Customer calls are integral to customers’ overall experience with your company. The tone, empathy, and helpfulness shared over the phone between your front line and your customers is worth prioritizing. The good news is that improving call quality is easier than you might think. Below, a few tips from thought leaders for making it happen.
1. It’s all about the people
“There’s no other way to chop this up,” Kenny Lim, Vice President of Customer Success at Ingram Micro, says. “As with any industry, there’s plenty of fakers out there that just simply are one or many notches below the top tier.” According to Lim, it’s all about the character of your employees.
It all starts, Lim says, with choosing an incredible call center team to begin with, and choosing people with personality traits that shine. “The thing is, it’s not even talent most of the time, but just what makes up that person,” Lim explains.
“Do they take pride in their work and their team? Do they care about precision and are detail oriented, the small things? Are they contributors rather than takers in life in general? Do they work hard and accept challenges?” Ask yourself questions like these, and you’ll find yourself with an A+ team ready to help your call center thrive.
2. Process matters
Once you’ve got a great team in place, Lim explains that it’s important to make sure you’ve got a streamlined, reliable process that doesn’t hinder your call center staff’s ability to thrive. Your process can be tailored to your company’s needs: you can use it to minimize weaknesses and allow your staff’s strengths to shine through. “Maximize greatness by making sure processes aren’t hindering your greatest asset, or exposing your biggest weaknesses,” Lim says. Want to get more advice from Lim? Read our exclusive interview with Kenny Lim here.
3. Focus on feedback and measuring success
According to Lim, it’s important to consider feedback both as a team and as individual employees, and to acknowledge that feedback. “As in most things, it is ideal to have metrics and feedback validate or disprove what you assume,” Lim says. “Plus, great people love to see challenges that are exposed by metrics and feedback. And when they overcome them, great people love to celebrate as a team and be acknowledged for their contribution.”
4. Celebrate the wins
Things aren’t always easy, so when your team meets a goal or receives great feedback, it’s time to celebrate! “Life is short and life happens,” Lim says. “And it’s not just recent events that remind us this, life ALWAYS will do its thing. So embrace the wins, accept the challenges and drive to be the best and celebrate the big wins.” Customer feedback is key to making this happen, because feedback is the only way you’ll know your team is hitting those big wins.
5. Simplicity as a service
Eddie Jauregui, the Customer Success Manager at Media Temple, suggests putting simplicity first. “This was first introduced to me by my department manager, Joseph Palumbo,” he explains. Jauregui suggests putting complication systems aside in favor of “simple solutions, straightforward communication and a clear vision of success for each customer.”
6. Active listening
When Jauregui implemented an active listening process at Media Temple, he received wildly positive feedback from customers. This active listening method is broken down into four steps: listening to the customer’s issue, repeating the issue, troubleshooting the issue, and providing a solution. As a result of this method, customers felt more understood and supported, and for Media Temple, it led to an overall 98% approval rating through support channels like phones, chat, and support requests.
7. Have empathy
Most people just want to feel understood, and customers calling in are no different. Empathy is a powerful step in creating a sense of connection with customers. “It creates trust and builds a rapport that allows the service agent to take control of the call and guide the customer in the right direction towards a solution,” Jauregui explains. “Even when no solution can be provided it leaves the customer feeling like you care.”
8. Have a game plan for issues that are out of scope
Sometimes, customers will come to your call center staff with questions or problems that are not within their range. When this happens, there is still always an opportunity to help the customer feel like someone cares, and to at least start them on the path to the solutions they need.
“Your goal should always be to give the customer a breadcrumb in their pursuit to a solution,” Jauregui says. “Nowadays it’s easy to just open Google and type in the issue which will produce a plethora of information to provide the customer.”
9. Create a learning culture
Metrics are important, but so is creating a company value set that focuses on learning new things and challenging oneself. “Focus less on the metrics and more on facilitating a learning culture and desire for self-improvement,” Martin Hill-Wilson, founder of Brainfood Consulting, suggests.
