Call centers depend on the ability of their agents to connect with customers for their survival.
The difference between a high performing call center and an average one is often not in the quality of products that they sell, but the quality of customer service being provided by their employees, and how they are marketing themselves.
More and more companies are now customer-centric – that is, they understand the value of the customer base in growing their business and seek to understand problems from their point of view to provide the better solutions.
Call centers agents have a stressful job of their own, dealing with callers all day and solving their queries.
It is only human to feel tired, frustrated or unenthusiastic on call when you have a work environment like that.
However, the challenge is to not let that become apparent when you are having a conversation with a client, so that you come across as an informative and enthusiastic representative of your company.
The agents that can create a good impression in the minds of the customers, and connect more easily and deeply with them, are those who perform the best and contribute the most to the sustenance and growth of the brand.
Managers obviously have the incentive to put in systems that help agents connect better with their customers, since it spikes productivity and boosts the sales.
Bearing this in mind, this article discusses tips for agents to connect better with their customers, and the practices they need to inculcate to do the same.
1. Encourage agents to build rapport with the customer from the very first call.
Building rapport with customers is important to ensure that the conversation is as fruitful as possible.
Simple gestures, such as the assurance that you will be there to guide the customer through, that you will be working collaboratively, keeping them updated about the status of their queries or having patience in case they cannot understand your propositions, go a long way in establishing that rapport.
Having a supportive connection helps in the resolution of issues and also acts as a great incentive for customers to stay loyal to the brand, even if certain difficult situations had arrived in the past.
2. Teach agents proper call center etiquette.
As in all other walks of life, the first impression in a call center is often the lasting impression.
The difference is, there is a lot more at stake here because if the customer does not form a good impression of the agent he can simply switch to a competitor with no explanation.
Impressions are generated right from the first greeting to the time you disconnect the call.
An agent who fumbles the greeting may have wasted the rest of the call altogether.
Agents need to be taught on how to come across as friendly, knowledgeable and interested, and they must keep practicing their conversations until they get it right.
3. Understand the value of active listening skills.
Active listening has a significant impact on the customer behavior.
When a customer dials in, he expects the agent on the other end of the life to pay attention to what he has to say.
Attentive listening helps agents understand the true problem being described gives them an idea about the customer and helps them resolve the issues in a more effective manner.
Customers are happier when agents are intent on listening and asking relevant questions to understand the problem, rather than trying to push their own agenda without listening to what the client has to say.
4. Encourage agents to personalize their conversation.
One of the facets of running a customer-centric business is that the customers expect to be treated as individuals rather than a generic group, which is why a generic solution often does not satisfy them.
Outbound Call centers need to make solutions that are personalized to fit the individual clients.
This is an effective way to build a deeper connection with your customers.
Once you are able to provide such high quality of service, you are likely to experience far lower rates of customer attrition.
Agents should focus on churning up solutions that meet the needs of their customers on an individual basis.
5. Use software to understand your client.
The information about a customer’s profile gives a lot of indication as to how their solutions should be personalized.
Information such as name and age, previous purchases, call recordings, interactions, interests, etc. need to be analyzed in order to truly understand the mindset of that customer.
This is possible by using the technology to sift through all this data and find the most important points that can guide you in building the model.
Software facilitates the work of the agents and helps them understand the best way that they can approach a particular conversation and draw the most effective results out of it.
6. Give agents the autonomy to make on-call decisions.
Call center agents cannot really connect with customers if they are bound by protocol at every step of the way.
They require a certain level of autonomy to make decisions that would help them establish a bond with the customer.
Managers should let the agents take these decisions by themselves and monitor them to see how effective they turn out to be.
This also ensures that agents can be flexible and personal in their interactions with clients, which further helps in establishing a more meaningful connection and elevates the quality of customer service that the call center provides.
7. Maintain friendliness and positivity.
One of the most basic needs of a customer is having a friendly voice on the other end of the line.
Agents must greet customers politely, treat them with respect and continue the conversation in a courteous manner.
They also need to communicate empathy with the client, so that they understand their needs and requirements.
They cannot be critical or blame the customer, no matter what the situation is.
