Guest Author Bio ~ Adele is a writer and researcher for Customer Service Guru, specialising in consumer advice, retail trends and brand culture. She is a regular contributor for several b2b websites and enjoys taking part in ongoing debates related to social media and big data. She is passionate about the power of content marketing and the art of a good brew. Tweet her @gurucustomer or follow on Google+.
The contact center can be a rather regimented place, with annoyed customers to attend to; calls to filter; problems to solve and a bunch of busy, starving agents on your hands. It’s only natural that there’d be some rules and regulations in place regarding communication, timeliness and efficiency; however, sometimes these rules can be so restrictive, they’re actually preventing your team from providing the best service possible. For example, things like an over-reliance on IVR systems; repeated verification and call routing, and over-scripted conversation can be hazardous to your customer relationships, as telecoms giant BT can well attest to. So read these five contact center taboos you should break, and get ready to loosen the reins.
1. Relaxing the Time Allowance for Each Call
You may think that a contact centre without time limits is like a boat with holes – all your efficiency and resources will be drained away quickly. But consider this: Zappos, the well known shoe brand and one of the most prolifically fast-growing companies in the US, holds the record for the longest ever customer service call at an astounding 9 hours, 37 minutes. During the call, the agent and customer talked about everything from clothes, shoes, to food and movies. The agent was supplied with snacks and drinks by their fellow colleagues, and took bathroom breaks when necessary. “Sometimes, some people just want to talk,” the agent later said. “We don’t judge – we just want to help.” It is this treatment and appreciation of their customers that has earned Zappos the sterling credibility it holds today. Zappos in this case weren’t concerned with just helping the customer on a sales level; they wanted to help on a more human level. Time is your most valuable commodity. Being generous with it may just be a worthwhile investment for the long term.
2. Ditching the Script
Call scripts are essential in training and give agents a good starting point when taking their first calls. But over time they may long to stray away from the old formula and use their own conversational strategies to solve problems. It’s in your best interests to let them. Losing the formal approach can help break down barriers between agents and customers and allow them to get to the bottom of the issue much faster. Allow them to make the role their own – whether it’s by being funny; telling jokes; asking them about their day or making unrelated conversation. Not only will it brighten up the day for your agent – it’ll do so for your customers too. This live chat transcript between an Amazon agent and a customer is a great example of customised service. Obviously all customers need to be treated with respect at all times. Any interaction is okay, as long as remains on a positive footing and keeps the needs of the customer in focus.
3. Being Flexible With Breaktimes
The term ‘flexibility’ when it comes to your agents taking breaks may fill you with dread and uncertainty. But the truth is that with good levels of employer-employee trust, giving agents more flexibility can actually boost their productivity. The contact center can be a fast-paced arena, forcing agents to consistently be creative with solutions, think on their toes and remain a calm, pleasant countenance at all times. Unforeseen difficulties can lead to agents becoming more stressed than they expected, and a frazzled, stressed out rep is no good to anyone. Allow agents to take an agreed number of breaks in a day, but choose when to take them. As long as there are enough people on the floor to cope during that particular rep’s short absence, there should be no reason for anybody to feel overwhelmed.
4. Taking Calls...Even Though You Might Be the Boss
As the manager of a contact center, you lead by example - not by giving instructions or commands. When there are lots of calls in a queue and you have a spare few minutes, throw on a headset and get taking some calls. Not only will you massively help your team out in a time of crisis, but showing that you’re not afraid of joining them on the ground will increase their respect for you by a mile. And every extra pair of hands helps, so you’ll also be doing your own customers (and your sales) a favour.
5. Let Your Agents Take the Lead; Trust their Judgement
Every contact center needs rules in order to work efficiently, but agents want rules that they can understand. Whether it might concern bathrooms breaks; shifts; schedules; policies or difficult-customer-protocol...agents should always be made aware of the reasons behind the rules so they are more able to get readily on board. By the same token, you should run any big changes that will affect the whole team past all of your members first, as a way of gauging its practicality and plausibility. Your agents know the needs of the customers better than anyone at the company, so gain feedback before finalising a decision and learn to trust their judgement.