Delivering exceptional customer service means much more than just answering customer questions and resolving their problems.
Call centers play a key role in providing this service, and implementing effective best practices can significantly improve the customer experience and lead to better call center performance.
This article outlines some key best practices that call centers can adopt to equip their frontline staff to handle customer interactions efficiently and professionally, ultimately driving customer satisfaction, loyalty, and business growth.
23 Call Center Best Practices
According to an American Express survey, 78% of customers have abandoned a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of poor service. This renders customer retention extremely difficult without robust support infrastructures in place.
Contact Center Experience Best Practices
Use these best practices for incremental improvements across multiple processes and deliver a top-notch contact center experience.
- Obsess over customer experience
- Build a cohesive company culture
- Choose reliable solution partners
- Expand real-time omnichannel support
- Scale your customer service team with VoIP
- Reward your team with the right incentives
- Empower your customer service agents
- Build a knowledge base
- Track the metrics and KPIs that matter
- Set up rigorous quality assurance
- Craft a bullet-proof redundancy plan
1. Obsess over the customer experience
To deliver the best customer experience, your team needs to be customer-obsessed. They must keep the customer at the center of all decision-making, empathizing with their problems to deliver the best solutions.
The golden rule still applies — Do a customer wrong, and they won’t come back. Beat their expectations, and they become a reliable source of revenue for years.
This is especially true for modern buyers, who research products, read reviews, and form their opinions about your business based on these inputs. They also expect immediate service, which your competitors are more than willing to provide.
That’s why your call center should always provide end-to-end customer experience; support should be available to customers at all stages of their journey, right from the moment they visit your site to getting the most use out of your product.
Going the extra mile can significantly increase customer lifetime value.
2. Build a cohesive company culture
Business is truly global today. Distributed, diverse teams cater to customers around the world.
The only way to ensure a consistent brand experience for all customers is a cohesive, unique company culture that every employee lives and breathes.
Internally, a great company culture encourages employees to align personal performance with business goals and stay motivated to deliver more. Productivity and ownership, too, improve with a good culture, turning happy employees into ambassadors that attract great talent in the future.
Though intangible and often overlooked, a conducive company culture that prioritizes employee growth and well-being is one of the most important incentives for employees.
It drives employees to give their best while also ensuring customers receive expected levels of support and service even when your business scales and expands into newer geographies.
But culture isn’t built overnight. Call center management teams must invest time, effort, and thought into crafting a culture that inspires employees to work towards a shared purpose with zeal.
3. Choose the right call center software
For any business to succeed, it needs to team up with the right service providers. Especially for a call center, choosing a call center technology or a telephone service company that understands your needs and has capabilities to support your scale is important.
The days of on-premises call center tech are far behind. A dedicated cloud-based call center is a more optimal solution, helping manage not just the inbound calls but also outbound or follow-up calls so you always stay connected with customers.
Your customers will benefit from better call quality and reliable tech. They reach out to you faster and you improve your contact center experience.
4. Expand real-time omnichannel support
Our world is intricately connected today. People use an average of four different devices and several communication channels every day. Your call center should be able to provide omnichannel support, evolving into a contact center to deliver efficient, effective, and timely resolution.
Customers should be able to reach your contact center from any device, be it a cell phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.
Agents in contact centers should also be able to respond to queries via email, text, social media channels, etc., with unified communication tools to ensure better customer satisfaction and engagement levels.
5. Scale your customer service team with VoIP
Cloud technology is the best solution when it comes to achieving scale quickly. With a cloud phone system, your customer service team is no longer geographically restricted; they can work from anywhere, round the clock.
Most of these systems come with specific Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone numbers. VoIP phone 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.
This also eliminates overheads and costs like office space rentals and maintenance or setting up expensive Private Branch Exchange (PBX).
VoIP can be purchased for a monthly fee that covers an unlimited number of phone calls between agents. There is no extra cost for international calls, too.
6. Reward your team with the right incentives
When your team is crushing goals, reward them as a token of appreciation and gratitude. It makes them feel valued and motivates them to aim higher.
Make sure you’re tracking individual and team-based performance. This way, you’re rewarding behavior based on numbers alone. A few of the top customer service metrics include:
- Average Handle Time (AHT)
- First-Call Resolution Rate (FCR)
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Customer Satisfaction Rate (CSAT)
- Call center quality assurance scores
- Customer retention/revenue rates
These contact center 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.
But beware of making the rewards too lucrative. Sizable rewards may be grounds for cheating or manipulating stats, so keep that in mind. Instead, look beyond financial rewards and incentivize the team with personal recognition, team events, and paid time off.
7. Empower your customer service agents
Employees who feel valued tend to be more engaged and motivated at work. They take ownership of their roles and assume responsibility for business results. That leads to more productivity and innovation, boosting 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.
