Active Listening: An Agent’s Key to Customer Care Success

Being a contact center agent can be extremely hectic. Amidst fielding calls, finding solutions, answering questions and entering data, it can be easy to lose sight of the premier task at hand: helping customers solve their problems quickly and free of frustration. Regardless of how chaotic the business day gets, the No. 1 priority should always be high-quality customer care.

Making sure that agents listen actively to their customers can help ensure this critical objective is met. While agents are provided with a script to guide their customer exchanges, they must also be attentive to their callers, paying attention to small details and listening for cues in the conversation that can help them better resolve customer issues.

One of the best ways agents can demonstrate that they are actively listening to customers is to give them feedback. This can be done by restating and rephrasing things the customer says, summarizing their points and asking clarifying questions. The benefits here are twofold: First, such feedback reassures customers that they are being listened to and understood by an agent who is present and in the moment. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Hello Operator, this form of repeating was listed by customers as one of the best ways for agents to show them they really care. Second, by restating information and asking questions, the agent can iron out any points of confusion or miscommunication and make it easier to solve problems.

Working in a contact center can sometimes feel like an endless stream of tasks. To provide the best customer service possible, however, agents must slow down, take a deep breath and focus on actively listening to their customers. Doing so will make it easier for agents to resolve issues and make customers feel valued. Then you can accurately avow that your contact center provides high-quality customer care.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Engaging Your Customers Starts With Engaging Your Agents

One of the keys to providing quality customer care is to keep contact center agents engaged in their work. After all, agents who are dissatisfied or bored with their jobs are less likely to go the extra mile to help customers. Customers can also sense if the person helping them is disengaged or doesn’t seem to care, which can create a negative customer experience. Thus, it is extremely important to keep contact center agents happy at work.

Effective management techniques can do wonders for keeping contact center agents focused on providing high-quality customer care. Creating both individual and team-oriented goals can simultaneously foster an environment of competition and teamwork within the call center, driving more production. Completing these goals on a weekly basis can also foster an ongoing sense of accomplishment among employees, keeping them positive.

Managers can also play a huge role in improving and maintaining agents’ morale. For example, they can take advantage of company time for team-building activities that can boost mood and create a team environment within the call center. Company-hosted social events can also provide an opportunity for agents as well as other members of the company to gather, socialize and get to know each other (at InfoCision, for instance, we like to host regular summer cookouts). This strengthens interoffice relationships and foster an upbeat work environment.

Finally, managers must be attuned to the needs of their employees. Agents need to be able to easily make use of their sick and personal days, and should not feel any pressure or stigma against doing so. Employees should feel free and, in fact, be encouraged to make use of any company benefits available to them. Maintaining a workplace where agents feel their needs are being made a priority is vital to keeping them content.

These are just a few adjustments businesses can make to keep their employees happy and engaged in their jobs, which should translate into higher-quality customer care. The key to any successful call center is the satisfaction of its agents. Is this your top priority?

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Three Ways to Produce Sky High ROI

A recent article from The Guardian struck me interesting. The news discussed an airline company, Ryanair, which claimed that its “softened” customer care practices –defined as the addition of new policies like “allowing more carry-on baggage, allocating seating and cutting punitive charges,”—contributed to a 28 percent jump in passenger numbers compared to last year.

From this statement alone contact center managers should gather one key takeaway: Customer care and ROI go hand in hand.

Simply put, the key ingredient to experiencing the most ROI is to build an entirely customer-centric strategy. As such, supervisors in the contact center space should strategically use this piece of news as motivation to augment their own best practices to boost contact center services ROI.

The question is then begged: What steps can contact center management take to create a well-rounded customer care strategy? For starters:

  • Leverage more business intelligence: There’s a strong relationship between data and customer care in today’s buying landscape. Streamline your customer care strategy by taking advantage of pertinent data your contact center aggregates from daily inbound and outbound calls. For example, track your target consumer’s buying behavior over a period of time in order to produce customer profiles. Moreover, leverage these profiles to create predictive models for each of your buyer personas. In doing so, you’ll be able to provide faster, more knowledgeable support with each new customer care interaction.
  •  Boost your agent training procedures: The support of data analytics can only take your customer care practices so far. That is, your contact center agents represent a vehicle that drives either a positive or a negative customer care interaction. To safely ensure your contact center provides the best in customer care communications, in-depth agent training is required. By arming your agents with client specific training, for instance, they can become subject matter experts in targeted areas rather than be only somewhat knowledgeable in a number of areas.

If you want your contact center services to fly high this year, remember these important tips to augment your customer care strategy.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several University boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.