In the old Captain Marvel comic books, young hero Billy Batson was able to “summon awesome forces at the utterance of a single word.”
Few words have that kind of power – but the words your contact center agents use when speaking with customers certainly can have a powerful impact, for better or worse.
For this reason it’s never a bad idea to review the scripted statements used by your agents and look for ways that they might be improved. Also, in those situations where going off-script is necessary, agents must be constantly coached to use the right words to deal with volatile situations, and to communicate with customers in a way that expresses regret for their problem and encouragement that a solution is possible.
We’ve discussed empathy in previous blogs. For most of us it’s an easy emotion to conjure when we’ve actually done something we regret, or when a friend tells us about something that has gone wrong in their life. But since contact center agents were not directly responsible for the customer’s problem, an attempt to generate empathy from nothing may not be successful. Below are some empathy and acknowledgement statements for call center agents.
I Feel your Pain
Empathy is expressing feeling – does that come through in your script? “I understand how you feel, that must be very frustrating…” “Many of our customers felt better after trying…” etc.
One coaching method that has worked in the past is to ask agents about a time when they received poor service, or bought a product that didn’t work. Encourage them to remember how that experience made them feel, then channel those feelings into their responses.
The Name Game
It’s easier to establish a rapport between agent and customer when both are addressed by name. Using “sir” or “ma’am” is more formal and used to be a means to convey respect, but at this point there is no distinguishing the ‘sir’ you get at an executive board meeting from the ‘sir’ you get at the Burger King drive-thru window.
Better to opt for “Thank you, Mr. Walker, let me take care of that for you.” And the agent should also introduce him- or herself at the beginning of each call. “Thank you for calling ABC Industries, my name is Robert, how can I assist you today?”
The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made.
--Jean Giraudoux ‘’
Sincerity is important – but it must be authentic. That involves not only the words used but also the tone of voice in which they are expressed. Customers are too smart now not to recognize over-scripted expressions of support delivered in a monotone voice for what it is – someone just doing their job:
“Thank you for calling ABC Industries. This is Jennifer – how can I brighten your day today?”
“How can I provide you with excellent service today?”
“How can I make you feel valued and be of help for you today?”
These lines were taken from actual contact center scripts. It takes the right type of agent to deliver them and make it work.
Next to empathy, reassurance may be the most important message an agent can communicate. It lets the caller know that they are on their way to having their issue resolved.
Reassurance + Empathy? That is the key to success:
“I am sorry to hear that this happened to you. I will be more than happy to assist you today and get this issue fixed.”
“I am sorry you had to deal with this inconvenience. Let’s get this taken care of.”
“I understand why this is upsetting – I would feel the same way. Here’s what we are going to do to get this resolved.”
Note the use of “Let’s (let us) and “we” – that puts the caller and the agent on the same side of the issue, rather than the agent coming across only as a representative of the company that disappointed the caller. It’s a subtle change but it does make a difference.
The Dreaded ‘Hold’ Button
Sometimes putting a call on hold is unavoidable. And if that caller has already had to wait once to speak with an agent, the request to put them back on hold may not be greeted enthusiastically.
When it must be done, some call centers use the “ACT” Method.
A – ask permission
C – create a timeline
T – thank the customer
Don’t tell them you’re going to put them on hold, ask them, “Do you mind waiting for a moment while I get that answer for you?” Very few will say ‘no’ because they want to get this over with as well.
Create a Timeline
Let them know how long you’ll be away. “This should only take a minute or two.”
Thank the Customer
When the agent picks up the call again, his or her first words should be “Thank you for holding. I appreciate your patience.”
Once the crisis is passed, do not close the call without two essential elements: first, a suggestion on what to do should the problem return – preferably one that will not force the caller to repeat the same process they just experienced. Then, close on a note of appreciation for their business: “Thank you for choosing ABC Industries,” etc.
Finding the Right Matches
While all of these tips can be helpful to any agent, a contact center increases the likelihood of their success by matching certain types of calls (or callers) with the agent best suited to handle them. A workforce optimization solution is essential for such call routing, particularly if it is equipped with a speech analytics solution capable of providing the data that will determine the optimal agent for each call.
Compliance is – let’s be honest – a pretty dull topic.
But in our continuing quest to avoid what is boring, we cannot neglect the laws and regulations now in place that help to keep business transactions stable and secure. This can also be a costly topic to ignore, given the penalties that may be imposed on businesses that do not keep accurate, up-to-date records of telephone transactions.
Recorded call records must be kept accessible for a minimum of six months, and that timeframe may increase with new legislation on its way.
Is your contact center keeping up? Do you have transactions saved across multiple platforms?
Speech Analytics Can Help
In addition to its many other benefits in customer service and cost savings, speech analytics also play an important role in your compliance effort.
Should you ever need to demonstrate how your contact center is meeting established criteria for keeping credit card information safe, speech analytics can quickly search through thousands of calls and highlight any in question by locating the precise language used in each call. Even single words can be flagged and calls brought up for review.
Having ready access to calls subject to compliance not only saves time, it reduces risk of exposure, as it now becomes easier for managers to check compliance during internal reviews. Doing so regularly can help your contact center avoid fines and negative publicity, at a time when the public remains concerned about secure transactions.