Moreover, they need to constantly maintain a positive attitude, reinforce the view that the customer would receive adequate attention and take initiative to resolve the issue reported, keeping the customers updated.
8. Ensure agents know all the relevant information about the products being sold.
While mannerisms and etiquette play an important role in connecting with the clients, no customer will be interested in talking to an incompetent agent.
Each and every employee has to have thorough knowledge of the products and services being sold, so that they are able to tackle queries on a wide range of topics.
Customers expect prompt and comprehensive replies to their questions, and failing to answer them leaves a significantly negative impression.
Agents must regularly go over the salient features of the product, and in case they are unable to answer a query they should immediately redirect it to an expert.
9. Go the extra mile for loyal customers.
As a company, you must show your appreciation for your long term customers.
Such customers love a gesture that shows that you value their business, and that the association is for mutual benefit.
Such gestures might include offering free delivery of products, handling their requests on a priority basis, offering gift vouchers and better deals or taking a personal interest in their business or their lives to ensure they know you are committed to their cause.
Agents who go the extra mile not only ensure that they have established a connection that keeps the customer loyal, but also gain business through exposure in this customer’s circles.
10. Train agents to use word softeners and stay in touch.
No customer wants to hear “no” from the call center agents, so you need to devise softer language to get your point across without antagonizing the customer.
Replace a “no” with an alternative solution, replace “I don’t know” with an assurance of getting back with the right answer, and just generally use words that coax the customer in the feeling of being more relaxed and understanding the value of the service he or she is getting.
These word softeners can be critical when you are handling a caller who is angry or frustrated, which is part of the job for any call center executive.
The Case Study
The performance of a call center depends on how well its agents are able to connect with the customers.
Using a call center software, agents are able to get an insight into what the customer’s preferences are.
Building on that, they personalize the conversation to make the customer fit in more easily and feel more relaxed.
The basic objective is to establish a relationship of trust between the two parties, so that the customer stays loyal and keeps making purchases.
Establishing a connection with the client goes a long way in having an effect over the business.
To illustrate this, let us take the example of Mahone Solutions, a telemarketing agency providing call center solutions for an established organization.
In this case study, we will look at the problems they faced as well as the solutions they came up with, and how this had an effect on the overall performance of the company.
The Problem Scenario
Mahone Solutions was facing a problem of lack of trust by their customers.
Even though they were selling top notch products, they were not getting the results that they desired.
Customers often reported their customer service as being unsatisfactory, and many clients were leaving the company, causing a loss of revenue.
Mahone was looking to implement a system by which they could keep a hold of their customers and grow as a brand.
The specific challenges that the company faced are listed below.
1. Agents were not trained in the proper call center etiquette, so many of them did not even know what they were doing wrong.
2. The software being used at the call center was outdated.
It could not sufficiently compile profiles of the customers to help personalize the conversation for the agents.
3. Agents were often frustrated after a long day and the final few callers of the day were not spoken respectfully enough, which not only caused customer attrition, but was giving the company a bad reputation in the market.
The solutions that were proposed to counter these challenges are as follows:
1. Formal training was given to agents regarding the conventions they needed to follow, etiquette’s they had to keep in mind and the job role that was expected from them.
2. The company decided to invest in the best call center software so that the agents could take the help of data in determining how to steer a conversation to engage and connect with clients efficiently.
3. The call center agents were given clear directives regarding their metrics of performance evaluation so that they were courteous on the phone with every single customer and listened attentively to whatever they had to say.
After the implementation of training regimes for the agents regarding on how to interact properly with customers as well as the new call center software solutions that were brought in, the productivity of the company increased by leaps and bounds.
Customers were more satisfied with the service being provided.
They trusted the brand more and as a result, stayed loyal to it.
Agents were also able to have more fruitful conversations.
Since they now knew exactly what each customer required, they could suggest the items that fit the bill .
This boosted the revenue generation from sales, and the company could grow and expand with its growing customer base.
With increasing sales and growing reputation, it was soon able to take up its spot as a leader in providing telemarketing software services.
Thus, we can see how important it is for the agents to establish a connection with the clients.
Once you connect with your customers, you are able to conduct business more smoothly and generate the best out of this relationship.
Following the tips given in this article will surely help your agents connect with their customers and give you the edge in the market.