Improve Your Contact Center Experience: What Your Agents Need to Know

By | December 2, 2021

If customers hate one thing, it’s being made to wait when trying to get in touch. They’re contacting you because they’ve got a problem, so naturally, they want it to be dealt with as quickly as possible.

For business owners, that means your contact center experience must be up to scratch.

But how do you go about building a positive customer experience that leaves your customers happier and more satisfied? 

We’re going to reveal the ultimate contact center customer experience tips, so you can get your agents working better and increase your sales and customer loyalty.

What is a contact center?

A contact center is a centralized department that takes care of both inbound and outbound communication with customers.  It leverages technology and integration channels to help resolve customer issues quickly, track customer engagements and interactions to make your customer’s journey hassle-free.

Traditional call centers typically stick to telephony support, while contact centers go beyond simply managing calls to reach customers on their preferred channels and ensure their customer success levels are maintained. 

Contact centers employ an omnichannel approach and interact with customers across multiple communication channels. These include:

  • real-time phone calls
  • instant messaging
  • email
  • SMS
  • apps
  • social media
  • chatbots.

Agents working in contact centers handle a range of services such as taking phone calls, replying to emails, staying active on live chat messages, SMS texts, and handling support tickets for companies. The nature of the calls and messages they receive can vary from order inquiries, renewing online subscriptions to complex support questions and complaints. Using a CRM to manage customer interactions plays a huge role in maintaining customer satisfaction scores. 

Contact center agents can operate either from within your company headquarters, or they can be outsourced to third-party vendors and partners.

What are the different types of Contact Centers?

There are four types of customer experience contact centers that you can set up:

Remote Contact Center

Remote contact centers are simply those that provide customers with contact center services remotely. You can have people from all over the world working in your remote contact center, and sometimes this turns out to be much cheaper than, say, in-house contact center solutions.  Also, you don’t always have to look for a remote solution staffing overseas. Having your contact center in a rural area can also be highly cost-effective. 

However, routing calls to the right team can be tricky if your business functions across various time zones. This can become even more complicated if your team is distributed. But with Freshdesk Contact Center’s advanced routing capabilities, you can control calls, define your incoming calls’ path, and route them to the right team.

Remote contact centers also offer many workforce management benefits, such as greater agent productivity, increased flexibility, and a wider talent pool to choose from.

Inbound Contact Center

An inbound call center is a customer service function whose primary responsibility is to handle incoming customer phone calls. Callers are addressed by an interactive voice response (IVR) system upon connecting to inbound call centers. A list of options is presented to them, and once the caller picks the service option, they are routed to the appropriate service agent. Once they reach a call or contact center agent, the focus will be on addressing the customer’s issue as efficiently as possible, ideally without transferring them to another colleague. 

While these centers are primarily targeted at answering customer questions and offering technical support, your contact center reps can also support your inbound sales strategy. With the right staff and the proper training, your agents can take advantage of opportunities for up-selling or cross-selling and add even greater value to your business. Inbound call centers also perform the same operations as that of an inbound contact center, but with an exclusive focus on telephony. 

Read more about inbound contact centers.

Outbound Contact Center

Outbound contact centers are pretty much the complete opposite of inbound centers. A contact center with the exclusive purpose of making outgoing calls is referred to as an outbound call center. Outbound contact center agents typically have sales targets to meet through cold and warm calling.  Usually, operators use existing lists to call regular or potential new customers to talk to them about new products or services or conduct surveys on products they may have purchased.

In modern Contact Centers, agents will use contact center software that includes a customer relationship management (CRM) database to keep track of which customers they need to reach and record any outcomes.

Read more about outbound contact centers.

Omnichannel Contact Center

An omnichannel cloud contact center uses cloud-based contact center software to manage your customer communications across multiple channels. These include phone, chat, email, text (SMS), and social media. To ensure your customer journey is hassle-free, it’s essential to communicate quickly and efficiently throughout. An omnichannel cloud contact center helps you with that.

What are the key functions of a contact center?

A contact center performs specific functions that help a business deliver better customer experiences. Let’s take a quick look at some of them. 

1. Help customers across different service platforms

Some customers will pick up the phone as soon as they encounter a problem, preferring to speak to a real person to get a solution. Others, millennials, in particular, shy away from speaking on the telephone and would much rather quickly type out their issue using digital channels like online messaging or chat boxes.

The truth is, as long as it allows their problem to get resolved promptly, customers will use whichever channel of communication is most convenient for them.

For example, canned responses and self-service articles are used across various platforms like web chat, mobile apps, and social media. This allows your customers to solve their problems independently, thus freeing up your agents’ time.

2. Communicate thoughtful, personalized solutions

One way to set yourself apart from your competitors is to step away from classic customer service and personalize your approach. Some ideas include using your customer’s name where possible. If it’s their birthday, send them an email with a promotional discount. Alternatively, suggest products based on what they’ve previously purchased or let them know when they’re due to replace an old purchase.

The key point here is to anticipate their needs. Throw in a surprise gesture such as a handwritten note if possible and reward loyalty. While adding a personal touch in your communication doesn’t take much of your time, it sure guarantees customer loyalty and increases the likelihood of getting customer referrals.

3. Create a memorable customer experience

Imagine this.  

Your customer has been attempting to resolve a software problem for hours. They throw the kitchen sink at it, and yet the problem persists and finally, they give up and get in touch with your contact center after hours of frustration.

What’s the best way to pacify your customer and also ensure their problem is fixed?

Here are some best practices to follow:

  1. Ask your customers as many distinct questions as possible to get a clear impression of the issue.
  2. Work through a series of potential fixes, starting with the most common solution for the problem that’s been reported.
  3. If the issue remains, forward the ticket to a specialized agent, communicating what’s happening clearly to the customer.

4. Tailor the experience to the customer

Every customer is important, and every customer has different needs. A great agent can tailor the experience to the customer they’re currently engaging with. While having canned responses and templates makes things easier in the short run, the problem is that it can make your agent sound generic and robotic. You want to avoid this, mainly if the customer is frustrated or is lodging a complaint.

Each customer must be treated individually to ensure a better customer experience. One way to do this is by directly asking customers which channels of communication they prefer and then accommodating those preferences. By listening to this feedback, agents can help build a service experience closely aligned with your customer’s needs.

5. Document and respond to tickets efficiently

Time is always of the essence when it comes to problem resolution. The last thing a customer wants is to receive an automated email informing them about the delay in response from your end. 

If that happens, chances are they’ll have moved on to a competitor by the time you respond.

A cornerstone of fantastic customer service is speed, but on its own, reacting quickly will only take you so far. It’s also crucial to provide accurate and valuable information that solves problems and lets customers get on with their day. To help your agents plan their tasks better, utilize automation in your cloud contact center operations whenever it’s possible.

Lastly, ensure your agents take clear and detailed technical support notes while interacting with your customers.  This is because there’s nothing more annoying for a customer than repeating a problem numerous times to different agents in your contact center. 

6. Report recurring customer roadblocks and significant problems

Whether it’s a lack of information about your product or service, complex navigation on your website, connection issues, or vague return policies, some problems arise more frequently in customer service than others. The solution? Pinpoint those problems and report their metrics so that they can be dealt with as quickly as possible. Having a system that records all customer feedback can ensure that recurring issues are addressed effectively thus providing better customer experiences.

7. Solve for the customer, not your convenience

It can be easy to overlook the importance of genuinely listening to customers. Agents must always ask enough questions to get a complete picture of the customer inquiries. If your company is at fault, follow up with a genuine apology. Most of the time, customers are just looking for you to acknowledge your mistake, and then they’re happy to go on with their day.

There is also no shame in admitting to your customer if you don’t have a solution straight away, but make sure to provide a clear plan for how you’ll proceed with identifying a solution and getting back in touch with them.

What channels of communication should your contact center offer?

To help you decide what channels of communication your contact center should offer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What channels of communication do your customers use the most?
  • Do they contact you primarily via telephone, or do online platforms play a significant role?
  • Are you more of a customer service center, or do you also make outbound sales-focused calls?
  • Do your agents need access to customer conversation transcripts, or are customer inquiries and requests typically one-off occurrences? 
  • Do your agents need to be available around the clock to meet your customer expectations?

By answering these questions, you will have a clearer picture of whether you need call and contact center representatives or whether it’s better to have a multichannel approach with email, webchat, social media assistance, chatbots, and other avenues of communication. Once you’ve carefully identified the channels that will suit your business best, you can find the right contact center system to facilitate that.

What are the must-have contact center skills?

Working as a contact center agent can be a demanding job, with some companies having huge volumes of customer queries across the board that need answering. Agents working in customer support roles must demonstrate excellent listening skills and the ability to communicate instructions. 

To ensure the best contact center experience, these are the qualities to look for in a great agent:

  • knowledge retention
  • empathy
  • flexibility
  • memorable first call or first contact with customers
  • effective communication skills
  • attention to detail
  • creativity
  • organizational skills
  • speed and efficiency
  • problem-solving skills
  • emotional stability
  • being a team player.

 

Providing the best contact center experience for your customers

It isn’t always easy to provide exceptional customer service. Agents deal with many requests each day, from billing, account queries, and technical support to account upgrades and closures. Thus they need to relay a wide range of information succinctly to customers regularly. On top of this, customers can sometimes be hostile or have a complex issue that is difficult to solve.

A great agent plays a huge part in your contact center experience. As such, customer-facing staff require good people skills, empathy, and flexibility. But you also need to think about other elements of your contact center experience, such as the number of channels you support. The more you have, the more available you will become to your customers, as they will be able to choose a means of communication that’s suitable for them. Identifying the profile of your customers is an excellent way of tailoring the experience around them and improving your customer support service.

It’s also important to consider the contact center platform you’re using so that your agents feel supported and facilitated by their workflow, rather than hamstrung by it.


About Freshdesk Contact Center

Freshdesk Contact Center (formerly Freshcaller) is a modern-day contact center that enables businesses to provide omnichannel customer support through phone, chat, helpdesk, email, and social channels with great efficiency. With its cloud-based architecture, Freshdesk Contact Center brings together the best of legacy features like IVR, call waiting, VoIP solutions, and advanced call routing capabilities like Smart Escalations, Customizable Performance Reporting to help you set up state-of-the-art call center operations.

Visit our website for more information.

Illustrations by Rajesh Raja.

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