Friday, January 22, 2016

5 Tips To Improve Customer Service Communication

By: CJ Silva

In a call center, your agents are the first line of contact for your customers.  They are the starting point, and often, the finish line, of whether or not your customer is satisfied and remains a customer.  There are many ways that communication can be improved in a call center or a contact center, and many begin with the agent themselves.

Hire for Empathy

Empathy is not a skill that can be taught.  They either have it or they don’t.  An empathetic representative will listen to a customer's concerns and express to the customer that they, too, are concerned about their issue.  If a customer feels as though the agent they are speaking with understands and identifies with their concern, they are often more likely to be satisfied with the solution.  Allow the agents time to be empathetic and to listen to, and assess, the customer's needs.  Scripts and metrics that measure performance based on how quickly a call is resolved can be counter-productive.

Offer Multiple Platforms for Service

The days of telephone customer service aren't ending.  Reaching an agent by phone is still the easiest and most widely used method of communication.  However, in the age of social media, many companies are installing live chat, email, and video chat formats for contacting customer care centers.  It is important to offer cross-platform methods of communication in an age where internet, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs drive customer opinion.  Hiring agents who are proficient in both verbal and written communication is paramount to success.

Use Positive Language

Language is very important in how effectively you communicate with your customer.  It can mean the difference between a customer who is satisfied with your service and a customer who feels unsatisfied.  Take, for example, the difference between these two statements, posed after the customer has asked about the availability of an item that is currently unavailable: “That product is unavailable at this time and cannot be shipped to you but it will be available next month” and the following statement: “That product is currently unavailable, but I can go ahead and place the order to ensure it is shipped next month as soon as it arrives in our warehouse.”  While the first statement isn't untruthful, nor is it negative, the second statement's tone conveys care for the customer.  Instead of focusing on what cannot be done, focus on what can be done. 

Provide and Offer Opportunities for Feedback

An unhappy customer will tell anyone who will listen about why they are dissatisfied.  In the age of Facebook and Twitter, these two outlets alone allow them an audience that can easily reach a multitude of people.  Allowing your customer a way to tell you directly why they are dissatisfied can make your customer feel empowered.  In a different aspect, providing feedback to your agents by monitoring and discussing calls can lead to positive changes that can promote future customer satisfaction.  This also allows a manager to see an agent's strengths and weaknesses and focus on what they are doing right and how they can do things better.

Promote Effective Listening Skills

When an agent actively listens to a customer, it allows the customer to feel as though their concerns are being addressed.  It encourages the caller to be more forthcoming with information that can identify the issue they are having and to find the most effective solution for all involved.  It will reduce misunderstandings and gaps in communication.  Allowing the agent time to listen to, and ask questions to better understand the customer's needs are imperative to promoting overall customer satisfaction.  Having listening skills metrics included in agent reviews will help to identify where agents excel and where they can improve in this very important skill.

These are just a few ways to improve communication between your front line agents and customers.  Enacting any or all of these tips can promote more customer satisfaction and help earn and retain your customer base.

CJ Silva is VP of Operations at KOVA Corporation.

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