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Even if someone loves your company or product, 59% of people will walk away after several bad experiences, and 17% will abandon your brand after just one bad experience (PWC). That means that one negative call, chat, email, or social media response could cost you almost a quarter of your customers.

And that's a problem, especially considering that 54% of U.S. consumers say the customer experience in most call centers needs improvement. The truth is that customers are willing to pay more for brands that offer greater convenience (43%), are more friendly and welcoming (42%), and haven't lost touch with the human element (71%).

So, how do you meet customer expectations and avoid costing your brand significant revenue?

A negative experience isn't always the fault of your call center, but it is the call center's primary responsibility to help resolve it. Your center can leverage negative quality assurance scorecards to improve the customer experience in the call center—one interaction at a time.

Dealing with Negative Customer Experiences in the Call Center

"How we train our teams to 'actively listen' and authentically respond matters." —Martin Hill-Wilson, Emotive CX for Customer Interaction

Negative customer experiences—where a customer ends the call with a negative emotional response or where you did not move the needle toward a positive response—are learning opportunities for customer-facing teams. The key is to understand exactly what a failed customer experience looks like and how/why it happens.

Quality assurance scorecards help you monitor customer experience in the call center with every interaction to ensure that your agents are always going above and beyond. In particular, they help you monitor four key aspects of customer interaction:

  • Quality: Did the agent demonstrate the necessary soft skills, follow the appropriate processes, and meet compliance standards to provide a positive customer experience and meet expectations?
  • Customer: Did the customer have their functional and emotional needs met—did they get what they came for?
  • Organization: Did the company deliver on its value proposition and brand promise through the customer experience?
  • Outcomes: Did the customer leave with a better understanding of your brand, the situation, the product, and the service?

Even with standard QA metrics in place, CX failure is open to interpretation. There will be times when your agents follow best practices but still can't create a positive experience. In these situations, an agent won't be able to move the needle toward a positive outcome—all they can do is avoid making the situation worse.

You can't always understand why a customer experience was negative, especially when you attempt to analyze an interaction directly after it occurs. Instead, you should leverage diagnostics and a team-based approach to identify what went right and what went wrong.

Diagnosing What Causes a Negative Customer Experience Using QA Scorecards

A team approach to quality assurance—which includes a coach/manager, QA advisor, and agent—can help you better define the areas where an interaction may have fallen short, then decide how to improve. There are as many versions of what happened in any situation as there are witnesses, so having multiple viewpoints and opinions involved is essential.

Here are four simple questions you can ask alongside the QA scorecard to determine what caused a negative customer experience:

1. What was the customer's backstory and situation?

Many negative customer experiences in the call center happen because the agent did not have a conversation with the customer. Instead, they gave a one-way pitch. Understanding whether or not the agent listened to and understood the customer's story could immediately explain where and how things might have gone wrong.

For example, let's say two customers called in with a power outage. Customer #1 had no explanation, while Customer #2 knew their power was down due to a storm. In both cases, the customer is dissatisfied about being without power. But Customer #1 could also have feelings of frustration and even anger because of the unknown.

Call center managers should create an actionable QA scorecard where agents are assessed on whether or not they collected the customer's backstory. Then, you can identify when agents successfully understood their customer's emotional state and where they may be missing crucial customer information.

2. Did we recognize the customer's beginning emotional state?

Even when your agents know a customer's backstory, determining their feelings can be a challenge. This is where a scorecard and team approach to QA is vital. If the agent interprets the initial emotional state wrong, then the remainder of the interaction probably won't go smoothly.

The QA team can listen to call recordings and analyze transcripts using text analytics to pick out the emotional nuances of previous conversations. These insights will help them identify each customer's emotional state at the very beginning of a conversation and then determine how it changed over the conversation.

3. In what emotional state did the customer leave?

It's not just how the customer feels at the beginning of the interaction that's important; it's how they feel at the end after the exchange.

  • What was the outcome?
  • Was the needle moved toward a positive or negative customer experience?
  • How far did the needle move?

To determine this information, you might ask the customer to fill out a survey at the end of the interaction. Or, you may use the QA scorecard and call recording to determine the feelings at the end of the conversation. The more insight you have on the customer's ultimate feelings, the better.

4. What was done throughout the conversation to get that result?

Once you determine the outcome of the interaction, it's time to diagnose what happened to cause that result. There are many mistakes that you call center agents can make to negatively impact the customer experience.

Take an in-depth look at the actions the agent took during the conversation and their result. This will help you determine if you are meeting your customers' standards and how effectively. Unsurprisingly, the more robust your QA scorecard, the better.

Using Negative CX to Develop Agent Empathy

Once you've diagnosed negative customer experiences in your call center, you can implement some type of training program or coaching intervention to improve performance across the board. Using the QA scorecard as a guide, you can begin to build a better approach to your call center interactions. The key is empathy and emotional intelligence.

The relationship between empathy and customer service is well known. In fact, 95% of purchasing decisions are made subconsciously (due to emotions), and 86% of customers claim that a positive emotional connection with a call center agent would make them more likely to do business with that brand again.

To develop empathy in your call center agents, you'll want to explore behaviors associated with high emotional intelligence, such as:

  • Anticipating customer requests by recognizing needs.
  • Delivering explanations and justifications using facts.
  • Educating customers so they leave with more knowledge than they started.
  • Providing emotional support throughout the relationship.
  • Offering personal information to create an emotional connection.
  • Being authentic and getting off-script to have a real conversation.

Use these qualities to inform how you train and coach your agents during every call. Just remember to provide the necessary time and space to get the job done right. At the end of the day, you want your agents to be able to sit in the customer's shoes in a real way. That's how you'll improve the customer experience.

Training Your Agents for Improved Call Center Outcomes

Create an agent training program around gaps in performance and knowledge. Use negative QA scorecards to identify weaknesses within the call center as a whole and for individual agents. From there, develop training goals and milestones for success. Then, start training for improvements in agent performance.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Include your agents in the QA process by asking them to evaluate their own performance. Empowered agents are more invested in positive outcomes, which offers long-lasting benefits.
  • Set aside time for agent role-playing to practice the customer experience in your call center. You can test how well an agent recognizes emotional nuances and demonstrate how to move the needle toward a positive result.
  • Talk to the customer and get their feedback on their negative experience. This is a great opportunity to learn about what does and doesn't matter to your customers, so you can change your interactions to best meet their needs.
  • Deploy on-site workshops to develop skills, ideas, and techniques for the entire customer service team. During a workshop, your managers, advisors, and coaches can cover multiple negative and positive scorecard results and dissect each interaction to highlight the good and the bad results.

You Can Turn the Negative Customer Experience in the Call Center Into a Positive

Just because a customer interaction goes poorly doesn't mean it was a wasted opportunity. When things fail, you have the greatest opportunity to learn and improve the customer experience in the call center. The bottom line is that even when a customer walks away unhappy, you can find a way to use it for good.

Next time you find a negative QA scorecard, take that as the perfect training opportunity. Diagnose what caused the negative interaction, identify how a lack of empathy played a role, and then deploy training to fill in the gaps in performance and knowledge.

Looking for More? Read The Roadmap for Success: Improving Agent Soft Skills

Tags: Call Center Training, Quality Monitoring Scorecard, Agent Soft Skills