8. Build a knowledge base
As your team grows and your processes become more complex, knowledge management will become a challenging task.
Most companies store their internal documentation in a knowledge base or wiki. These knowledge bases assist customers and employees by monitoring potential call drivers.
But a knowledge base is of no use if it’s not regularly updated or easily searchable. You might want to consider tapping a member or two 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 high-traffic articles for accuracy and best practices
9. Track call center 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 your business objectives. Some call centers don’t need to 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, but 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
- Retention rate
- Turnover rate
10. Set up rigorous quality assurance and call monitoring
There’s no perfect call center operation. But that’s not to say you should avoid striving for the ideal customer experience.
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 evaluations. 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.
11. Craft a bullet-proof redundancy plan
Unpredictability and uncertainty in business are nothing new. Several seemingly small incidents can cause your call center team to be unavailable. An internet outage, severe weather, or health advisories.
Creating a backup plan or a business continuity plan for such inevitabilities is the best way to tackle the challenge and plan for workarounds.
Educate your team on handling call center outages and provide alternative routing methods like voicemail.
Cloud-based call center software can transcribe messages and email them to your team. You can also forward calls to personal cell phones so they don’t go unanswered.
Call Center Training Best Practices
Proper onboarding and regular training are key ingredients for call center success. It equips your team to handle customer problems better, resolve issues faster, and deliver customer satisfaction like never before.
- Use the best contact center tools
- Invest in training new call center agents
- Provide frequent call center training
- Supplement training with cloud-based technology
- Balance technology with the human touch
1. Use the best contact center tools
To ensure you get the best output from your team, you have to provide them with the best tools in a safe, collaborative work environment.
Today, software and services to support the day-to-day operations of a call center are evolving rapidly.
Many sophisticated options for call center phone systems with advanced features like auto attendants, interactive voice response (IVR), call recording, softphones, and CRM are readily available.
Evaluate and implement the best option to suit your call center and your team’s needs. Empower and equip your team to focus on their core job – engaging with customers and providing exceptional customer experiences.
2. Invest in training new agents
For your customers, your call center represents your company. Your agents are important touchpoints for the customer, and how the interaction progresses often decides how the customer feels about your company.
Any business, call centers included, has a steady flux of new employees. As luck would have it, sometimes irate customers get connected to new employees who might not know how to handle the query, resulting in a bad impression for the customer and dampened morale for the new agent.
To avoid this, design a thorough onboarding plan for new call center agents. Cover topics that are unique to your company. Include your values, vision, and specific use cases.
Go even further by playing your best and worst recorded calls so the new agent gets a full flavor of the job and the potential customers they will be dealing with.
With thorough training, you can dramatically increase your new call center agents’ productivity and get them a proper headstart.
3. Provide frequent call center training
Customers expect your support team to be knowledgeable about your product or service and, as an extension, the solutions to their queries.
You can easily deliver this by regularly training your agents. Products and services evolve rapidly today, so conducting regular refreshers can help agents consistently resolve issues quickly.
If your agents have in-depth knowledge about the most frequent customer issues, they are less likely to place customer calls on hold, which is known to annoy even the most patient customers.
Regular training and resources like articles, quick reference guides, videos, etc., can help your team accentuate soft and hard skills crucial to call center success. This includes active listening, product knowledge, escalation matrix, documentation techniques, etc.
Don’t forget to add on security training.
From customer names and addresses to financial details and even personal health records, protecting sensitive call center data is paramount. Unfortunately, call centers are prime targets for data breaches and cyberattacks, making robust security measures a non-negotiable.
Providing regular security training to your employees will help you protect sensitive customer data.
4. Supplement training with cloud-based technology
Call center teams deal with unique customers and peculiar problems day in and day out. They face new challenges every single day, which initiates a continuous learning loop.
With the right support, guidance, and tools, continuous improvement can become a part of the call center’s DNA, creating a positive impact on all processes and people.
Using cloud-based technology, managers can measure performance and review all customer interactions to provide actionable feedback to the team.
These insights can also become the seed for new training opportunities or process improvements. For instance, managers can:
- Identify the most compelling scripts and techniques for a given type of customer
- Share specific training tips that yield the best results
- Help the team improve call quality and individual performance
Regardless of which tools you’re using, be strategic with your data. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with metrics. Connect the expected outcome of every training process to a KPI or business goal.
5. Balance technology with the human touch
Though chatbots and IVRs that use artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) have become easier to deploy today, they are often counterproductive. They get in the customer’s way of getting the help they need.
After years of ineffective customer service tools, 86% of customers don’t trust them. They want to speak to a real person who will actively listen to their issue and suggest a quick fix.
