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25 tips for improving customer service in call centers in 2023


The Team at CallMiner

May 24, 2023

Tips and best practices for managing a remote call center
Tips and best practices for managing a remote call center

Customer service is at the heart of any business. While there are many tried-and-true call center customer service strategies that will stand the test of time, technology has changed the customer service landscape in significant ways for both customers and businesses.

For example, today’s customers demand omnichannel customer service, personalized experiences, and fast issue resolution. Companies turn to technology such as AI-driven conversation analytics, chatbots, and real-time agent guidance to meet these demands. Ultimately, technology has impacted every stage in the customer journey, resulting in new ways of thinking about how to improve customer service in call centers.

However, companies that want to improve customer service in the call center may not know where to begin. Not only is it essential to choose the right customer service solutions, but it’s also crucial to implement and manage that solution correctly. It’s also important to continue to follow time-tested customer service concepts such as practicing active listening and empathizing with customers while simultaneously adopting new customer service strategies for the modern world. Below, we’ve curated 25 expert tips for improving customer service in call centers to help you develop an effective customer service strategy that meets today’s customers’ needs.

Tips for improving customer service in call centers

1. Empower agents to succeed with conversation analytics. “In many call centers, agents don’t feel set up for success. They may be required to juggle multiple applications as they speak with the customer, or they may lack the data to successfully understand a customer’s history or resolve an issue. Conversation analytics eliminates customer data silos, offers real-time guidance about next-best actions, and provides a single solution with all the tools agents need for success, alleviating stress and increasing success rates.” - Conversation analytics drives agent and call center performance, CallMiner; Twitter: @CallMiner

2. Provide omnichannel customer service. “Modern customers use many different communication and customer service platforms that include social media, live chat, email, etc. The best way to handle such a high traffic volume and increase customer satisfaction is to provide an omnichannel customer service experience.” - What is a Customer Service Call Center?, LiveAgent; Twitter: @LiveAgent

3. Find the ideal hold time. “Try to determine at what point your on-hold clients usually disconnect the call or express dissatisfaction to better understand what a good hold time may be. Depending on the organization and the resources you have, you may even consider aiming to eliminate hold times altogether.

“For example, you may determine your customer service department experiences disconnects after one minute, or 60 seconds, of hold time. The average hold time for your customer service department is 56.09 seconds, which might be too close to a minute to ensure your clients stay on the line. Setting the goal to lower that number to 30 seconds might improve client satisfaction and team efficiency.” - What Is Average Hold Time? (How To Calculate and Reduce It), Indeed; Twitter: @indeed

4. Maintain an up-to-date knowledge base. “If you already have a knowledge base, then it's important to continuously update it as you discover new solutions. If your company rolls out new products and services, your knowledge base should stay up to date as well so customers can use it to support your newest products.

“You should also encourage customers to use your knowledge base if you know a solution is recorded there. This will train your customers to reference your knowledge base before they call your support line.” - Clint Fontanella, How to Shorten Long Hold Times in Your Services Dept, HubSpot; @HubSpot

5. Use conversation scheduling to provide a personalized call center experience. “Empowering your customers by providing choices is a great way to make them feel as though their service is highly personalized. Conversation scheduling technology allows callers to choose whether they’d like to wait on hold or schedule a call-back in the future—they’ll get a say in their journey and can select an option that works best for them and their personal schedule.” - Tori Dudys, The Importance of Personalized Customer Service, Fonolo; Twitter: @Fonolo

6. Track call center customer service metrics. Call center metrics allow you to measure your call center’s performance and identify where you can improve. They can help you determine each agent’s strengths and weaknesses and identify top performers. That way, you can provide individualized coaching and training for each agent, and schedule staff more intelligently. You can also identify problems with your technology, such as the need to tweak your call center solution to accommodate changing call volumes.

“Call center metrics can also help you understand your customer experience. In general, customer satisfaction levels tend to fall if customers have to contact the organization or explain their problem multiple times. Customers also aren’t keen on waiting or providing information that they think you already have. That’s where call center metrics come in—they help you identify what is and isn’t working for customers, so you can tailor the best experience possible.” - Lee Davis, 11 Essential Call Center Metrics And KPIs (2023 Guide), Forbes; Twitter: @Forbes

7. Hire call center agents with effective problem-solving skills. “Effective problem-solving typically centers on an agent’s ability to reason in the moment. An agent’s ability to then act on their own ideas can be enhanced with increased autonomy on the job.

“Why is problem-solving and flexibility important to call centers and their agents? Call center reps who can accurately define problems, evaluate them, and then solve them are guaranteed to help more customers in less time.” - 7 Important Call Center Skills Every Agent Should Have, CallMiner; Twitter: @CallMiner

8. Pay attention to the customer journey. “A customer at different stages in the sales cycle will interact with your customer service team in different ways. If you want to know how to improve the customer experience in your call center, then you need to interact with your clients in a way that is based upon where they are in their journey.

