Every call center has one thing in common. Phone calls. Inbound or outbound, service or sales. How these phones are answered and handled is critical.
New software and hardware is constantly coming into the marketplace. And yet, the one thing that remains constant is how these phones are answered.
The following is a near-foolproof plan to improve call center customer service that will boost employees’ morale — and, more importantly, your callers will feel they have definitely “called the right place.” By just using a few of these tips, you will raise your awareness and increase customer satisfaction:
Start with the obvious — smile. And be sure to smile before you answer the phone. Oftentimes, it is too late to smile after you know who it is. There can be no discrimination when you answer the phone. Everyone gets a smile before you know who called.
Assure callers that they have called the right place. This needs to be said before you ask for any information. One of the most frustrating questions you can ask is for callers’ credit card numbers, catalog or customer numbers before welcoming them.
Be a good listener. Often, this takes practice. If your mind wanders — or you find yourself “not terribly interested” in the call or a caller — you need a good listening course. Listening is an art, not a science. So it needs to be practiced.
Take notes. Take notes, then take more notes. It will also help you become a better listener. By jotting down key words as a caller talks, you can refer to any point in the conversation, and the caller thinks you are a great listener. It can be very dangerous to be on the phone without a pencil and paper. Good note takers become great on the phone.
Use buffers. Here, buffer refers to the words before the key point. “Good morning,” “Good afternoon” or “Thanks for calling” are buffer words for your company name. Use buffers when you ask a question, too. Just blurting out a question can become offensive. Using a soft buffer before the actual question is an excellent technique to learn. Example, if you need to ask several questions to gain more information, a good buffer might be:
“Mrs. Jones, so that we can get you exactly what you need, I will need to ask a few questions.”
This way the caller is notified, prepared and expects the questions, rather than feeling as though you are bombarding him with one question after another.
Take your time. Remember, rushing threatens callers. Sure, you may need to take as many calls as possible. But at no time does your call center manager want you to sacrifice quality for quantity. There are many ways to ask questions that can help move the conversation along.
Stay in control. Sometimes, it seems as though a caller can wander off into another world. It is up to you to get that caller back on track. There are several ways to do this. One is to tell the caller, “The story about your great-grandmother sounds very interesting, but I know you called with a specific question, and I’m eager to help you.” In other words, you have acknowledged what the caller is wandering off about, and yet you are still in control.
Being in a call center environment can be very exciting and very challenging. It is so much more than “just being on the phone all day long.” Enjoy it. Have fun, and when all else fails, go back to the first tip. n