metrics truly tell you how your agents are doing. A good place to start is with the important elements of every call, which we mentioned above.
- Tone of voice
- Listening carefully
- Speaking normally
- Effective questioning
- Rapport building
- Closing the call/chat
While these seven elements might be difficult to measure, it’s a worthwhile process that can tell you a lot about your agents and how well they handle customer calls. Based on the results of these metrics, you should be able to tell why a call went well or didn’t and how it can be improved in the future. The key is using a call center quality assurance evaluation sheet to help you look closer at each call.
The Importance of a Call Center Quality Assurance Evaluation Sheet
Quality assurance is necessary in the call center, and the right tool that uses evaluation sheets will ensure that you deliver consistent, high-quality customer service. It will help you identify agent behaviors that need to be addressed and corrected and top performers. The more robust the QA audit, the better.
Some things you need to look for in a good call center quality assurance evaluation sheet:
- Reporting: You need to be able to compare each month and year, so you can monitor the quality of your customer service in the long and short term. Look for a tool that offers dashboard reporting.
- All Data in One Place: Your QA tool needs to help you keep all your data in one place, so you don’t lose anything and so you can successful report on all data with ease. It will also help you dig down into specifics in just a few clicks.
- Looping in Agents: Agents are rarely part of the reporting loop, but they are key. They need feedback on their performance so that they know how they’re doing and how they can improve. This is essential for engaging your agents.
Using Scorebuddy to Develop Really Good Customer Service Calls
Scorebuddy enables supervisors and managers to engage with agents about their call performance, opening up communication. It also makes it easy to provide the agent with an individual report of their performance, so they know what they need to improve and where they are already succeeding.
The key benefit of Scorebuddy is the ability to monitor every call through self-evaluation. In this way, you can determine how well each agent is meeting your call center requirements, managing customer expectations, and delivering customer satisfaction. With Scorebuddy’s customizable scorecards you can measure non-traditional call center metrics to suit your needs, whether you’re looking for a holistic scorecard or something more quantitative. You can set the QA score rules and policies.
From there, you can gain insights into the anatomy of a really good customer service call based on your criteria of success. And you can share those results, including any patterns and trends, across groups and teams in your company. You can even compare agent performance month over month to determine overall improvement.
In the end, Scorebuddy empowers you to improve the customer service experience across multiple sectors.