Customer service is a must-have skill for call center agents, as their roles revolve around answering questions and addressing customer concerns. According to Microsoft’s 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report, at least 59 percent of customers say they have higher expectations for customer support than they had a year ago. To help maintain that expectation, we compiled a list of customer service tips for call center agents to use.
Customer service tips for call center agents
- Give customers alternative ways to get help (i.e., visit your website or text)
There are alternative ways to provide customer support that doesn’t include a phone call. You can lessen your workload and help your customers faster by suggesting alternative ways to help them. You can tell a customer to visit your website for more information or direct a conversation over text. With texting, you can handle multiple conversations at the same time without sacrificing customer satisfaction.
- Introduce yourself
It can be easy to forget this tip if you aren’t in the habit of doing it, but always remember to introduce yourself to the customer. Tell them your first and last name, and remember to ask them for theirs so you can address them by their name in the conversation. Using a customer’s name creates a more personal connection, and likewise, introducing yourself lets them know they’re talking to someone just like them.
- Be personable
Ditch the script, or edge it out with your personality to make your conversations with customers more personal. As we mentioned earlier, you can personalize your conversations by introducing yourself, asking the customer their name, and asking how they’re doing. Try to relate to them to establish a sense of trust.
- Keep the conversation upbeat
Customers often call about an issue that makes them frustrated or upset. Instead of matching that tone, try to keep the conversation upbeat. Acknowledge the customers’ frustrations, and ensure you are there to help them solve the problem. In most cases, doing so helps put the customer at ease and makes the conversation more level-minded.
- Ask customers how they are
Reducing call time is vital in call centers to maximize productivity while cutting labor costs, but it’s always important to take the time to ask a customer how they are. Asking a customer how they are is another step toward building a more personal relationship with them. It also lets the customer know that you care about them, not just their business, which they will appreciate.
- Listen more, talk less
It can be easy to want to take control of a conversation when you’re the topic expert, but remember, as a call center agent, you listen to the customer and answer their specific needs. Use call tool analytics to track how much time you spend talking vs. the customer. According to the 80/20 rule for active listening, you should spend 80 percent of your time listening and only 20 percent talking.
- Restate the customer’s concerns
Before diving headfirst into solving the customer’s issue, restate the problem so that you have a hundred percent guarantee that you understand their issue correctly. Repeating a customer’s concerns allows the customer the chance to confirm that you heard them and will save you from making mistakes and wasting time in the long run.
- Explain your solution to the customer
Instead of telling your customer what you think is the best solution to their problem, explain why you think the solution works best. The reason for doing this is so the customer has a proper understanding of how their problem will be solved, and it also confirms that you are solving the right situation for them.
- Ask more questions to get to the root of the problem
Take the time to understand what your customer’s needs are before jumping into an answer. The best way to do this is to ask questions and ask as many as you need to understand their issue first. Try to avoid phrases like “I’m sorry, one more question.” Instead, thank a customer for answering your customer before asking another. Doing so sets a tone of authority and will make the long question-asking period more bearable for both users.
- Respect the customer’s time
Each customer will require a different amount of time to resolve their issues, and some will want service faster than others. Regardless, it’s best to keep conversations as concise yet conversational as possible to respect the customer’s time.
- Let customers know how long they have to hold
Tell customers when you put them on hold, so they know what to expect, but also let them know for how long. Research shows that 60 percent of customers are ready to hang up the phone if they wait even one minute on hold. If a customer is on hold for longer than usual, pop back in to update them, so they aren’t left waiting. Setting proper expectations is key to providing good customer service.
- Adapt your communication style to your customers
Suppose your customer is new to your product or service and needs extra simplification, then match their level of knowledge and word choice. Likewise, if your customer has done more research about your product, you can match their language and understanding of the product or service.
- Be patient with non-tech savvy customers
Not every customer who contacts you will be the most tech-savvy, and that’s ok. Practice patience with customers who struggle with technology and break down any asks to make sure it’s manageable. They’ll be thankful that you were patient with them and were able to teach them something new.
- Put yourself in the customer’s shoes
As a call center agent, you’ve definitely been on the other side of the phone before. Try to look at issues from your customer’s perspective. Not only will this help you relate to them, but you can better understand what problem they’re trying to solve and do a better job of helping them solve it.
- De-escalate situations
Angry customers are unfortunately an inevitable part of working in a call center. De-escalate a situation by remaining calm and reassuring the customer that you are working with them to solve the problem.
