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How to Be a Better Call Center Agent: 4 Things to Improve

By: George Simons on February 28th, 2019

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How to Be a Better Call Center Agent: 4 Things to Improve

Contact Center Management

Being a customer service agent can be hard work. While helping customers all day is not often a hard task, it does take a special person to do it well. While many customers your agents encounter in a given day are simply looking for information, others will have a problem or an issue that needs to be resolved. Your agents need to have the personality and training to be the customer advocate. They need to be able to remain calm in the face of conflict, empathetic in the face of anger, and friendly even when your customers aren’t making it easy. Choosing the right people to work on your behalf is essential – but it’s not the only challenge. 

 

Before diving into the article, check out this quick video that breaks down how choosing the right people helps you avoid a high turnover rate:

 

The Art and Science of Avoiding High Turnover

 

At GCS, we have identified four attributes that really make a difference in how well call center agents perform. If you are looking for training solutions and staffing center management techniques that solve your pain points, this article will help you spot areas that could use attention.

 

1. Delivery

Remember that your contact center could be the first personal experience your customer has with your company. They may love your product or service, but they do not yet know how you will care about them. You want to make sure you are making a good first impression. For existing customers, they could be calling in for more information, which could lead to a second sale, or they are contacting you because of an issue they want solved. Whether their order was incorrect, something wasn’t quite right, or they didn’t receive a package, your agents need to be able to represent your company and its values accurately.

It is very possible to say the same words and give them a completely different meaning. While the script is important, it’s how the script is delivery that really matters.

As the old adage goes, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

This is how your team members convey your script and it includes the way they talk to your customers.

At GCS, we use a proprietary soft skills training program to help our associates learn how to speak with customers. During their training, we demonstrate appropriate ways to express empathy. We show how tone and voice inflection are effective tools in delivering the appropriate message.

We also emphasize what to do when NOT Talking. We coach agents on listening and questioning skills to really hear what the customer is saying. We use recordings of the agents and allow them to hear their customer interactions. They often are more critical of their performance than the coaches and often easily adapt their approach and exhibit the traits we are trying to reinforce.

To help your agents improve their script delivery, recording calls and replaying them to provide play-by-play commentary can be helpful. Role-playing exercises and regular monitoring also help.

 

2. Workflow Management

On top of all this, customer service agents have to be efficient in the way they handle each call because, if not, queue times could increase exponentially. This can be tricky, because we need to be EFFECTIVE with people, not just EFFICIENT.  Most of us have experienced abrupt treatment. An agent can quickly dispense with a call, but did they create a pleasing customer experience. Did they treat you as a person, or a task?

Workflow management is how the contact center approaches the call flow and staffing of the center to handle peaks and valleys in call or service volume. Call centers that understand the use of shared agents, blending, shift design and other tools are able to manage efficiency of the center while maintaining a customer centric approach.  They use technology and agents to flex and manage the number of calls coming in at a given time. This ability means your customers have the absolute minimal wait times to speak to an agent. It optimizes the number of agents working on your project when they are answering calls for you. This minimizes the cost of the service  compared to simply staffing a set number of people for a full shift.

If you manage your own call center, it may be difficult to have this much flexibility. If your call volume changes drastically throughout the day, you might want to consider hiring a contact center vendor for your overflow at peak times. Outsourcing your call center does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

Alternatively, you may need to look at tracking call volume by the hour and scheduling with those days and times in mind, even if it means having more part-time workers.

 


The Complete Guide to Call Center Training

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3. Reporting

We all know that we tend to get what we measure. In order to help your agents be the best they can be, you need to provide in a useful format or report. Your agents are not going to know where they need to improve if you are not tracking and reporting it to them. Create feedback systems that help your associates understand how they are performing and what they can do to improve. Reporting also helps give your employees ownership of their actions and the way those activities tie into broader company performance goals.

 

Provide Feedback

Start by providing feedback. Listen to calls, either through a monitoring system or by listening in on agent conversations, and have a conversation with each customer advocate about the way that he or she takes calls. Remember to point out the good things with the bad. You will find some people will be generally unaware of how they might sound to someone on the other end of the phone.

 

Look at Key Performance Metrics

Also, look at key performance metrics. It will help your staff to see how they are doing in a quantified way. By seeing how long their average calls are and whether issues are resolved on the first contact, your agents can see how effective and efficient they are. You might also want to post call center averages for those metrics so that each customer advocate can see how well they are doing compared to the rest of the team. Sometimes this comparison really drives home the importance of not taking too long with each customer.

 

4. Continued Education

As you assist your employees to understand what they do wrong or what they could do better, help them evolve professionally by providing the education they need to become better agents. Performance evaluations can be good teaching moments in the call center business, but don’t stop there.

 

Coaching

Providing consistent coaching gets your agents comfortable with a feedback process, or a continuous improvement process. By establishing an understanding that NO ONE is perfect and that better communication is an ongoing process, it open up your customer service agents to receiving both negative and positive feedback. A learning environment evolves that makes it easier for them to ask questions, clarify concepts, or learn new ways of doing things.

At GCS, we use a method we call F.E.E.D. – Feedback to Everyone Every Day. Daily feedback keeps our agents involved, excited, and improving. Regular coaching also takes the sting away from pointing out areas of improvement and it can help associates feel more engaged.

 

Certifications

Certifications are another positive tool in the contact center.  They provide a sense of accomplishment and offer a framework for improvement. GCS requires all of its agents go through special soft skills training, and it is not just a company-wide initiative. Our program is AGCCP certified and participants can earn SHRM credits. In addition, we maintain a client knowledge certification. Our agents are assessed and scored on their client knowledge. They must pass our assessment before they can begin working on a client’s program.

 

Conclusion

The best call center companies go a step further in providing great customer interactions. They take steps to help ensure the customer service your customers receive is consistent, day to day, agent to agent. They put managers in place who will help customer advocates reach performance standards and eventually exceed them. They oversee delivery, manage workflow, monitor performance, and provide coaching. GCS can help you achieve more by providing trained agents, or helping you with training programs and plans. In-house or vendor managed, make sure your agents are performing at their best. From soft skills training to overflow systems, GCS can help.


The Complete Guide to Call Center Training

Everything You Need to Know about Improving Call Center Performance with Training

 Learn more