“For example, a new customer who’s just been introduced to your brand should receive a more generic and generally welcoming greeting, versus someone who has already purchased from you. Their interaction should be much more personalized and specific to their needs.” - How to Improve Customer Experience in Call Centers in 7 Steps, Scorebuddy; Twitter: @score_buddy

9. Ensure that call agents practice active listening. “Active listening is important as it allows advisors to check their understanding about something while also allowing them to get to the heart of the matter.

“From a customer’s perspective, active listening also helps to build trust, which prompts them to be much more honest and open with the advisor. In addition, if the advisor uses active listening, they can ask more relevant questions and thereby lower call handling times, as well as offering a better customer experience.” - How to Train Active Listening in the Call Centre – With Four Exercises, Call Centre Helper; Twitter: @callcentrehelp

10. Acknowledge customers’ concerns. “When a customer expresses any kind of emotion that they feel, be it frustration, misunderstanding, excitement, or other, and doesn’t get the feeling that you understand it, it might come up as rejection or, at least, put some tension on your conversation.

“This can actually be explained by something that psychologists call a communication chain. Simply put, it tells us that when a person conveys a verbal message (or a link in the chain), they naturally expect a response. And when there’s none – the chain is left ‘unlinked,’ or broken.

“Acknowledging a customer's problem is that response that ‘links’ the chain together and leaves them with a feeling of connection, putting the customer more at ease. It shows that you understand and are ready to get into solving the issue.” - How To Show Empathy In Customer Service (6 Best Practices), HelpCenter; Twitter: @Helpcenter_app

11. Train agents to show empathy in the first interaction. “The beginning of your conversation in the support inbox may be the very first interaction that your customer has with your team. First impressions are important!

“In psychology, there’s a theory called ‘the halo effect.’ Psychology Today defines the halo effect as ‘a cognitive bias that occurs when an initial positive judgment about a person unconsciously colors the perception of the individual as a whole.’

“To put it in layman’s terms: when you’re nice to a customer and make a kind, empathetic first impression, they’ll continue to perceive you as a kind, empathetic team. Take the extra steps to make that first paragraph of your very first response to your customer empathetic and warm, and you’ll give yourself an alley-oop for the next time they reach out.” - Sarah Chambers, 30 Phrases to Show Empathy in Customer Service – Top Example Scripts, TextExpander; Twitter: @TextExpander

12. Understand your customers. “Not every customer who calls in to your contact center has the same experience, issues, or questions. Even though you may know some details about the individuals calling in — such as their expectations and demographics — your agents might not know much more about them.

“To ensure a more positive customer experience, it’s helpful for agents to know as much about customers as possible. According to Microsoft, 72% of customers say they expect agents to know who they are, including details about past interactions with the call center. Give customers what they want by taking steps to getting to know them better.” - How to improve customer experience in a call center, RingCentral; Twitter: @RingCentral

13. Listen for new frequently asked questions. “As your offerings and the market evolve, callers may pose new questions about your solution. Ask agents to keep a list of questions they hear often, or survey a random sampling of recordings to identify queries not currently addressed through your existing script or FAQs.

“Encourage agents to add these questions to your knowledge management platform so that when other agents hear a question that’s new to them, they can quickly check the platform to see if it’s ever been asked.” - How to Improve the Customer Experience in Your Call Center, Bloomfire; Twitter: @bloomfire

14. Don’t neglect training for work-from-home call center agents. “Call center directors shouldn't underestimate the importance and value of call center agent training in work-from-home environments. Directors can attribute remote work issues like attrition, burnout and decreased employee engagement to lack of training, professional development and coaching. Formal training -- from onboarding, through new hire training, through professional development and career advancement -- is vital to successful agent performances and call center success.” - Fancy Mills, Best practices for call center agent training programs, TechTarget; Twitter: @TTBusinessTech

15. Align agent training with business goals. “You must align your customer engagement team with the guiding principles that drive your business. Educate a new agent on your business goals as well as the importance of customer engagement.

“Use statistical data and case studies to highlight how meaningful customer engagement can add value to the business.” - Liam Martin, Call center training: 8 strategies to empower your agents, Time Doctor; Twitter: @ManageYourTime

16. Identify issues that prevent first call resolution. “Sometimes, some calls are resolved late due to the same issues at the end of customer service agents. It could be a lack of authority, lack of training, policies and procedures, or anything else. It’s best to identify such common issues for delayed resolution and work on them so that such common problems no longer remain the reason for calls not being resolved.” - Vineet Gupta, 9 Factors Influencing First Call Resolution, ReadWrite; Twitter: @RWW

17. When tracking first call resolution, identify customers that reconnect with your business on non-voice channels. “You cannot increase the FCR rate without understanding what makes customers call back or follow up. The IVR solutions make it easier for you to identify the repeat calls by generating elaborate call detail reports.