- Show not tell with multimedia communication
Sometimes, it’s easier to show something than say it. You can use multimedia in the form of business texting, email, or live chat to share images and links with customers and vice versa. Using multimedia can help you solve a customer’s problems quicker because you can understand their solution without a lengthy back-and-forth conversation.
- Learn how to close a conversation (and when)
Similar to respecting a customer’s time, you can practice ways to close a conversation and when. If you have helped a customer solve their problem, ask questions like “is there anything else I can help you with?” as a way to end the conversation while also providing exceptional customer service.
Tips for personal development in call centers
- Take notes on the call
Make it a habit to jot down notes whenever you have a call. You can jot down frequently asked questions or a question you’ve never heard of before but think would be a valuable piece of information to give management.
- Reflect on your conversations
It’s easy to take notes and forget to revisit them. Take time out of your schedule (maybe once a week) to review your notes and reflect on stand-out customer conversations. Whether they’re positive or negative, over email, live chat, phone, or text. What are some themes you can pull from these notes and exchanges? Do you see any areas of improvement? Taking the time to reflect will make you a better customer service representative.
- Update internal documentation and templates
Keeping documents up to date is also an important part of personal development. It can be annoying and a waste of time to go hunting down for information, so keeping everything organized in one place can help you quickly answer questions. Keeping internal documents and templates up to date can also help you train newer employees, or help out a colleague in need.
- Give feedback to your company
Feedback is a precious gift. You can use the feedback you receive from customers or come up with on your own to help facilitate learning opportunities or positive changes at work. Make sure to give feedback frequently, so that you can stay on top of initiatives before a problem has continued for a long time. You can ask to meet with your manager weekly or bi-weekly to have conversations around growth and establish a time and place to give and receive feedback.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you’re working in a call center, you’re surrounded by help. You can lean on your manager or teammates to help you when you don’t know an answer to a question or are feeling overwhelmed and need someone else to step in. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.
- Study the product or service
Before you can talk about your product or service with a customer, you need to know all about it. Take the time to do research or take learning courses about why customers look into using your product or service, how it helps them solve their problems and the details of how it all comes together.
- Understand the industry you’re working in
Just like you need to understand your product or service, you also need to understand what industry or customer base you’re targeting. Take out five to ten minutes of your morning to read news articles about updates in your industry, or speak with a colleague who has expertise in the area to learn more about it.
- Work on your speaking tone
When you speak with people, it’s not just what you say but how you say it. Grab a colleague and practice a tone that is confident yet gentle. You want customers to feel that their problems will be taken care of without intimidating them or making them feel rushed. Doing a mock call can help you practice your tone of voice and speaking skills, and you can also walk through different scenarios to be prepared.
Self-care tips for call center agents
- Take breaks when you need to
It can be hard to fit in a break when dealing with ongoing customer conversations, but breaks are important for your wellbeing. Understand what works best for you. Are you the type of person who needs a break after every phone call, or someone who just needs to stretch for five minutes every hour? Whatever it is, make sure to incorporate breaks into your workflow to keep you from burning out.
- Mute a conversation if you need to
People love to talk. If you have a chatty customer going on about something that isn’t considered important information, don’t be afraid to mute the conversation for a short time to recollect your thoughts. Just check in on the convo every 20 seconds or so to make sure the customer isn’t waiting on an answer.
- Don’t take a customers outburst personally
As we said, angry customers are unavoidable in a call center. Keep it in the back of your mind that most things people do or say
- Use healthy coping mechanisms
Dealing with customer concerns daily can lead to constant stress, anxiety, or boredom. Look into using healthy coping mechanisms to help keep you alert and healthy. If you have stress, you can keep a small stress ball at your desk to squeeze whenever you need to. Find out what works best for you and implement that into your daily habits.
- Stand up or go for walks
Physical activity directly impacts your mental health. Stand up every 30 minutes, or if you can, try to take a few walks throughout the day. Block out periods on your calendar to schedule walks. Depending on your work setup, you can look into getting a standing desk.
Above all, remember to breathe. It may sound silly, but often in stressful situations, we will be holding our breath without realizing it. Breathing techniques, like the 4-7-8 technique, can help you control your anxiety and stress.
The bottom line
Use any of these techniques, or a number of them, to give your customers better service. Don’t forget also to implement tips that help you professionally and personally.