Think Halloween is scary, with all those horror movies and little ghosts and monsters ringing your doorbell?
That’s nothing compared to the frightening service problems that can result from adherence issues at your contact center. You’ll hear a lot of screaming this month, but you certainly don’t want to hear it from your customers.
Thankfully, Monet has a free webinar for that. And you are invited.
It’s called “Fighting the Adherence Monster,” and it is scheduled for October 28 2015 at 11 am PDT.
If you have ever encountered the Adherence Monster, you know how it can seriously increase labor costs. Bullets won’t kill this beast – instead, you need a technology solution that has the capability to streamline schedule adherence goals and practices.
How can you know that agent availability, holidays and breaks have all been accounted for? Can you make adjustments in real time? How do you know which agents are doing their part for schedule adherence and which may require additional guidance or training?
Fortunately, the Adherence Monster is no match for Monet solutions with real-time adherence.
Don’t miss this informative webinar featuring tips and tricks to help you keep adherence issues away from your business. Spend 45 minutes with us, and you’ll save hours and hours of time lost to lapses in adherence.
Register here, it's free!
The year 2020 once seemed so far away and now it’s just around the corner. And according to a Gartner survey, 85% of consumers will by 2020 prefer to manage their own relationships with companies, rather than interact with them via current methods such as the contact center.
We’ve seen such surveys before, and no one can say for sure what technology or customers will be like five years from now. But there is no question that we are seeing changes in how contact centers deal with customers, as a result of omnichannel options that can be accessed anywhere through smartphones and tablets. Six billion mobile devices now in circulation tend to have that effect. Chances are your contact center has already felt some of these trends.
Round the Clock Service
One of the many advantages of the Internet is that it’s always open. If customers want to reach out to a company in the middle of the night, they can now do so via email and social media, and some companies provides 24-hour access to online chat as well. More connection points are expected by customers, particularly millennials, at any time, day or night. However, smartphones are still phones even if they can do 100 other things. And we believe telephone interaction, even if restricted to traditional business hours, will still be important in 2020 and beyond, and should not be neglected in the race to embrace other options.
No one has to take a number or wait 5 minutes before sending an email or posting on Facebook. As customers come to expect that type of instant communication via their mobile device, sitting on hold waiting to speak to a contact center agent will seem even more of an inconvenience than it does already. That will place more emphasis on improving calls answered and average wait time metrics.
That said, there is still a delay between messages sent via email and left on Facebook, and a company response. The ultimate goal may be to integrate instant live service with a self-service mobile channel, such as chatting with a virtual agent.
Whatever the future brings there is no reason to wait until 2020 to start reassessing your current processes and infrastructure technology, and find ways to make them compatible with current mobile tools.
Their functionality may be different but the objective of workforce optimization (WFO) and analytics, when employed in a contact center, is effectively the same: to provide customers with a more positive experience.
And at a time when customer experience has become a greater differentiating factor in what separates one company from another, both WFO and analytics can play a vital role in maintaining customer loyalty, and attracting more customers from positive posts and responses viewed on social media.
With workforce optimization, contact centers can automate such important functions as workforce management, call recording, quality management, screen capture, performance management and tracking key metrics. Analytics is more customer-centric, providing centers with insight into the customer types and the nature of each inquiry, so calls can be routed to the agent best suited to deal with them.
As both tools work toward the same goal, doesn’t it make sense to acquire them in a way that assures they will efficiently work together?
At Monet, our speech analytics and desktop analytics are incorporated into our WFO Live solution to help maximize agent productivity and performance. For basic call centers or contact centers that offer omnichannel interactions between agents and customers, this powerful alliance of WFO and analytics can better meet your customer needs, help you to better utilize your resources, and improve service levels.
Another football season is underway, and as always there will be teams that excel on their way to the playoffs, and teams that stumble and fumble their way to a high draft choice.
Can we say the same about contact centers? Certainly there are a few similarities worth exploring.
If you don’t have a good team on the field, you are not going to achieve your goals. The best football coach can make a good team great, but he can’t make a bad team into a Super Bowl champion. In the contact center, the right coaches and managers can inspire their agents to always improve their game, but they probably won’t be able to transform an unmotivated employee into “Agent of the Year” material.
This also means that having 47 out of 50 well-performing agents is not sufficient. Just as one bad player can fumble away a game, one bad agent can turn customers away and lower the center’s performance standard. When you are drafting new agents, be careful to avoid a bust.
In football, sometimes top players walk away because they don’t like their contract. You can lose agents in the same way as well. A competitive salary with incentives and a positive working atmosphere can help you keep your star players.
And while we’re saying coaches can’t be miracle workers on the gridiron or at the contact center, they do bear some responsibility for team performance. In the NFL, winning coaches take time to get to know each of their players, to ask about their families and what is important to them. They provide ongoing support and encouragement. They know which plays to call that work to a player’s skills.
Hopefully, if you are a contact center manager, you are doing the same things.
Finally, NFL teams invest in training facilities and equipment to give their players the tools they need to excel. Do your agents have the technology tools they need to deliver service to customers, and match call types with the agents best equipped to handle them? Can you provide service via web chat and email and social media with the same professionalism?
In a sense, every call that comes into your contact center is a game in itself that can result in victory or defeat. Make sure you have the team and the technology in place for a winning season – this year and every year.