10. Keep things positive with your front line
Helping your front line improve is more impactful when it’s a positive experience, not a negative one. “On so many customer service teams, quality assurance has devolved into checking boxes, creating a score, and shaming our agents for the things they didn’t do,” Jeremy Watkin, director of customer experience at FCR, a provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. “If that describes your team in any way, it’s time for a recalibration on what’s really important — the customer experience.” In more than 17 years of working in customer service and experience, Watkin has found that it’s important to make quality assurance focused on customer experience.
11. Coach your front line
When working with your agents on improvement, view it like a coaching session. “When you make quality assurance about a coaching conversation where you are genuinely vested in the success of the person sitting across from you,” Watkin explains. “Your agents will be more engaged and so will your customers. It’s still a great idea to track where your agents require the most coaching, monitor trends, and use that for more targeted training efforts.”
12. Use your data wisely
16. Gather lots of data
“Key performance indicators are the bread and butter of the call center industry, and for good reason,” digital marketing specialist Jade Longelin explained to Playvox. Longelyn suggests keeping a record of every call, including its arrival time, the length of time it took to be answered, and how many times it was transferred. “Use this information, along with feedback from customers, to set goals and monitor KPIs.”
17. Make things fun
“A happy employee is a productive employee,” Longelin says. She implores companies to be sure they “don’t neglect the fun factor.” Doing quality work is important, but so is having a good time in the workplace. That sense of fun can help improve a team member’s work accomplishments.
18. Pay attention to text, live chat, and other channels beyond voice calls
“If the customer support provided by your call center is omnichannel, then so should be your monitoring system and practices,” Longelin suggests. Voice call quality is important, but so is the way your team interacts with customers via other channels. Devote energy to monitoring email, live chat, and texts as well.
19. Give agents a chance to self-assess
Putting your team in the driver’s seat of their own improvement is a great move. Silky Sinha, a contact center solutions marketing professional, suggested on Ameyo that agents be “allotted with a period of time each week to evaluate their own calls.” In these evaluations, Sinha says, agents can listen to their calls and spot their own growth opportunities.
20. Call time isn’t always the most important thing
Call time can be notable, but it’s not always the most important thing to measure. In fact, focusing too much on that factor could impact call quality. “Closing the call in a hurry just to cater to the next caller in the queue can hamper call quality,” Sinha says. She noted that calls focused on speed “can also lead to an increase in repeat calls and angry customers.” Sometimes, a team member who has a longer average call time may be building stronger customer connections.
21. Ask customers plenty of questions
Ask your team members lots of questions, and in turn, encourage them to ask customers lots of questions also. According to Hemani Sehgal, a senior content strategist who shared some wisdom on Ameyo, these questions can make a big difference.
“This way you can get a really clear picture of what they really expect, understand and what needs to be your area of focus while training them,” Sehgal says. “On asking questions to customers, it helps your agents dwell deep and be on the same page with the customer.” This increases the chance of the customer feeling valued and giving quality feeedback.
22. Give value to the basics
“It is important that you maintain standardization throughout in your call center,” Sehgal suggests. According to Sehgal, every agent should be clued into the most important call steps valued by the company. “It can start from generic greetings and amount to a strict identification and verification process.” When agents follow consistent practices, it decreases the odds of customers becoming confused. It also helps to grow your brand’s consistency.
23. Aim to improve the first contact
According to Sehgal, putting a strong focus on providing solutions upon the first contact is important. “It is necessary for managers to look at how efficient their current processes are in providing first contact resolution to their customers,” Sehgal says. This, Sehgal notes, is a key to ensure customers will be retained.
24. Be aware of your competition
Internal monitoring is great, but it can be that much more useful if you’re also tracking what your competitors are doing. This type of monitoring gives much more context to your individual data. “Internal assessments are more abstract and illusory and for a true picture you would need an external benchmarking,” Sehgal says.
