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25 Proven Call Center Best Practices to Wow Your Customers in 2020

Call center best practices in 2020

Businesses depend on speaking with their customers now more than ever.

It takes more than friendly customer service to deliver a remarkable customer experience.

Companies use virtual call centers for much more than answering a high volume of calls. Organizations use call centers to delight customers and achieve revenue goals.

It’s expensive to provide poor customer service experiences. One-third of customers will leave a brand after one lousy encounter. To counter this, PwC suggests making the human touch at the center of your brand’s experience.

Follow these call center best practices to deliver an exceptional customer experience in every call.

25 call center best practices to boost customer satisfaction

It’s possible to turn ordinary inbound calls into delightful customer experiences. With a series of small changes, you can transform a call center into your most valuable asset.

  1. Obsess over the customer experience
  2. Balance technology with a human touch
  3. Expand real-time omnichannel support
  4. Use VoIP to scale your customer service team
  5. Deliver a memorable first impression
  6. Resolve issues quickly and reliably
  7. Provide frequent call center training
  8. Leverage screen pop for personalized service
  9. Track customer satisfaction automatically
  10. Invest in training for new agents
  11. Hire for attitude over aptitude
  12. Reward your team with the right incentives
  13. Empower your support agents
  14. Develop healthy habits and behaviors
  15. Support training with cloud-based technology 
  16. Curate your knowledge base
  17. Use the best contact center tools
  18. Mystery-shop your team
  19. Craft a bullet-proof redundancy plan
  20. Track the metrics and KPIs that matter
  21. Set up rigorous quality assurance
  22. Measure different call center campaigns
  23. Use positive language in tough situations
  24. Survey callers about their experiences
  25. Build a cohesive company culture

1) Obsess over the customer experience.

We already know that customer experience is crucial for any business. Do a customer wrong, and they won’t come back. Beat their expectations, and they’re a reliable source of revenue for years.

Modern buyers are different. These buyers access product research, value customer reviews, and expect immediate service. Would you disagree? Your competitors won’t.

That’s why your call center should always provide an end-to-end customer experience. Think through the moment they visit your site to helping them succeed with your product. When you go the extra mile, you can optimize customer lifetime value.

Consumers pay more for positive customer experiences. (PwC)
Consumers pay more for positive customer experiences. Source: PwC

2) Balance technology with a human touch.

Solutions like chatbots and IVRs sometimes get in the way of getting the help you need. After years of ineffective customer service tools, 86% of customers don’t trust them. They want to speak to a real person.

You can tie this in with your customer service goals. Make your customers’ feel good by allowing them to reach a well-trained agent.

Leverage your call center technology to provide a human touch. Always give them an out from your auto attendant to reach a live representative.

Encourage your customer service agents to express their personality with customers. Add character to your support articles without being unprofessional.

Related: What is Conversational AI? Get Started with Fundamentals

3) Expand real-time omnichannel support.

There’s no doubt that we’re a well-connected world. People use an average of four different devices every day.

You should make it easy for customers to reach your contact center on any device. For instance, make it easy for customers to contact you from a cell phone, tablet, laptop, or computer.

Evolving your call center into a contact center allows you to provide better care. Equipping agents with unified communication tools will increase your satisfaction and engagement. Agents in contact centers can respond to inquiries via phone, email, text, and social media.

4) Use VoIP to scale your customer service team.

When it comes to scalability, look no further than your choice of a phone system. With a cloud phone system, you can let your customer service team work from anywhere.

Most of these systems come with specific VoIP phone numbers. VoIP numbers let you speak with customers using any internet-connected device. And you can do it for a fraction of the cost of a landline.

Forget about finding office space or setting up an expensive PBX. Provide call center agents with a VoIP app for their computers or smartphones, and you can be up and running.

The best part of VoIP is that your monthly fee covers an unlimited number of phone calls between agents. This technology means no extra charges to answer or place calls abroad.

5) Deliver a memorable first impression.

First impressions only happen once.

It’s true. The success of a contact center is more than just solving customer problems. Impress callers from the moment you answer with active listening and patience. Probe for extra info before offering a resolution.

Your customers form a judgment about you in a matter of seconds. They affirm their decision within 30 seconds of answering.

That’s a short time to make a great impression. To do so, make it unmistakable that you are advocating for your customer’s success.

