How to Prevent Your Communicators From Choking Under Pressure

When there is a lot at stake, many professionals, including athletes, singers, and politicians, may face the fear of choking under pressure. Whether it’s your Olympic career, your record deal or your candidacy on the line, it becomes difficult to perform at your highest potential when the stress is insurmountable.

In the same vein, Communicators in the contact center space regularly face this challenge, as they are continuously put in high stress situations. After all, often times consumers dial into your customer care hotline because they are experiencing an issue with a product or service and need quick answers to their questions. And because each customer care interaction is unique due to the caller’s dilemma, personality and urgency, Communicators must be prepared to respond in a calm, professional manner despite the current circumstances.

What’s more, when a Communicator is already feeling the pressure rising during a particularly difficult situation, holding his or her focus can become even more challenging when outside distractions are added to the mix. For instance, many contact centers employ advanced software that helps Communicators understand information about their caller’s transactional history, personal information and demographics. However, handling a complicated phone call and absorbing the information that’s being constantly updated on the computer screen can result in an overwhelming moment.

Contact center supervisors must ensure they are doing all that they can train their employees on how to deal with stressful situations on-the-fly. After all, the interaction is happening in real-time so the ability to think on your feet is paramount to a Communicators success.

Here are a few tips to help Communicators develop quicker reflexes and stronger in-the-moment problem solving skills:

  • Role play: Pair experienced Communicators or supervisors with colleagues who are struggling and conduct mock customer care interactions. Practice dealing with unusual situations, unpleasant callers as well as handling multiple tasks at once with the goal of remaining calm and present.
  • Provide stress management: Coach your Communicators how to manage anxiety when they are overwhelmed. Oftentimes, the best remedies for stress come from outside improvements—like attitude or health and wellness. Additionally, provide continuous support and guidance on how keep calm during an overwhelming situation. For instance, listen intently rather than speak over the customer in a frantic attempt to handle the problem.

When you can help your Communicators improve their quality of customer best practices, they can gain the confidence they need to deliver superior results, even in the most trying situations.

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.

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.

Going Beyond ‘I’m Sorry’: The Difference between an Apology and Service Recovery

Much of what is written on this blog is designed to help business leaders understand the importance of excellent customer service and the tools they need to provide it. But no matter what business you’re in, occasional customer service slip-ups are unavoidable. Sometimes the issue—like an airline forced to delay flights because of inclement weather—is completely out of your control.

No company looks forward to these incidents, but if approached with the right perspective they are actually opportunities for you to stand out as a business dedicated to providing the absolute highest quality of customer service. How? By going beyond “I’m sorry.” True Service recovery is more than a simple apology—it’s about making things right. Here’s how you can do it:

Listen closely for subtle clues

Oftentimes, if an agent remains silent while a customer vents they can gain better insight into his or her ideal resolution. For instance, if a customer calls a bank’s contact center because he was mistakenly charged a $30 overdraft fee on his checking account, chances are the inconvenience and hassle are more at issue than the money itself. Sometimes a refund or store credit is a good idea; other times a consumer might be pleased to learn your company is going to re-examine a particular policy. The key to finding the right course of action is really listening, not just hearing.

Be empathetic

You might be surprised to know how much customers value an empathetic response from a customer service Communicator. Everybody has had a negative experience at some point, so encourage your representatives to put themselves in the consumer’s shoes and think about how they would like to be treated in a similar situation. Coach your agents to validate the customer’s feelings by saying something like, “I can hear you are upset and I will work with you for as long as it takes to get this straightened out.” That kind of compassionate response can help calm the costumer and get the call going on a more positive track.

Take responsibility

Trying to deflect blame, especially back to the customer, only makes things worse. Even if the consumer did play some small part in a mishap Communicators should avoid mentioning it because it is simply not important anymore. What matters is getting the situation fixed—quickly. Agents should be held accountable for their individual actions and, brand representatives should be held responsible for the company’s mishaps, as well.

Use feedback to make changes

Consumer feedback is one of the most valuable assets for any company because it allows you to make changes to your best practices based on empirical evidence rather than guesswork. Leveraging customer responses will improve service overall and can be particularly satisfying for customers who see their suggestions put into practice.

Research indicates that 96 percent of unhappy customers don’t complain when they have a problem, so you can be sure the ones who do reach out feel strongly about their issue. Though they may be upset at first, if your customer service Communicators make consumers feel their problem is as important to your company as it is to them, you’re on your way to service recovery and loyal customers.