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Call center tips to ensure successful agents

Once hiring managers find the right people for the job, contact center agents need both proper training and office tools to be successful in their roles.

When issues arise regarding the effectiveness of contact center agents, customers and organizations often come to the conclusion that the agents require additional training. While additional investment in training can rectify some issues, it doesn't necessarily guarantee that agents will resolve customer issues in a more professional manner.

Three workforce management call center tips -- of which training is a component, not the silver bullet to solve all problems -- should be followed to support the success of contact center agents:

  • Focus on hiring the right people
  • Provide effective training
  • Implement supportive tools

Each of these items is critical to a call center's success; no single item outweighs another in importance.

Focus on hiring the right people

In many cases, contact centers get behind in hiring as call volume escalates, and resort to putting "breathing bodies" into seats. Though understandable, it doesn't assure the correct people are being hired for these jobs over the long term.

It's necessary to hire the right people to fill contact center agent positions. This includes hiring agents with the following characteristics:

  • Patience to work with customers who may be confused, overwhelmed or upset. When a customer calls, the issue is the most critical item the customer is dealing with at that moment in time.
  • Exceptional listening skills. When a customer calls, they may provide a lot of information, and agents must filter the information to focus on what is critical for resolving the customer issue.
  • Strong problem-solving skills. When a customer calls, they may explain the symptom of a problem, and it is up to the agent to determine the root cause of the problem.
Call center agents quality chart

Provide effective training

Contact centers don't always provide effective training programs to assure agents have the toolkit to help them resolve customer issues.

Managers of customer service and support teams don't always provide agents with effective tools to resolve customer issues. It's necessary.

Contact center agents must be armed with knowledge and confidence to resolve customer inquiries, including:

  • a solid understanding of a company's products and services;
  • a solid understanding of a company's policies and procedures;
  • a solid understanding of the tools they must use to perform their job, including their desktop system, website and instant messaging for escalations;
  • training on how to search for information in online assistance tools or other services when they do not have the knowledge to answer a customer question; and
  • training in communications skills such as how to diffuse anger or remove themselves from the conversation in order to better serve customers who are frustrated.

Implement supportive tools

Managers of customer service and support teams don't always provide agents with effective tools to resolve customer issues. It's necessary that they have the tools to do so, including:

  • An easy-to-use desktop system. The desktop system should include a CRM platform -- which many times houses a helpdesk, workflow management and online assistance tools -- that can provide information on previous interactions with customers; automated processing of transactions; and information regarding products, services and procedures.
  • Effective online help tools. These tools should provide information to assist in answering customer questions. They must be up to date and easy to navigate.
  • Regardless of the words used, scripts will sound mechanical in nature. In those cases where scripting is required due to legal requirements, use words and terminology that are easily understandable to customers. In cases where scripting is not legally or compliance driven -- but rather the practice of a contact center -- it is necessary for an agent either to leave the script or transfer the call to an individual who can better address the customer issue when they perceive caller frustration.
  • Feedback regarding how they are performing. Feedback can include results from monitoring sessions, customer input and call statistics.

The success of a contact center hinges on the skills and capabilities of its agents, not just training alone. While training is central to the success and productivity of agents, perhaps the most powerful call center tip of them all is to stand guard against overreliance on training instead of providing agents with the tools they need to get the job done efficiently and professionally.

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What call center tips do you have to ensure that your agents are successful?
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Where possible, I get my team to frequently touch base with the product they are selling (Ping Pong events www.bouncepingpong.com). Its so common to imagine how something works or base fact by the one time they experienced something ages ago. 
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Lucy - that is a great strategy...more organizations should follow that practice..Scott
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