As a whole, customers are frustrated with call centers. They spend too much time waiting on hold, end up speaking to someone who’s outsourced from another country, and get scripted answers that don’t always solve the problem at hand. But customers don’t want you to replace your call center with other mediums – such as social media or online chat – they just want better functionality.
The Meaningful Role of Call Centers
“Voice is different than other forms of communications,” says Craig Walker of Dialpad, a leader in modern cloud communications. “With social networking, email, and text, people can respond when it’s convenient. Sometimes that convenience is important—but there’s a tradeoff. Unlike the written word, voice obliges a real time response and creates a space to explore new things.”
There’s power in the human voice and your customers want the ability to communicate with your business in a voice-to-voice manner. You can’t just ditch your call center because you’ve noticed an uptick in engagement on the social media front. Pay attention to social media and help it grow into a valuable touch point, but make your call center a priority. Furthermore, be careful to maintain the appropriate level of functionality.
Over the past few years, customer service has experienced a rather significant shift towards automation. From your own personal experience, you’ve come to expect things like automated answering machines and keypad prompted commands when you call a company for customer service help.
While these things make sense from the business perspective where more automation equals lower labor costs, it isn’t the best way to strengthen customer relations over the long haul. Customers want to speak with people, not machines. In order to maximize the value of your call center and avoid frustrating customers, you have to invest in a stronger user experience.
Three Ways to Improve Your Call Center’s Functionality
What does it look like, in practical terms, to improve your call center’s functionality and create a more customer-centric approach? It’s different for each organization, but the following advice is pretty universal when it comes to enhancing service.
- Give Agents More Autonomy
Giving call center agents a larger degree of autonomy can provide tremendous returns in terms of call center productivity. Clinical psychologist, Shauna Geraghty, points to research that shows a direct correlation between more autonomy and an ability to more effectively address customer needs in a timely manner.
“This decreases the likelihood that the agent will have to transfer the call to another department or request managerial input,” Geraghty says. “This can have a huge impact on streamlining call center workflow and will free up managers to attend to more pressing issues.”
While you obviously need controls in place to protect the interests of the company, enhancing agent autonomy in certain areas can eliminate many of the friction points that so often frustrate customers.
- Invest in Better Hiring and Training
There’s no way I could ever trust my call center agents enough to grant them more autonomy. If this is your thought process, then you need to recognize that there’s an underlying problem. In all likelihood, you aren’t doing an adequate job of hiring skilled individuals that are worthy of trust. This leads to the second major point: invest in superior hiring and training.
When you revamp your approach to hiring, suddenly you end up with call center agents who have potential. When coupled with strong training, you have agents you’re confident in. As a result, granting autonomy is something that appears far less scary than it would have in the past.
But this goes well beyond autonomy. Better trained call center agents understand how to care for your customers and do everything they can to be a positive reflection on the company. The result is more satisfied customers and a stronger brand image.
- Enable Callback Features
According to one study, more than 60 percent of customers feel as if wait times longer than one minute are excessive. Considering that many crowded call centers require customers to wait for a few minutes before speaking with an agent, you probably aren’t doing a good job of satisfying your callers.
Other than finding ways to speed up processes and free call center agents to engage with more callers per hour, the next best solution is to enable callback features. The aforementioned study also shows that 63 percent of customers prefer callback versus waiting on hold, so it’s definitely a feature worth considering as you move forward.
Put Your Customers First
It’s imperative that you remember the primary goal of your call center: to assist customers with their needs. Most companies, in the pursuit of automation and cutting costs, lose sight of this focus and end up compromising their relationships with customers. By focusing on functionality this year, you can ensure your call center becomes a brand-building asset.