By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
In the call center space, customer experience looms as the hot buzzword of our industry. But beyond all the talk, I wonder if it’s not just a new label on a proven theme that’s been around for a long time. The basis for customer experience resides in customer service. Customer service is the reason call centers exist in the first place and serves as the distinguishing factor between excellence and failure.
Here are some customer service elements that all call centers should pursue. These customer service essentials provide for great customer experience.
Timely Reactions: First on the list is the imperative to not waste the caller’s time. This means answering calls quickly, with minimal hold time, no transfers, and a quick conclusion. Too many callers brace themselves for a long ordeal each time they dial a call center. This is the wrong message to send.
Yes, you need to match optimum scheduling with a desire for speed, but you can strike an agreeable balance. Having the right number of agents available to meet projected call forecasts and adjusting to unexpected traffic spikes is key.
Efficient Interactions: Callers also want their communication with your call center to be proficient. They object to giving their account number again when they’ve already entered it earlier in the call. They also bristle at the need to repeat information each time their call is transferred. And if they must be placed on hold for the agent to check something, they will usually understand, but try to keep the hold time short and restrict the number of holds to a minimum.
Just as you want your agents to be efficient on every call, callers also expect you to be efficient with their time. Respect them and honor the investment they made in calling you.
Positive Responses: Keep an upbeat attitude, even when dealing with difficult situations. Tell callers what you can do for them, not what you can’t. Learn positive phrases and interject them into conversations whenever possible. Talk with a smile on your face, and callers will hear it in your words.
Accurate Results: Most of all, callers expect the information you provide to be correct. Too many callers have experienced agents who will say anything, whether it’s correct or not, just to end the call. Callers want to trust the information you give them. They also expect you to follow through and do what you promise. They want results they can depend on.
Memorable Outcomes: Beyond the length of the call, callers want to feel good about what occurred, both when they hang up and in the days and weeks that follow. Sometimes it takes time for the veracity of a call to become known. Customers may not realize, until it’s too late, that they received wrong information or that the steps the agent took didn’t solve the problem. Then they must call back, and they won’t be happy about it. You want to avoid this. Instead make each outcome memorable and eliminate the need for follow-up calls.
When call centers offer these customer-service essentials, they’re on their way to delivering a great customer experience to their callers. And that’s what customer service is all about.
Though you can spend a lot of time fixated on providing great customer experiences—or whatever the current industry buzzword is—the reality is that this hot-topic-of-the-day usually goes back to customer-service essentials. Start there and build upon it.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry.