They are diplomats; weaving their way through tough calls with the goal of bringing about a resolution that pleases everyone. They are gentle teachers; guiding customers by patiently explaining the process from A to Z. Sometimes, they are punching bags.
The phenomenon of bullying call center reps is nothing new, and it is the unfortunate byproduct of a society that undervalues its service people. Still, some call center reps unwittingly encourage hostile confrontations through apathetic behavior or by showing little or no empathy.
Kaylen A. Moore, Master’s International Business Associate Director at DBTM Thammasat University, believes that the key to a successful customer call lies in expressing empathy. “Problem’ customers rarely consider themselves that way, so it is key to put yourself into their shoes and empathize with their issues,” Moore says.
“Problem Customers” Equal Major Problems for Your Company
If your reps are not trained in how to effectively deal with difficult customers, your bottom line will be seriously compromised. You will also have a less positive office environment and more rep attrition.
Good Customer Service Is a Competitive Advantage
A recent survey by Deloitte found that if all things are equal, good customer service is a differentiating factor 62% of the time. If you want to stay competitive in your sector, you can’t afford to have your reps providing less than positive customer service.
One great way to ensure that your reps are providing the best service that they can is to train them properly. Empowered reps who strive for one-call solutions are able to neutralize some customer frustration simply because they are able to get their problems solved in a more efficient manner. Not only does a one-call solution show effective problem-solving skills, it also exhibits a degree of professionalism that will leave customers pleasantly surprised.
Bad News Travels Fast
If your customers have a negative experience with one of your call center reps, expect them to share it with everyone in their workplace, social media circle, and childhood best friend. Zendesk discovered that 95 percent of consumers will share bad experiences with others. Since word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to spread good or bad news, this could be disastrous for your company.
One poorly trained call center rep who is either unaware of how to solve a problem, or unable to empathize with the customer properly can seriously impact your bottom line. The spider web effect from one bad call could extend out to potential customers, new clients, or even your investor base. Your reputation is precious. Make sure that you protect it.
Tough Customer Calls Take a Serious Toll on Your Reps
Earlier we talked about the psychological toll that customer bullying takes on your call center reps. It is important to differentiate between a frustrated customer and one who is being gleefully cruel to a call center rep. The former is a product of a poorly managed system, or one who has been given the “run-around”. Streamlining your operations and always striving for a one call solution is a great way to minimize the number of frustrated customers that you come across.
Every company that takes their employee welfare seriously should attempt to reduce the number of tough calls. Call center specific anxiety is a serious issue. Even more alarming is the fact that beat-up reps will sometimes depersonalize customers in an attempt to distance themselves from the abuse they fend off daily. This will make your customers feel like they are not valued and perpetuate the vicious circle.
Moore suggests diffusing a tough situation by using empathy. She suggests using statements like “Sir, I hear you and am going to do everything I can to resolve your problems today,” “Please speak up at any time if you feel I’m not understanding your needs,” and “I look forward to working this out with you during our call today.”
Teaching your call center reps similar phrases can help them lower the temperature of a hot call. “Statements like these help show empathy, while reminding the customer that we work for them and our representatives are here to be helpful and productive,” Moore explains.
The Best Way to Diffuse Difficult Customer Situations
The best way to diffuse a difficult customer situation is to head it off before it becomes too much to bear. Your call center reps should strive to never get into a shouting match with a customer, and be given a “cooling off” period if they need to take a contentious or upsetting call.
Check Your Office Culture
As an organization you need to see your reps as people with feelings and emotional responses to hostility. Office environments that hinge on stress, anxiety and fear will breed burnout and supercharge attrition. Happier and healthier office cultures will allow their employees to bounce back easier from a tough call as opposed to toxic ones where reps can easily descend into a spiral of negativity that is nearly impossible to break out of. American based representatives that work in outsourced call centers are well-drilled on the essential requirements of call center work and do not make mistakes that can impact customer experience adversely.
Moore is an expert on designing positive office cultures that benefit both reps and customers. “Culture change is the hardest change management I deal with in Service Design,” Moore says. “Building the right culture from the start instead of attempting to fix it later on is much easier and more productive for everyone.”
Find Common Ground
Part of the reason why difficult customer calls escalate so quickly is that neither party sees each other as a fellow human being. Moore suggests that reps try to find some common ground with their customers, as it will often make the encounter a lot more positive.
“Sometimes taking a small amount of time to find a piece of personal interest with the caller helps them realize they are talking to a real person who also has feelings, goals, and loves,” Moore says. This simple human connection is an excellent way to foster empathy and lead to a far more desirable outcome.
Know the Warning Signs
There are generally warning signs that the call is about to go off the rails. “Generally a customer’s tone will change, and often their language will get more staccato. It might start subtly, so it is imperative that representatives listen carefully to any changes in speaking patterns before emotions come into play,” Moore says.
According to Moore, many customers get upset because they feel like they are not being listened to, so rephrasing the customer’s concerns and being an intuitive and engaged representative is key. “When able to identify the caller’s distress, asking them for questions or concerns proactively makes a huge difference,” Moore says.
Diffusing a difficult customer situation often comes down to empathy and proper training. (v)WeCare puts a companywide emphasis on exhibiting empathy and competence at all times, as well as striving for a one call solution. We do this by providing our reps with consistent, comprehensive training and empowering them to make excellent decisions on behalf of our customers. The results are reps who feel comfortable and capable, and customers who know that they are getting the white-glove service. In a world where customer service is so critical to success, these factors set us apart from the rest. Also, we offer our services at a competitive price, which helps you lower your call center outsourcing cost.