25. Have a standard and a strategy
Technology is great, but strategy is still important as well. “Monitoring will always remain a technical job to some extent,” Lusine Khachatryan of Data Informed explained on CallMiner. “But when it comes right down to it, technology is only one side of the coin.” Aim to have a solid strategy in place to ensure that you’re using your technology to its fullest benefits.
26. Have your agents’ backs
Set a supportive tone for your agents whenever possible, and encourage teamwork. According to ATCOM Business Technology solutions, great leadership over your front line team can make all the difference. “When agents feel that they are valued, respected and treated fairly by their management, they will be highly motivated to perform well and deliver outstanding service to their customers.”
27. Individualize agent coaching
Every team member is different, and every agent will do best under their own particular circumstances. Shauna Geraghty, a call center software pro with a doctorate in clinical psychology, shared some expertise about this topic on Talkdesk. “Create a culture of continuous improvement by requiring peer-to-peer evaluations and self-evaluations of calls,” Geraghty suggests. That sense of collaboration can help agents thrive.
28. Monitor calls at all levels of “importance”
Some calls may seem to hold extra weight when they involve high-value clients or time-sensitive situations. That said, everyday calls can have just as much value when it comes to improvement. “Focus your resources on high-value calls as well as routine calls,” Geraghty says.
29. Maintain a consistent message throughout all channels
According to Gerald Sinclair of incontact, it’s important to focus on being omnichannel. The term “refers to having a consistent relationship and message across all channels.” This helps to present a united front to customers across your company. It also helps customers to feel that their relationship with your brand carries across whether they’re connecting with you via internet or phone call.
30. Use a scorecard
A scorecard can help make monitoring and improvement simple and straightforward. It’s particularly helpful when it comes to monitoring more subjective subjects. “Develop a ‘scorecard’ that will be used to measure the subjective metrics, such as customer courtesy,” senior business executive and author F. John Reh suggested to The Balance.
31. Get clear about what you want, and what quality means to you
Quality can be subjective, so be sure to set clear definitions and goals with your team. “Without a clear idea of what you want, you cannot hope for an effective quality monitoring strategy,” Reh suggests.
32. Monitor calls from start to finish
“The calls you choose to analyze closely should be examined in their entirety,” Reh suggests. “Use them to be valuable examples of how one problem was hopefully solved over the course of one conversation, with impeccable quality of service.”
33. Empower your front line to go off-script
Scripts are incredibly helpful, but it’s also important to empower your agents to go off-script when they need to. “While a good script is a great safety net, being able to improvise with confidence can be the secret to exemplary service, Reh says. “This is where training comes in.”
34. Always make room for empathy
Following a set of core company values and lines is helpful, but it’s especially key to empower your sales force to incorporate empathy. Be sure to emphasize this in training. “The ultimate value of your agents is not their ability to match patterns and recite scripts, Greg Smoragiewicz of Aircall explains on the site. “It’s their ability to express empathy for an individual in a way that digital customer service tools can’t.”
35. Anticipate the caller’s questions
“The best way to increase your odds of providing a satisfactory answer is to anticipate the question,” Smoragiewicz says. “The best way to anticipate a question is to set up a system that encourages its asker to offer clues.” Make this happen by setting up separate support lines for separate call types, or by training your team to ask leading questions about the customers’ problems.
36. Remember that no call is one-size-fits-all
Training is everything, but when it comes down to it, agents need to remember that they can tailor solutions to each specific caller. “This highlights the fact that support queries which escalate to a phone calls are the tricky ones, Lola Barbier of Aircall explains on the site. “The ones which specifically need to be resolved through a conversation between two humans (even if one human has cutting-edge technology on their side). According to Barbier, it all comes down to adaptability and empathy.
37. Meet customers where they are
“Despite the growing prevalence of alternative channels such as live chat or social media, the phone channel remains a staple,” Barbier explains. “When customers need support, they want it to be easy, quick, and efficient regardless of the channel.” Accomplishing that means meeting customers wherever they are, on whatever channel benefits them most.