Are Your Agents on the Same Page?

Consumers turn to their favorite brands’ customer care hotlines for guidance, a quick solution and hopefully a pleasant, concise interaction. So, imagine the frustration they feel when prompted to speak with multiple different agents who all seem to provide conflicting answers.

If you’re shaking your head thinking that your contact center agents would never provide such poor service, it might be time for an audit, as recent research suggests this is a rather prevalent issue. In fact, a study conducted by CIO Insight revealed that the No. 1 pain point in customer care —according to 41 percent of 5,000 survey respondents—is different agents providing different answers.

This should be a major wake-up call for supervisors as this type of inconsistency can negatively impact your clients’ contact center services ROI, since frustrated consumers aren’t likely to return. While it’s true you can’t hold your agents’ hands or be there for every single customer care interaction that takes place, there are still major holes you can fill to prevent this issue.

So, how can you fix this problem and prevent it from happening in the future? Here are few ways:

  • Offer client-intensive training: Agents must know your brand like the backs of their hands. They must memorize even the most intricate details about product information and company background before they even think about getting on the phone with customers. In fact, your agents should become absolute experts before they officially represent your brand, as they will be on the front lines and the first point of contact for your company’s consumers.
  • Ensure consistency in ability: Agents must be trained to meet the performance of the strongest member on your team in terms of client knowledge, phone etiquette and problem solving techniques. When your agents can operate with a consistent level of proficiency your consumers won’t have to speak with multiple agents to receive an answer as all of your employees will be able to handle the inquiry on their own.
  • Ensure agents possess similar dispositions: It’s important to ensure that your agents exhibit maturity and dedication to their work. When hiring agents, supervisors must thoroughly vet their candidates to determine whether or not they will take the role seriously. Your agents must be diligent and enthusiastic across the board as one dispassionate agent can negatively impact your contact center services reputation.

It’s time to redirect your customers to agents with answers. Ensure your agents are knowledgeable and prepared to handle each call with self-assurance.

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.

The Key Ingredient to Call Center Success

It may sound sentimental at first, but an important variable in contact center services is empathy. Think about your best customer care experience; the agent probably conveyed genuine engagement and concern regarding your service inquiry—that is, he or she was empathetic towards your situation.

As well, your company can’t afford to omit such an important customer care initiative as poor customer relations cost companies nearly $41 billion each year. Preserve your contact center services ROI by providing the utmost compassion for your customers.

When empathy is missing from a contact center’s mission, unfavorable scenarios ensue. For example, we’ve recently discussed on this blog the unpleasant American Airlines customer care blunder that involved a woman spending six hours on hold. It’s clear the customer care representative lacked empathy for the woman’s needs as she was neglected for several hours. As a result, American Airlines’ reputation suffered, for instance the company has received a multitude of unfavorable comments on its Twitter page.

But expressing empathy means more than shortening your hold times. Rather, this characteristic should touch all of your business’s customer care best practices, down to dealing with instances of bad reviews. For example, one hotel went so far as to fine its customers $500 for posting negative reviews on Yelp. Rather than fight fire with fire or try to cover up negative press, businesses should use poor reviews as a learning experience and motivation to improve their customer care strategy. Businesses that receive unfavorable assessments can redeem their reputation by expressing compassion for customers’ unpleasant experiences. For example, turn around a bad experience by offering up an honest apology and making a commitment towards bettering future services.

How can you ensure your contact center staff—from supervisor to agent—is poised to provide the highest level of empathy? Here a few ways:

  • Audit calls more frequently to maintain consistent quality
  • Supervisors: provide your agents with positive reinforcement for above and beyond quality of customer care
  • Use technology such as skills-based routing to ensure highly proficient agents and subject matter experts answer related customer calls, which will improve first call resolution.
  • Hire the right staff, i.e., make sure your potential candidates exhibit maturity, experience and dedication to their line of work.

The bottom line is this: Never underestimate the power of empathy; it might be the most powerful tool in improving your contact center services ROI.

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.