It’s more than being nice. It’s taking each call seriously. Resolving issues on the first call is essential to increase customer satisfaction. It influences a customer’s willingness to recommend your company to others.

6) Resolve issues quickly and reliably.

When customers report problems, they want their issues solved as quickly as possible. Beyond resolution time itself, timely updates can increase customer satisfaction scores.

Call centers can shorten the resolution time in many ways:

  • Streamline customer support agents’ workflows by automating repetitive tasks
  • Manage expectations and be transparent about the timeline to solve their problem
  • Update customers on the status of their issue frequently
  • Provide call center agents access to your CRM
  • Log customer’s issues into cases in a helpdesk
  • Develop a safety net to avoid blackholes of customer concerns

7) Provide frequent call center training.

Customers expect brands to provide speedy and knowledgable support.

You can do this by delivering call center training to your staff. The more knowledge they have about how to solve top issues, the less they need to place customers on hold.

With regular training, your team sharpens their call center skills. Additionally, you can cut out bad behavior that results in higher churn.

Call center training should cover soft skills, product knowledge, and proper documentation. Reinforce it with articles, quick reference guides, and videos.

8) Leverage screen pop for personalized service.

Did you know that 59% of customers say personalization influences their shopping decision? When your team answers incoming calls, customer information is scattered across the screen. Burying your customer data away from the rep is a huge problem. It causes your customer service team to struggle on calls.

Save your call center agent’s time by configuring your screen pop feature in your call center. When a call comes in, they see the most valuable info in a fraction of a second.

Most people appreciate personalized care when they’re calling a call center. After your customer service team solves an issue, they can upsell for more revenue.

Either way, you should take every opportunity to act on this real-time information. With it, your team can improve the customer experience. Make your customers feel like they’re the most important person of the day. They’ll appreciate it.

9) Track customer satisfaction automatically.

The most important goal for your call center is excellent customer service. It involves more than a high CSAT score. Survey your customers after each interaction and at least every year. If you have excellent customer satisfaction, you have lasting customer loyalty.

Customer satisfaction metrics are leading indicators of potential churn or reputation issues.

Configure your call center software to survey customers following every contact center interaction. Have your leadership team review the results and identify trends.

Related: Top 30 Call Center Metrics To Supercharge Customer Satisfaction

10) Invest in training new call center agents.

In the ears of customers, your call center is the company. For better or worse, they shape the customer experience when customers call.

With thorough training, you can dramatically increase your call center agent’s capabilities. Cover topics that are unique to your company: company values, vision, use-cases. Go even further by playing your best (and worst) recorded calls.

Don’t forget to supplement training after your team begins taking calls. Here’s how:

  • Use call recordings to review handling difficult situations.
  • Provide screen-sharing videos on using their call center software.
  • Save your call center best practices in a shared document.

It’s no question why training tops call center best practices every year. It’s important.

More than half of call centers provide at least three weeks of training. (McKinsey)
More than half of call centers provide at least three weeks of training. (McKinsey)

11) Hire for attitude over aptitude.

You can’t easily teach someone how to be friendly or empathetic. Consider crafting your hiring process to testing candidates for their ability to teach. Look for the chameleons that adapt to the circumstances instead of rehearsed answers.

Call center knowledge can be taught. Attitudes are less malleable.

A customer service staffer lacking compassion won’t last long. Reward those who speak favorably about their call center experiences.

12) Reward your team with the right incentives.

There’s a ton of research into rewarding hard work, and it’s not as clear cut as you might expect.

First, make sure you’re tracking individual and team-based performance. A few of the top customer service metrics include:

  • Average Handle Time (AHT)
  • First-Call Resolution Rate
  • Customer Satisfaction Rate
  • Compliance/Quality Scores
  • Customer Retention/Revenue Rates

These metrics should be realistic and influenced by individual agent behavior. Make the rules of engagement clear and give them goals to achieve. Reward them with fun, relevant, and generous rewards for high performance.

Beware of making the rewards too lucrative. Sizable rewards may be grounds for cheating or manipulating stats, so keep that mind.

These incentive programs should be geared for both teams and individuals.

Go beyond financial rewards with personal recognition, team events, and paid time off. This way, you’re showcasing successful calls and rewarding behavior over numbers alone.