“However, you also need to identify customers who are reconnecting with your business through non-voice communication channels after interacting with live agents. The tracking will help you to increase first contact resolution rate by identifying customer service inefficiencies.” - How To Improve First Call Resolution?, CallCenterHosting; Twitter: @callcenterhost

18. Solicit open-ended feedback to identify points of frustration. “Customers will tell you how to create more effortless solutions. This shows up as suggestions in surveys or in angry emails that ask WHY in all caps. Listen to those suggestions and identify the points of frustration and effort.

“When customers complain about specific areas of too much effort, ask directly for what would make it better for them. Customers might be expressing frustration over how many times they’ve had to contact customer service, but have ideas for workarounds or communications to help avoid that for future customers.” - Jeannie Walters, How to Reduce Customer Effort Before it Can Build Up, CustomerThink; Twitter: @customerthink

19. Take steps to reduce customer effort scores. “Customer effort is the strongest driver of customer loyalty — or disloyalty. Boosting customer loyalty is good, but the larger opportunity is to keep customers from becoming disloyal. Customers are four times more likely to leave a service interaction more disloyal than when they entered. And disloyal customers are likely to impact the company negatively — they negatively speak of the organization to others and cease future purchases.” - What’s Your Customer Effort Score?, Gartner; Twitter: @Gartner_inc

20. Improve employee experience, engagement, and retention. “Since longer-tenured agents have more expertise and institutional knowledge to bring to customer interactions, improving employee retention also has a direct impact on the quality of customer care. New McKinsey research suggests a need for companies to go back to the basics when interacting with their contact-center employees by focusing on engagement and finding ways to increase workplace comfort and happiness. The impact can be striking: satisfied call-center employees are significantly more likely to stay and to refer their workplace to a friend. Those expecting to remain at their company a year from now are nearly twice as satisfied. In addition, satisfied employees are more than three times as likely as dissatisfied colleagues to feel empowered to solve customer issues. These factors have a direct bearing on the quality of customer service and the operational cost to deliver it.” - Whitney Gretz and Raelyn Jacobson, Boosting contact-center performance through employee engagement, McKinsey & Company; Twitter: @McKinsey

21. Build an accurate call center staffing model. “Your staffing model benefits your customers by forcing you to think through the level of service you want to provide them.

Without an accurate staffing model, your customers are likely to experience inconsistent service. The first time they call they may get to an agent immediately, then the next time it may take thirty minutes. Talk about frustrating. Your staffing model should help you reduce the likelihood of situations like these happening.

“If you’re staffed correctly, your customers should experience a consistent level of service and minimal wait times.” - How To Build A Call Center Staffing Model, Peak Support; Twitter: @Peak_Support

22. Provide proactive customer service. “Proactive customer service means anticipating customer expectations and making the first move. Instead of waiting for the customers to reach out, agents take initiative on their own. This approach increases the quality of customer experiences and maximizes engagement. In simple words, it is all about fixing problems even before customers know that they have them.” - Kazimierz Rajnerowicz, What Is Proactive Customer Service? [6 Best Examples], Tidio; Twitter: @tidiochat

23. Adapt to individual customers’ moods and needs. “Every customer is different, and some may even seem to change weekly. You should be able to handle surprises, sense the customer’s mood and adapt accordingly. This also includes a willingness to learn. Providing good customer service is a continuous learning process.

“Customer service involves navigating challenging situations, and situations change frequently. The best way to manage difficult circumstances is to prioritize the tasks based on the most important ones to the least pressing issues. More often, there will be demanding issues that simultaneously require immediate attention. Such moments call for good communication.” - 6 tips to improve your team’s customer service skills, SurveyMonkey; Twitter: @SurveyMonkey

24. Create simple customer experiences. “Brands need to penetrate all the digital noise with simple and effective customer experiences across all channels and try to unify the look and feel of those experiences as much as possible to reduce confusion. Call centers can provide call-back technology so customers do not have to wait for an available rep. Another way brands can make the CX easier for customers includes supporting customer service agents with advanced AI-driven chatbot technology to answer simple queries. Call centers should be shooting for improving first call resolution and maximizing agent engagement so they can deal with difficult customers more effectively.” - Rich Hein, How to Improve the Call Center Customer Experience, CMSWire; Twitter: @cmswire

25. Shift to data-driven call center training. “The reality is call agent training is always going to be one of the key pillars of running a successful call centre. As the industry advances, so do the methods we use to ensure our workforce is performing at its best. A successful call centre training programme should not just be part of your onboarding process; it should continue through each call agent’s career journey. The only way to do this is to create training programmes that place customer data at the heart of it.

“This data-driven training strategy can effectively uncover and bring into balance the goals, needs, and realities of the call centre, employees and of course the customers. It plays a key role in keeping call agents aligned in their approach and messaging as they support customers daily.” - Warren Newbert, How data can improve customer call centre experience, The HR Director; Twitter: @theHRDIRECTOR

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