Here are five skills every agent should master. And, find links to training resources for every skill.
1. You had me at hello.
The moment when an agent lifts the phone to her ear and speaks her first few words is crucial to the rest of the customer interaction. The way an agent answers the phone sets the tone for the entire conversation with the customer. Coach agents with some techniques on how to prepare for a call. Before an agent takes a call, the agent needs to sit up straight, take a deep breath, and smile. When an agent does these three things, they sound more alert, confident, and friendly to your customers. Make the greeting casual, and ditch the scripts. It’s easy for customers to spot an inauthentic greeting from an agent, and that’s not how your agents want to use their make-or-break seven seconds.
2. Listen more than you speak.
Your agents know the drill – same complaint, different customer. When a customer’s problem sounds nearly identical to a previous caller’s, it’s easy for your agents to check out and stop listening. I mean, they’ve heard it before, so they already know how to solve the problem, right? That may be the case, but the problem is, when an agent checks out of the conversation, it comes off loud and clear to your customers. And, when your agents assume they already know the answer to your customer’s problem, they can miss important details that may change the nature of the problem.
And, agents must listen actively and hear what your customers have to say – without interruptions. Even if an agent thinks they’ve already identified the customer’s pain, when they listen and show they’re engaged with the customer, it makes all the difference in their overall experience. Teach agents to pay attention to the tone and emotion in the customer’s voice, too. They should listen and gather as much information as possible, so they can have a better idea of the customer’s frustrations and genuine feelings.
Agents should ask clarifying questions to be sure they understand the issue from the customer’s point of view – not their own – before moving on to find solutions.
3. Mirror, mirror, on the wall.
(Who’s the fairest of them all?) Mirroring is a long-practiced technique where a customer-facing employee (in this case, your stellar agent) matches a customer’s tone and mimics their vocabulary to be more relatable to the customer. It’s a fantastic way for agents to build rapport and trust with each person they speak to.
Let’s say a customer calls your agent with a routine request, but the agent can hear a sense of urgency in the customer’s voice. If the agent responds nonchalantly, the customer may feel like the agent is apathetic about a resolving the issue quickly. But, if the agent acts quickly and uses language to affirm that a quick resolution is important, it will ease the customer’s worries. When a customer knows that their issue is recognized and important to the agent, too, they’ll leave the interaction ready to brag about their service.
4. Keep anger under wraps.
Handling angry customers isn’t easy, and it’s the most stressful part of an agent’s job. Knowing how to effectively handle an escalated case means agents don’t take what the customer is saying personally. They stay focused and resolve the issue.
Coach to empower your agents, so they can handle angry customer calls with confidence and make the tough decisions that might be needed to solve the problem. When agents listen, ask the right questions, and can work autonomously to make snappy decisions for the benefit of the customer (and the company, of course) customers frustrations will vanish.
5. Be kind above all else.
Empathy requires a deep understanding of human emotion, and it’s a characteristic that’s needed to be a true problem-solver. Encourage agents to draw upon a disappointing customer service experience to help them swap shoes with their frustrated customers. Then, coach them to use that insight and those feelings they mustered as they’re working with customers. That way your agents will be more understanding and receptive of each situation that pops up.
Here are a few key phrases agents can use to convey their empathy, too:
- I understand why you’re frustrated. I’m going to find a solution for you.
- I would be upset in this situation, too. Let’s see what we can do to resolve the issue.
- This isn’t the experience we want for our customers. You have every right to be upset.
With whatever your agents say, it’s crucial to remain authentic. If an agent sounds scripted, empathy fails.
Coach your agents to develop these five skills communication skills, and create a consistent customer service experience. When all your agents are coached frequently and trained often, they’ll develop skills that translate across every customer experience. That’s when your customers will feel consistency and build a trusting relationship with your company. And, with more trust comes loyalty, less churn, happier customers, and a more profitable company.
See how you can take that consistent customer service experience and one-up yourself. Read our blog post on how to create a proactive customer service culture in your contact center!