Check out the complete guide to kick-ass customer service.
Proven tips your team can use today. Free download!

13) Empower your customer service agents.

Speaking of motivation, employees who feel valued tend to be more engaged at work. They take ownership of their roles and assume responsibility for business results. That leads to more productivity, innovation, and boosts performance.

Give agents a voice in the decision process for issues that affect them. Look to them as experts in the field. Empower agents to act in favor of the customer without needless escalations.

Make it rewarding for your team to provide excellent support. Examine your total compensation to drive loyalty and employee engagement.

14) Develop healthy habits and behaviors. 

Some soft and hard skills are crucial to call center success. That includes:

  • Active listening
  • Product knowledge
  • Call center escalations
  • Documentation techniques

You’ll want to keep your staff’s skills sharp. That way, they’re equipped to handle the routine tasks they’ll do in their role as a customer support agent.

15) Support training with cloud-based technology.

Chances are, each member of your call center team reports to a customer support manager. It’s their manager’s job to make sure they’re supporting their team to do their jobs well.

Managers can use cloud-based technology to measure performance and review all customer interactions.

There are many innovative ways to create training opportunities:

  • Identify the most compelling scripts and techniques for a given type of customer.
  • Share specific training tips that yield the best results.
  • Help call center managers improve call quality and agent performance.

Regardless of which tools you’re using, be strategic with the data you’re using. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with metrics. Connect the expected outcome of every training process to a KPI or business goals.

16) Curate your knowledge base.

As you scale your team, where is the one resource to share knowledge? For most companies, internal documentation is stored in a knowledge base or wiki. Knowledge bases assist customers and employees by monitoring potential call drivers.

You might want to consider tapping a member of your customer service team to keep it current.

Here are a few tips to keep your knowledge base in tip-top shape:

  • Update your titles and descriptions, so they are easily searchable.
  • Include GIFs or videos to show steps and solutions.
  • Audit the necessity of support articles with minimal traffic.
  • Examine highly trafficked articles for accuracy and best practices.

17) Use the best contact center tools.

It takes a lot more than software and phone numbers to run a thriving call center. You also need the right hardware to support your team, such as ergonomic office furniture.

In the age of remote work, you also need them to have high-speed internet at home.

Robust call center phone systems include advanced features to assist the modern worker. Features should include auto attendants, call recording, softphones, and CRM. Why? You want to make your team’s job easy so they can focus on being engaging with customers.

When you take care of your team, they can provide an exceptional customer experience. This is a top tip well beyond call center best practices.

18) Mystery-shop your team.

Businesses get more complicated as they grow. That’s costly when you’re adding new tools and team members. One way to spot-check quality is through the concept of mystery shopping.

Mystery shopping means you are auditing the customer experience without revealing your intentions. It eliminates any biases created when helping out a known employee.

Auditing your experience as a customer can yield unexpected insights. There are a couple of ways to go about this:

  • Leadership mystery shops. Have your call center leaders call using a virtual phone number and log interactions. Using a scoresheet ensures that evaluations are fair.
  • Customer panel. Consider creating a customer panel to provide you insight into the customer experience. Sometimes, hearing directly from customers cuts through all the noise.

The goal of a mystery shop isn’t to catch wrongdoing, but a tool for discovery. Identify if gaps are happening in an isolated manner or companywide.

Related: 30 Kick-Ass Customer Service Tips & Examples

19) Craft a bullet-proof redundancy plan.

You’ve got a process for just about everything related to your call center. But one that often gets missed is the process for handling calls when your team is unavailable.

Anything can cause the unavailability of your team. An internet outage, inclement weather, or health advisories. Take the time now to create a backup plan for the inevitable. Educate your team about such contingencies. Call center managers should ready to support a business continuity plan.

Avoid dead-ends when you route calls to a voicemail. Cloud-based call center software can transcribe messages and email them to your team. This will improve the customer experience even in unfortunate circumstances. You can also forward calls to personal phones (like cell phones), so they don’t go unanswered.

It’s essential to have a process for this. That way, you can find a business phone system with the features you need. Call queues and analytics give you tools to serve customers in uncertain times.

Related: How to Create & Implement an Effective Business Continuity Plan

20) Track the metrics and KPIs that matter.

Not all metrics are equal; some are more valuable than others. You don’t need to watch every number. Doing so might also lead to analysis paralysis.

