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3 Reasons Why Agent Empathy Makes for Happier Customers


Frank Sherlock

June 18, 2019

Multiple happy faces
Multiple happy faces

The CallMiner Churn Index shows that listening is critical to keeping customers loyal. When asked about their emotional state before making a call to a call centre, the top response by almost half of consumers (46%) is that they just want someone to listen to them – in other words show empathy! Listening to a customer seems like a relatively simple ask, but many call centre agents are getting it wrong. Shockingly, only half the number of people (23%) reported they felt listened to after contact with a call centre agent.

So why is showing empathy so difficult for agents? Not only do almost two thirds of people arrive with a problem to be solved, they also arrive with a range of negative emotions that make handling the call even more challenging. In fact, almost a third (36%) say they arrive annoyed; a third (33%) arrive hopeful; one in six (16%) arrive angry and the same number arrive ready for an argument!

Call centers give customers reasons to leave and to stay

If 33% arrive hopeful of help, 32% leave frustrated. If 16% arrive angry 12% leave angry and 14% leave feeling ignored.

You can see from these statistics that if you make listening a part of your company’s DNA, you will create a powerful positive experience that sets you apart from your competitors.

It’s worth making the effort. The same study found that 68% of consumers are very likely to switch after a bad call center experience. But, more consumers (74%) are very likely to stay loyal if they have a good call centre experience. So, it pays to train your agents to be empathetic or they may simply be giving customers reasons to leave.

But how do you make sure your empathy training is up to scratch? We’ve identified our three top tips for getting it right:

1. Identify and share best practice ways to be empathetic

Every call centre has high-performing agents – the agent that seems to show the most empathy when handling difficult calls. But do you really know the secret of their success? By analysing every interaction, it’s possible to identify exactly how these agents turn a difficult call into a good customer outcome. This could include words and phrases that show empathy and put the customer at ease. It could identify great active listening skills that not only help to isolate the source of the customer problem but also secure agreement to the proposed solution.

Once you’ve identified the best ways of handling different problems, you can share them with other agents and provide coaching and training to raise the game of the whole team. Moreover, with interaction analytics solutions that offer real-time call monitoring, performance feedback can be delivered to agents during the call. For example, if the analysis identifies that more empathy needs to be shown, a message can be sent to the agent to make them aware and can also alert a supervisor who could intervene if needed.

2. Give agents the insight they need to raise their own empathy game

Giving agents training for empathy skills, such as active listening, is always good to do. But you need to make sure your agents know if they are implementing the new skills effectively and know what to do to keep improving them.

By analysing every interaction, it’s possible to identify words, phrases and tone of voice that are received as empathetic by customers. If this analysis is captured in an agent’s personal scorecard, it’s possible to create a score for empathy and provide every agent insight into their own performance after each shift. As a result, agents can set their own improvement goals for the next shift and know exactly what they need to do to increase their empathy score. They can also ask for targeted training and coaching to help them raise their empathy game.

3.  Help agents identify and deal with vulnerable customers

Many call center agents are likely to encounter vulnerable customers who have an even greater need for empathy. Customer engagement analytics can identify words, phrases and acoustic qualities that demonstrate vulnerability. It can also identify when certain words and phrases increase stress levels with the customer or agent (or both).

This means it’s possible to identify the emotions of the customer and the agent on the call, good and bad.  It’s also possible to understand customer preferences and identify which types of customers react best to different types of solutions. And, most importantly, it means agents can be guided through their calls with prompts and alerts, so they feel supported to follow the best course of action at all times.

Your call center agents have a binary choice when they handle a call. They can be great listeners who send customers away satisfied, so they stay loyal. Or they can take a customer looking for a solution and drive them away by leaving them feeling frustrated, ignored, angry and upset. We hope our three tips will help you put empathy at the heart of your call center experience.

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