Contact centers have changed dramatically over the last several years. Customer expectations have skyrocketed, there are countless new technologies available on the market, and data has emerged as a major driving force in customer support.
But there is one thing that has not changed, and most likely never will: That is, the need for agents to be polite and courteous to customers at all times. In fact, in today’s ultra-competitive market, where shoppers are empowered to make their own choices — and quick to report negative experiences — attitude is arguably more important than ever before.
As a new study shows, agent attitude can have a direct impact on a business’s bottom line. When agents are polite to customers, average call times can increase by as many as three minutes — which is an eternity in outbound communications. An extra few minutes can make the world of a difference in closing a sale or securing a financial contribution from a donor.
Now, this should be a no-brainer. It’s not rocket science to say that being polite will get you much further when dealing with customers. But as the same study shows, customer service agents seem to be missing the point.
While 79 percent of callers are polite to agents, only 57 percent of agents will demonstrate the same courtesy back. So there is some room for improvement here.
Of course, this may seem like a tall order. After all, you can’t hold your agents’ hands during customer service interactions. But you can take certain steps to mitigate risk and reduce the likelihood of having negative experiences.
Here are some ways this can be done:
Hire the right representatives: As much thought should be put into hiring a customer service agent as any other employee in the organization. It’s critical to hire people who demonstrate characteristics like strong emotional and intellectual intelligence, patience and empathy. These are not skills that can be easily taught.
Train agents properly: Even the best agents will need to be properly trained so that they are clear about how they should be communicating with customers. By devoting the proper resources to training, it will reduce risk down the road. Training should also be an ongoing process that gets revisited from time to time.
Monitor progress: Agents should never be left to their own accord. While it’s impossible to monitor every single interaction for quality control purposes, managers do need to keep a close watch on what is actually happening during customer interactions. Otherwise, agents could go rogue. And this could cause trouble.
Maintain a healthy culture: Agents are bound to feel happier and more courteous when they are happy about their workplace and its culture. So it’s vital to ensure that the contact center is a fun, healthy and productive environment. Reward agents that do well, and offer praise when it is due.
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