Your team should identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that align with business objectives. Some call centers shouldn’t worry about call time when it’s revenue that counts. For others, the average handle time might be critical.

The set of key metrics that apply to your company will depend on many factors. Here are useful call center metrics you should consider:

  • Issue type
  • Call volume
  • Abandoned calls
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Average wait time
  • After-call work
  • Resolution rate
  • Turnover rate
Customer experience KPIs that companies track. (Lumoa)
Source: Lumoa

Related: Are You Tracking These 18 Customer Service Metrics?

21) Set up rigorous quality assurance.

There’s no perfect call center operation. That’s not to say you should avoid striving for the ideal customer experience.

Why? Even with impeccable metrics, your call center could be going rogue. Or worse, such as falling out of compliance with laws and regulations.

Tap into some of your rising stars to review recorded calls and score them. This process is known as quality assurance. Share those insights with a call center agent’s manager for kudos or coaching.

Another way to improve is by holding regular, post-mortem performance assessments. Do this every month or quarter, focusing on what your team did well, and which areas they need to improve.

You can also gather customer feedback as much as and as often as possible. This information allows you to have a well-rounded view of customer sentiment.

22) Split-test your call center scripts.

Make sure you’re getting the most out of your team by testing call center scripts against each other. How can you do this?

Select one of your top call drivers. Provide two call scripts for your team to consider. Let’s call them templates “A” and “B.” Template A guides them through all the steps on the phone. Template B points them to a specific self-service FAQ page on your website with a gentle nudge to follow the steps and check back.

Template A will take more time to complete. But depending on the KPIs, you might find that Template B is more beneficial in your call center. Further analysis will uncover which one is best for the bottom line.

You wouldn’t know that without split-testing your call center campaigns.

23) Use positive language in tough situations.

Sometimes a customer calls your contact center with a problem you can’t fix. Instead of stating you can’t do something, describe what you can do instead. After exhausting all resources, consider offering credit or refund to match the situation.

If there’s one thing that makes customers angry, it’s deception. Misleading a customer to push them off the phone will often backfire. Delivering difficult news in a straightforward and considerate way is always preferable.

For example, one of your customers is calling because they missed your weekend sale. They bought the product at full price, which is now selling for 20% off. They want a refund for the difference.

Instead of saying, “we can’t process a refund for you,” look for an alternative. Can you give extend an exclusive discount on a different product? Free shipping? An account credit for a future sale may be helpful? Those might be more useful for them instead of a refund.

Consider the lifetime revenue before taking a hard stance, or you risk all future sales.

Related: 15 Customer Service Psychology Tips to Master

24) Survey callers about their experiences.

We’ve already touched on the fact that customer feedback is gold dust for any call center. You don’t have to ask for it on the spot. You can automatically survey your customers, asking for a rating between one and five.

A unified communications platform lets do this. This technology streamlines all the customer service channels into one place.

Combined with automation, you’ve got a pulse on the satisfaction of your call center.

25) Build a cohesive company culture.

People are not robots driven by rules and regulations. They need the right culture to thrive at work, be happy, and stay motivated to achieve business goals.

Yet without the right culture, performance will suffer. Agents will doubt the clarity of their purpose and the rationale for high standards. A toxic culture lowers productivity and job satisfaction. It will show itself on Glassdoor, whether you want it to or not.

Every company has a culture. Every company has a culture. Call center management teams need to sculpt the right culture to attract and keep the best employees.

Culture isn’t a foosball table. It’s the written and unwritten bond between your employees. It’s the shared unity for a shared purpose. What’s your purpose?

Looking ahead

As the nature of work evolves, so will the call center best practices.

Gone are the days of discouraging customers from calling your customer support line. Every customer contact is an opportunity to provide unique and lasting value. Vanity metrics like average handle time will fall by the wayside. In its place are revenue-based measurements.

Successful call centers know that technology can only go so far. It’s the people that make every call center crush their goals.

Behind every call is a person. Even in a world of cloud-based telephony, people still value human connection.

Teach your call center system new tricks.
Move your call center to the cloud to grow!

About the author

Julie Bai is a product manager at Nextiva, UCaaS evangelist, no-bull communicator and translator for people, dog lover, and mother to an adorably active boy.
 

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