Thus, as part of your overall customer service goals, make sure your customers can reach a well-trained agent. Implement new technology but retain the human touch.
Always give customers the option to talk to a live representative. Try these customer service trends to strike a chord between tech and human agents.
Encourage your customer service agents to express their personalities with customers. This will add character, empathy, and understanding to your customer service without being perceived as unprofessional.
Call Handling Best Practices
Your customer’s experience with your call center agent often defines their perception of your business or brand. Your agents, therefore, must do their best to represent your business or brand in the best light.
Here are some call-handling best practices your team should incorporate into their customer interactions.
- Deliver a memorable first impression
- Resolve issues quickly and reliably
- Leverage screen pop for personalized service
- Track customer satisfaction automatically
- Avoid keeping customers on hold
- Use positive language in tough situations
- Split-test your call center scripts
1. Deliver a memorable first impression
First impressions matter, especially in the customer service space. Customers form a lasting judgment about your business based on their interaction with your contact center. All it takes is 30 seconds if not a few minutes.
The window to make a positive impression is excruciatingly tiny, but it’s not impossible. The aim should be to impress callers from the moment the call begins.
Active listening, understanding, patience, and customer expectation management are key to delivering great customer experiences. Similarly, agents must be trained to ask the right questions and offer a pertinent resolution quickly.
2. Resolve issues quickly and reliably
When customers report problems, they want their issues resolved as quickly as possible. Beyond resolution time itself, timely updates can increase customer satisfaction scores.
Being trained well and having good product knowledge goes a long way in helping agents resolve issues quickly, increasing customer satisfaction and experience.
Here are a few ways for call centers to shorten resolution time:
- Streamline customer support agents’ workflows by automating repetitive tasks
- Manage customer expectations and be transparent about the timeline to solve their problem
- Update customers on the status of their issues frequently
- Provide call center agents access to your CRM
- Log customers’ issues into cases in a helpdesk
- Develop a safety net to avoid blackholes of customer concerns
3. Leverage screen pop for personalized service
Did you know that 59% of customers say personalization influences their shopping decisions positively?
When your team answers incoming calls, customer information might be scattered across the screen. This might be burying useful information under non-essential details, causing your customer service agent to struggle to find the right data while on call.
To avoid this and save your agent time, you can configure a screen pop feature in your call center. When a call comes in, they see the most valuable information pop up instantly.
Most customers appreciate the personalized touch when they’re calling a call center.
After your customer service team solves an issue, they can upsell for more revenue. Either way, real-time information can be a game changer in terms of customer experience.
Make your customers feel like they’re the most important person of the day; they’ll appreciate it.
4. Track customer satisfaction automatically
The most important goal for your call center is excellent customer service. It involves more than just a high CSAT score.
To find out how your customers feel about your service, follow up with a survey after each interaction and at least once every year.
Customer satisfaction metrics are also leading indicators of potential churn or reputation issues. Have your leadership team review the results and identify trends to double down on or to course-correct.
Choose a unified communications provider to do this. This technology streamlines all the customer service channels into one place.
Combined with automation, you will have a real-time, reliable pulse on the satisfaction of your call center. If you delight customers consistently, you are more likely to win their lasting loyalty.
5. Avoid keeping customers on hold
There’s nothing more annoying for customers than being put on a long hold by customer service. Keep in mind that the customer is already frustrated because of the issue they are facing.
Being put on hold only exacerbates the overall bad experience and can reflect poorly on the customer satisfaction score for no real fault of the customer service agent.
If the agent has no option but to put the call on hold, it is best to ask for the customer’s permission, inform them of the process, and provide a rough hold time.
Once a time frame is promised, try not to exceed it or disconnect the call accidentally. If that happens, follow up promptly and ensure a quick resolution to offset the customer’s below-par experience.
6. 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.
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.
7. Split-test your call center scripts
A well-crafted, well-thought-out script is essential for consistent, uniform customer interactions at any call center.
Make sure you’re getting the most out of your team by testing call center scripts against each other. Here’s how to do it quickly and effectively.
- Choose a common call topic.
- Create two scripts:
- Script A: Guides callers through all steps on the phone.
- Script B: Directs callers to a self-service FAQ page.
- Have agents use both scripts and track key metrics (KPIs).
- Analyze results to see which script is most effective for your goals.
The First Best Practice You Should Know
Successful call centers know that technology can only go so far. You need to strike a healthy balance between talented teams and the right tech that makes the call center achieve goals.
Providing exceptional customer service is an ongoing journey. Continuous improvement through data-driven decision-making and adapting to evolving customer needs are key to staying ahead of the curve and driving call center productivity.
Make sure to invest in the right call center technology and then train your team to best use that tech — through the best practices outlined above.