No one wants to interact with a call center. Consumers have a subconscious association between call centers and something going wrong long wait times, and frustrating conversations. Fortunately, there are several ways to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.
Prioritizing your customers’ experience is the key to minimizing the inconvenience of a call center and building a satisfying customer relationship. Here are some practical ways to make that happen.
Centralize Your Omnichannel Approach
With innovations is communication technology, customers have more touchpoints than ever. This aspect of customer service is excellent for consumers; it allows them to communicate with your business via their desired medium. However, it can make things complicated for companies trying to track customer touchpoints and get the complete picture when engaging with a customer.
Centralization is essential when taking an omnichannel approach to customer service. When someone calls your call center, you want your agents to know when they used the chatbox on your website or sent an email. Selecting the right software can help create this centralization and streamline communications. For example, contact center software from NICE offers omnichannel integrations to connect both human and digital interactions. This feature results in more informed agents, satisfied customers, and—most important— minimized hold times.
Minimize Hold Times
Hold times are the bane of every consumer’s existence. A Consumer Reports survey indicated that being on hold and feeling unable to reach a human is the second-most frustrating aspect of the average daily existence in America. For context, hidden fees are the most significant annoyance, and being on hold is followed by inaccurate weather reports and picking up after dogs.
As a call center operator, minimizing hold times should be a top priority for improving the customer experience. There are several approaches to tackle this daunting task.
First, use historical data and forecasting to understand peak times to ensure your call center is sufficiently staffed. For example, if you’re a product-based business, you likely see an increase in calls following the holidays. Similarly, a tax preparation service would see more calls during tax season.
Another approach to minimizing time spent on hold is to put the communications and access in place for self-service. Empowering customers to use self-service options will help reduce the number of calls, meaning less wait time for those who need extra assistance. A prime example of self-service as a solution for call volume is visible with shipping companies like UPS and Fed-Ex.
In the early 2000s, if you wanted to track a package, you’d have to call the company you ordered from, and they could look up the tracking information for you. Now, a consumer can take a tracking number and plug it into the shipper’s website for up-to-date shipping information. This self-service option took the burden off both the shipping company and the seller.
While most view on-hold music as contentious and annoying, it is necessary to improve the customer experience. Silence has a psychological impact that makes time feel longer. Yes, even the upbeat, repetitive instrumentals improve the customer experience compared to the alternative.
Invest In Employee Training And Satisfaction
Call centers are notorious for having high turnover rates, impacting wait times, customer service, and the overall customer experience. Avoid employee turnover by investing in employee training and satisfaction.
Helping your employees build their communication skills by training in active listening, personalization, and emotional intelligence will help improve the quality of conversations with customers. Additionally, these soft skills look great on their resume. To truly connect with employees, it’s essential to understand that your business might be a stepping stone, and that’s ok. Setting your staff up for success in their future endeavors creates a stronger emotional connection and company culture that translates into how the brand is perceived.
In addition to training, consider creating programs to improve employee engagement. Recognize those who do a good job and provide positive feedback and rewards. Empower them to set goals and connect with coworkers. If your employees feel valued, they’ll become better at making customers feel valued.
Finally, remember that your employees are humans, and their well-being comes before the company’s bottom line. Help them identify when they’re getting emotional or frustrated, and allow them to step away and take a break. No employee should have to deal with abuse from customers.
Note-taking may seem simple and unnecessary with advanced technology and omnichannel centralization. However, it still plays a decisive role in streamlining customer service. Call center experiences should require minimal effort from customers. Rather than having them repeat their plight as they escalate through the ranks, encourage your staff to take detailed notes outlining the issue.
Note-taking can also be a platform to warn other staff members if someone is agitated or if internal issues are to be resolved. Call recordings only capture a piece of the puzzle; notes can fill in the gaps.
Use Analytics To Drive Change
Using software that captures detailed analytics can help businesses improve the call center experience through data-driven decision-making. Some of the most important metrics to capture include:
- Average wait time – time spent on hold.
- Average abandonment rate – how many callers hang up before reaching an agent.
- Average handle time – how long a caller spends with an agent.
- First call resolution rate – how many issues are resolved without escalation, transferring, callbacks, etc.
Capturing data allows key decision-makers to track improvements and set strategic goals. All of these metrics play a role in customer experience and satisfaction.
Ask For Feedback
Finally, the best way to learn how your customer feels about the experience is to ask. Requesting feedback will ensure a customer feels valued and respected and help outline any problematic themes.
When requesting feedback, it’s best to keep it simple. Use a simple NPS score asking customers to rate their experience from 1 to 10. Airbnb simplifies this approach with a simple smiley face scale that includes a red unhappy face, a yellow neutral face, and a green happy face. Ask customers to expand on their quantitative feedback with a few lines of qualitative feedback— i.e., why they chose that answer. Consider offering a small reward for participating in the survey.
Improving the customer experience is an ongoing exercise. Fortunately, it’s often as simple as capturing metrics, making data-driven decisions, and valuing employees as much as customers.