Call centers often come under fire for the quality of customers’ experience when contacting them. There is no excuse for allowing your customer-facing agents to be the cause of dissatisfaction. Set clear expectations of what is required for every customer interaction and monitor performance regularly. Ensure your quality control framework includes the following 10 essential criteria.
Make sure your calls are opened in a professional way. Be clear what words are mandated and what degree of discretion agents are allowed to personalize their greeting. Think about how formal you want the call-relationship to be, such as whether agents should address callers using first names or titles and last names; this all flows from the initial greeting.
2. USE OF HOLD
Putting callers on hold is not desirable, but even the most skilled agents may need to seek advice from a manager or other area of the business. Set limits on how long any caller should be left on hold, so agents know how to manage these instances and identify when it is more appropriate to offer a call-back.
3. BUILDING RAPPORT
You don’t want productivity wasted through idle gossip, but you need agents with the skill to be able to build a rapport with customers. It is hard to set specific measures around this, but an agent who does this well gives the customer a feeling of being valued as a person. As a result, the customer is more likely to speak positively about your business to their friends and family. A good rapport also eliminates “dead air” (awkward, extended silences), as the agent is able to fill gaps and keep the call flowing while they search for information or struggle with slow moving IT systems.
4. POSITIVE LANGUAGE
Encourage agents to find creative ways around barriers and limitations presented by processes or policies. There will be times when they cannot help a customer directly, or are asked for something that goes beyond the scope of a particular service; the trick is to focus on what can be done rather than what can’t. Give your agents guidance on how to use language to their advantage in talking about limitations. This will avoid the natural human tendency to go on the defensive when challenged, which is often the source of customer dissatisfaction.
5. USE OF SYSTEMS
Skill in using systems and technology is often overlooked as a criterium for quality, but it is important. If an agent is struggling with systems, or using them inefficiently, this will increase call times and degrade the customer experience. To manage this properly you’ll need to consider side-by-side monitoring, or implementation of software that allows for capturing of screen activity as well as voice recording.
It is possible for customers to go away happy, even if they’ve been given completely inaccurate advice, but it will soon come back to bite you, so don’t underestimate the need to monitor this. The person reviewing a call-recording will need to have a technical understanding of the subject matter, but quality is about substance as much as it is about style.
It is essential that your agents are complying with any internal or external requirements, whether they be legal, regulatory or policy. Some will be common to any business, such as compliance with relevant data protection or information security regulations, but others will be industry-specific, such as financial services. Compliance is not just about the customer’s satisfaction and rights, but also about protecting the business from fines or even prosecution.
8. HANDLE TIME
Try to avoid setting maximum call lengths, as this can drive the wrong behaviors, but make sure you set clear guidelines and expectations. Consider setting bandings or tolerances rather than limits, based on the average handle time across the wider team. You need to ensure agents are controlling calls properly and maximizing productivity, as well as recognize that occasionally difficult or complex calls may take longer.
One of the biggest causes of customers’ dissatisfaction is not having their questions resolved in a single contact. This is also bad for business; creating an entirely avoidable need for the customer to call a second time (also known as “failure demand”) is unnecessary and expensive. Encourage your agents to anticipate follow-up questions that are likely to result, and answer them even if the customer doesn’t ask them. This may slightly increase average handle times across the business, but will be far better customer service and more cost effective in the long run.
10. EXPECTATION & CLOSURE
Make sure calls are closed properly. Agents should be summarizing the actions they and the customer will be taking, and set expectations for what will happen next. You may or may not want agents to ask “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” But don’t allow calls to be closed without the caller confirming they’re ready to go. Don’t create a need for them to call again unnecessarily; they will not thank you for it.
Your customers are your life-blood and your call center is one of the primary conduits by which you manage the relationship with them. Use these 10 criteria to ensure you’re investing in a quality framework which is clear and properly understood by everyone. Your agents will be more confident and capable of providing consistently excellent service, and your business will benefit from happy customers who will share their positive experience with others.