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Managing customer conversations in the call center

Get tips for managing customer conversations in the call center and find out how call center agents can deal with chatty or emotional customers.

Can you suggest some techniques for helping call center agents to re-focus chatty customers so that agents can be more efficient in addressing the reason for the call?

Throughout a typical work day, call center agents deal with a wide variety of customer issues, emotions and personalities that manifest themselves in many different ways – for example frustration, anger, confusion, and/or a tendency to be long-winded. Regardless of the problem, concern or situation the customer is calling about, the call center agent must first address and acknowledge the "human side" of the conversation before moving on to the "business issue." Managing the conversation flow is one of the subtler proficiencies that agents need to learn, practice and employ when handling customer calls. There are many good training programs for communications skills that focus on effective call handling techniques, one of which has been developed by Kaset International.

With respect to "chatty" customers, here is an alternative perspective that is worth considering. When speaking with customers, agents must use effective listening skills to hone in on the explicit reason for the call to determine how they can best address the customer's need. At the same time they must be trained to listen for implicit concerns that the customer is trying to convey – these can be expressed in a word, tone or attitude. Customers often share a wealth of important and useful information about their life, situation and needs, during a call. (Marketing organizations often spend a great deal of money to obtain exactly the kind of information that customers freely share with call center agents.) Agents who are trained to zero in on these customer cues are highly effective in optimally matching the right products and programs to each customer's needs. In doing so, they are extending relationships with the company through valuable cross-sell/up-sell opportunities and building loyal and highly satisfied customers at the same time.

This was last published in July 2009

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