Building Blocks of a Successful Customer Service Environment
Enabling a positive customer experience is a key driver for customer service providers delivering a consistent level of quality service to cross industry clients. Whether you’re a small clothing retailer or a large financial institution, ensuring your customers have an initial and continuous positive experience is essential to maintaining high customer satisfaction levels, while creating a customer environment where positive feedback results in more usage of the service. More often than not, call center agents are the initial point of contact for customers, and their agent-customer interactions will determine the “first impression” that will lay the foundation for customer perceptions going forward. And while unique scenarios may arise within the parameters of customer service support, what remains constant are some basic customer service tenants – also known as the five building blocks of a customer service work environment – that should be implemented and managed effectively.
- Empowerment and Respect – We all know the golden rule – treat others as you would like to be treated. When it comes to call centers, your customer service is a direct reflection of how well your agents are treated. To ensure employee satisfaction, and improve customer service results, you need to invest time in training, simplifying systems and creating a healthy work environment. Let’s take a look at these tenants a little further:
- Training should be continual and all-encompassing to include soft skills as well as product knowledge, showing investment in your agents’ career path.
- Systems should be simplified as much as possible by identifying and implementing an all-in-one tool. This reduces the number of steps to resolve customer issues, thereby increasing agent productivity and efficiency and, ultimately, their satisfaction.
- Creating and maintaining a healthy work environment is as simple as making sure your agents are comfortable, from their chairs to the lighting in the call center.
The three attributes listed above not only increase agent satisfaction, but offer a level of employee engagement that develops customer service professionals that will buy into the brand promise and do their best work.
- Sound Hiring Practices = Positive Culture – In any business it’s important to hire the right people for the job. But that’s not always as easy as it sounds. In fact, Gallup found that on average, companies fail to choose the right candidates 82 percent of the time. Call center agents are on the front lines of customer service. Knowing this helps determine the right skill set needed; yet, getting senior leadership involved in the hiring process can make all the difference in the outcome. Seasoned executives have years of experience that allows them to spot great talent. And by involving them in the hiring process, you not only hire great people, but you also show prospective employees the investment the company makes in selecting talent.
- Courtesy and Professionalism – For many, customer service professionals’ tone of voice directly affects how they feel about the interaction and, thus, the company. When faced with a problem, customers want someone who is friendly, personable and helpful. It’s not about what your customer service professionals do, it’s how they do it. Whether or not a call center agent is able to resolve a specific request, how they handle the situation is important. Agents need to be mindful of word choice, intonation and overall manner. In addition to saying the right things in the right tone, agents should be conscious of saying the wrong things as well.
- Humility and Sincerity – Just as tone of voice affects a customer’s experience, so does the overall sincerity of the agent. There may be situations in which call center agents will need to apologize when dealing with an unhappy customer, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The representative should not be afraid – nor ever refuse – to say “I’m sorry.” An apology can go a long way in a potentially volatile customer service interaction, as long as it’s authentic.
- Empathy/Compassion – It may seem obvious, but call center agents need to listen to customers. It’s crucial for customers to feel as though they’re being heard, and for customer service professionals to understand what their needs are. Understanding who your customers are, from their role at a company to their comfort level with certain technologies, is essential to helping resolve their concern in the most effective way. With a positive interaction comes a positive perception of the company overall.
Because of the role that call center agents play in the customer experience, they often have a huge impact on how a customer views a company. While there are always going to be variables in customer service and customer experience that will pose challenges to the management team, there are constants in the work environment that remain true when providing customer support. Implementing and managing the above-mentioned building blocks of the customer support work environment will ensure your agents consistently deliver an exceptional, quality customer experience to current and future clients.
Contributed by Michael D. Mills, SVP, Call Center Solutions, CGS
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