The Call Center: What’s Love Got to Do with It?


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This is the third of a series of posts on customer experiences in the call center

In the call center, as in life, there is no replacement for human compassion. Traditional call center technology, best practices and training techniques can enable agents to develop a limited set of customer-service skills, but as the first two posts in this series demonstrated, they’re not enough. Call centers are still failing customers and companies both despite massive corporate investment.

Why? Because the investments companies have made haven’t produced a way to teach and measure empathy and rapport, to train agents how to genuinely demonstrate that they care about customers and then objectively measure agents’—and customers’—level of care and experience.

For customers, emotions are a big deal. Customer-experience expert Bruce Temkin cites emotion as the most important element of the customer experience. And happy customers are better, more loyal customers. Temkin provides proof points in his report, ROI of Customer Experience, 2015:

“When we compared the consumers who gave companies a very good customer experience rating to those who gave companies a very bad customer experience rating, we found that at companies with high customer experience ratings, the percentage of customers who plan on purchasing more is 18 points higher, the percentage who will forgive the company if it makes a mistakes is 12 points higher, the percentage who will try a new offering is 10 points higher, and the percentage who trust the company is 19 points higher,” Temkin’s report says.

Customers feel the negative consequences of a lack of empathy and rapport. A previously quoted Harris Interactive survey reports that customers’ top priority for service is friendly agents (73 percent of respondents). Customers are crying out for empathy and rapport. Companies can plug all kinds of investments into call centers, but what they need most is love.

Love—or, more specifically, empathy and rapport—has for many years been an acknowledged need of call centers but has suffered as a result of taking a back seat to the drive for efficiency, as well as from and an inability to effectively measure soft skills. Traditional call-center analytics can’t measure human emotion, meaning managers haven’t had an effective way to teach or track agents’ emotional connections with customers. In turn, with limited guidance in the area, agents have focused little on the “soft skills” involved in developing productive partnerships with customers on the phone.

The agent-customer relationship, even in the space of a few minutes on the phone, needs to be a partnership. Agents and customers need to work together to find a solution to the issue at hand, to co-solve whatever problem prompted the customer to call in the first place. The only way to establish that partnership is for both sides to be fully engaged, listen to each other and react out of a genuine human willingness to make the situation better for both parties. Happiness and satisfaction, on the part of the agent and the customer, are the goals, and those goals ultimately lead to increased loyalty on both ends of the phone line.

Technology that delivers real-time behavioral signal and voice analysis brings to the call center the empathy and rapport it has long been missing. With real-time analytics, agents see, literally, how customers are reacting to them emotionally during a call and can adjust their own behavior accordingly. If a customer is nervous or tense, behavioral signals software lets the agent know with a simple, clear alert. If the agent is speaking too quickly, talking over the customer or introducing awkward pauses into conversation, the software alerts the agent to those things, too.

With behavioral signals analysis in real-time, every call becomes an exercise in real-time, soft skills training. Agents have the feedback they need to provide empathy and rapport on the fly, judge customer reactions and adjust accordingly. This enables agents to develop partnerships and co-solve problems with customers, meaning both the agent and the customer are more engaged in the interaction. Both see the call as a partnership. Both leave fulfilled, satisfied … and loyal to the company.

And this is all measureable. Supervisors can look at any and all calls agents make and measure both their engagement and the customer’s experience. Measuring the customer’s emotional experience, with 100 percent of calls taken into account, provides a new metric companies can use not only to improve their call centers but also to gauge feelings about the company as a whole. Customer-experience analytics can also enable companies to predict customer behavior for targeting marketing and sales campaigns.

Real-time behavioral analysis transforms the call center into a positive experience for everyone involved, with measurable metrics supervisors can use to help agents make the experience even better. Behavioral signals applications enable agents and supervisors to bring the elements, empathy and rapport, that call centers are both missing and need most. What’s love got to do with the call center? A lot, actually, if a company wants to protect and drive revenue with excellent customer service.

Joshua Feast
Joshua Feast is CEO and co-founder of Cogito Corp. His focus is on enabling Cogito's customers to achieve the next level of enterprise responsiveness and on expanding Cogito's contribution to the field of human behavior understanding. His track-record includes over a decade of delivery to human services, government and financial services organizations. Joshua holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management where he was the Platinum-Triangle Fulbright Scholar in Entrepreneurship, and a Bachelor of Technology from Massey University in New Zealand.


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