Call center agents are often the first person a customer will speak to from your company. This first impression is pivotal in customer experience and satisfaction. Happy customers are loyal customers. Loyal customers bring repeat business and spread positive reviews about your company. Conversely, unhappy clients look for alternative providers and spread negative comments about you. For too long, the role of customer support agents and call center agents has been undermined and undervalued. It is time to take an active role in training call center agents in excellent service.
The Ideal Agent
As with any position within a high functioning firm, it is important that you hire the right type of person for a call center job. The main things to look for in a call center agent are a person who: is fluent in the language of service, has excellent technical skills, is punctual, is flexible, able to think on their feet, is a team player and has good time management skills. The Independent features a fantastic article on the qualities to look for in a call center agent.
Ensure the candidate understands the call center agent job description before you proceed. If you hire the right people the training process will be much easier and customer satisfaction will be higher. Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest recruiting websites, has published a selection of useful interview techniques to help you find the best fit.
Where to Begin Training Your Customer Service Representatives?
Designing the perfect training program can be daunting. It is essential that you constantly remind yourself that no program is perfect. The training process is, by its nature, a dynamic process. Even though you will be able to find a call center training guide and call center training software online. There is no one guide of best practices for call center agents. Each company is unique and you must, therefore, modify your training strategy to fit your needs. Here are some key call center agent skills to remember when designing your training program.
Employees who are loyal are the biggest asset a company can have. Start the training program by confirming that your support agents are important to your company. This is a good way to make them feel appreciated. Happy employees are the key to great customer experience, they are more creative, productive and even healthier. Ask your support agents what they would like included in the training program. Perhaps ask what they would like to have follow-up training about and ideas for future company growth. To quote Richard Branson’s famous Tweet: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
- Product Knowledge
It is imperative to teach agents about the products and services that your firm offers. This is fairly self-explanatory. It is not enough, however, for agents to be aware of only the bare minimum. Your call center agents must have a well-integrated and diverse knowledge of your products and services so that they may help customers in addressing complex issues. However, even the most skilled agent will never know every single thing about your firm. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that your call center uses software that makes it easy for agents to source the up-to-date and accurate information they need. Training call center agents to find the correct information, quickly and effectively, is as important as their product knowledge. Using role-play techniques is a good way to get agents used to acquiring information quickly and effectively.
- Create Hands-on Training Programs
Working in customer support can be a grueling job. More often than we would like to admit, customers are dissatisfied and angry. Bringing practical aspects into each training session helps to prepare customer service agents for these trying situations. A useful call center training strategy is role play. It can key in giving agents the tools they need to diffuse these tense situations. This is perhaps the most essential of call center agent responsibilities. Another useful strategy is to play recorded real-life example calls. Use examples of agents who handled a difficult situation well and those who did not. Be sure to congratulate good performers and not name and shame bad performers. Ask for feedback on these calls and get the whole team involved in the discussion to facilitate learning. Reward experienced employees who perform well by letting them lead such hands-on training sessions.
- Finding the “i” in TEAM
It is important to remember that your employees are l human beings and that they have desires and needs. Making your employees feel that they are doing well is an integral part of any training process. When your employees have a sense of ownership in the company (see point 1) and a healthy work environment they should develop a desire to serve the team. It is worthwhile to include workplace communication workshops in the training process.
- Empathetic Communication
Humans can display empathy while computers can not. This is the advantage of having customer support agents and not just computers. According to Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, in order to understand customer experience one must understand how your services make your customers feel. Daniel Kahneman argues that service without empathy is detrimental to the bottom line because it creates a negative customer experience. This is why major companies like Apple are investing large amounts of money in empathy training. This may be the most important aspect of your training program.
- Continued Professional Development
Unfortunately, training call center agents are not something you can do and forget about straight afterward. You have to continually train and retrain your agents to see the best results. The onboarding process of new agents is the very tip of the iceberg. Remember to follow the four stages of the continued professional development cycle.
- First, you need to identify the learning need by evaluating current employee performance. Ask employees what they would like to learn about.
- Next, you will need to devise a training program.
- Following this, you will implement the training process.
- Finally, the re-evaluation of employee knowledge tells you how successful your training program was and what training needs to be done in the future.
Constant, fair and transparent performance evaluation is key in this retraining process.
- Train Agents to Use Multi-Media Platforms and Multiple Touchpoints
It is common for customers to email, or reach out on social media platforms before they call the call center. Customers can get very frustrated when they have to repeat their issues on different platforms and to different people. Premium customer experience involves the agent being able to reply on any platform necessary. Agents should be able to access relevant non-telephonic communication between the customer and the company. This comes with challenges but can be achieved by a skilled agent.
Call center agents should be trained to use multiple touchpoints, so as to help the customer in the way in which they are most comfortable. Often, agents will need to be able to multitask, as they will need to handle various live-chats and social-media engagements at the same time. The need to know when it is best to respond, and how to do so timeously and effectively.
- Sales Opportunities
Each and every interaction with a client is a new opportunity to familiarize them with your products and services and upsell and cross-sell. The key here is tact, customers do not want to feel pressured into buying more products. The main purpose of customer service agents is to address the customer’s needs. Personalizing these adaptive sales techniques is crucial to success. Due to the new tech age, every interaction a business has with a client generates data.
Using big data and metrics can be extremely intimidating even for skilled agents, but it offers the opportunity to tailor customer interaction to each customer and improving their overall experience. It is, hence, critical that call center agents are equipped with the tools to use this data effectively. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, a multinational service network, conducted various center industry reports on customer experience. Approximately 80% of US-based customers said that friendly and knowledgeable service, as well as speed and efficiency, are the basis for great customer experience.
It is important to teach agents when it is appropriate to initiate further sales and how to do so tactfully.
The Seekify Solution
Call center system automation exists to preserve the energy of call center agents. Most importantly a good system should increase efficiency. Seekify is the only reliable customer experience automation platform currently on the market. This innovative platform uses a three-pronged approach to ensure an excellent customer experience.
Firstly, Seekify integrates your existing systems allowing data that was previously stored in silos to be used to make actionable insights. Thereafter, Seekify initiates contextual processes so that these new insights can be used in action. Finally, actions needed to improve customer experience are automated, thus solidifying new changes. Even the most sophisticated software programs rely on training call center agents and customer support agents effectively. The Seekify platform aims to complement your call center agents’ abilities, not to replace the human element.
If you are interested in amplifying your customer experience, please contact us at Seekify, today.