Lately, we’ve been focusing on the needs of the agents and how to make sure companies survive these troubling times more than anything else. And we may not have been the only company that shifted its focus.
While company growth and innovating customer experience through the latest software should be a priority, teaching and reminding your agents about the basics of customer service should always be pinned on the very top of your list.
In this article, we will be taking a look at a recent news article involving a call center agent with zero soft skills and the top reasons why agents need regular sensitivity lessons.
Learn more about how to teach soft skills to contact a center agent from the most qualified source out there – Thomas Laird – the man that grew up in a Call Center.
Charlotte Woman Experienced the Brutality of Dealing with an Untrained Agent
According to a disturbing news report, a Charlotte woman that contacted the North Carolina unemployment office call center was treated horrendously by the agent in charge of her call. Not only did the agent use racial slurs during the conversation, but they also refused to connect her to a supervisor.
Sadly, this unacceptable behavior is proof that the industry’s focus has shifted during these last couple of months leaving crucial lessons – like regularly teaching soft skills – on the back burner.
The Importance of Regularly Teaching Soft Skills to Your Agents
And while it’s an honest mistake to reach for the starts assuming that the basics are covered, it’s still a mistake. Not everyone is born with soft skills. And while you can certainly teach soft skills to a call center agent, the best thing you can do is to ensure customers are treated with the utmost respect and your agents are striving to offer customer satisfaction (and know what to do to create a quality customer experience!) is to hold regular training sessions.
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You Can Only Improve Something that Already Exists
You can’t promise users an enhanced CX if agents don’t practice the fundamentals – respect and empathy. While the latter is harder to master, respect should be a given.
Make sure your agents are aware that any personal feelings or beliefs have no place in a customer-oriented company. Every customer, no matter their gender, race, or religion has to be treated with the same amount of respect, and agents must put all the effort into generating customer satisfaction.
Not Everybody Knows How to Really Listen
Nobody contacts a call center just because they want to share the latest gossip. All the customers have a complaint. Some need to fix a simple issue so they approach the problem with more calm and are usually able to explain what they need. A straightforward job for an agent.
However, some customers have a harder time explaining what they want. What they want to fix, what they want to buy, and what they want to change. A sensitive agent knows how to listen to more than just words. They know how to ask questions to clarify the problem, read emotions, and slowly nudge their customer into a better, calmer headspace. And most importantly they know how to reassure the customer that they’re actively trying to solve the problem, not playing a game while idly listening to someone complain.
Teach your agents to listen properly.
Empathy Doesn’t Come Naturally to Everyone
I mentioned reading emotions earlier. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple thing to do. But with the proper amount of training scenarios, any agent can learn to tell the difference between angry and frustrated and nervous, and even panicked.
The difference between these emotions can make or break a conversation. You can’t use the same approach for a client that is angry that you would use for one that is panicked about something. These emotions stem from different experiences and a good agent knows how to detect and handle an emotional client.
Remember that Every day, agents communicate with a vast number of individuals, and some of those encounters will undoubtedly be tough. Request that the agents put up a troublesome client they met with the previous week. Ask them to remember what the person on the other end of the phone was going through that caused them to be so disagreeable.
Update 2021: Did you know that 48% of consumers stop doing business with a brand because of a bad customer experience? Did you also know that businesses lose $1.7 trillion because of bad customer service every year?
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Asking for Clarifications the Right Way Is an Art
When I talked about the importance of listening, I mentioned asking questions. This is actually an art. Because there is a right amount of questions you can ask a customer to better understand their problems and, at the same time, make them feel listened to.
However, if an agent starts asking too many questions it might make the customer uncomfortable, creating the feeling that the agent isn’t paying enough attention to the conversation.
Remember: Asking for Help Is Not a Weakness
After everything else is said and done, if an agent believes that they cannot handle the conversation with a certain customer for any reason, then the system should be devised in such a way that the call can be transferred to a superior or another agent without fear of consequence.
It’s always best to let your agents know that asking for help is not a punishable offense and, in the interest of CX, help should always be available.
The most important skills a call center agent should have are soft skills. For both an inbound and outbound agent, knowing how to communicate with the customer is crucial and trumps even an innate ability to sell.
Avoid any incidents like the one described above by regularly making sure that your agents know how to talk and listen before teaching them how to sell.