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Call Center Agent Training

How to Say “No” to Your Customers When You REALLY Need to

Say No to Your Customers

Say No to Your Customers

You know the drill—it is imperative to concede to every request of the customer because ‘the customer is always right’. With that, you should never say ‘no‘ to your customers, right?

Wrong!

In some cases, you will have to say “no” to your customers, as a customer representative you can only do so much.

However, customer service should still be demonstrated even when saying “no” to customers. It is possible to remain professional and competent in spite of doing so.

So how exactly do you go about this?

I have listed 6 tips that will help you on saying ‘no’ to your customers, when you really need to:

1. Validate their frustrations.

It’s a fatal mistake to ignore your customers frustrations, because you know that at the end of the call, you will have to tell them “no”. Telling them to calm down will only make things worse. Instead, you can say I understand that this is a frustrating situation for you…”

You may not be able to follow through with your customers’ expectations, but you can always make them feel that you recognize their frustrations, and have their best interests in mind despite you saying “no” to their requests.

2. Apologize.

A simple “I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you” can go a long way. While you’re not likely to comfort your customers by giving them a pat on the shoulder, you are, however, expected to empathize with them and apologizing is one way of doing so.

3. Explain the Reasoning 

You’d be doing a great disservice to your customers if they have to do all the guesswork.

Your customers will surely appreciate it if you take the time to carefully explain the situation. Always remember that you are positioned as “someone who knows better” in these matters so your customers deserve an explanation.

4. Offer Alternatives.

In cases where you are left with no other option but to say “no” to your customer, you have to make them feel like you are with them and not against them. Be on their side by offering other plausible solutions and alternatives. Anyone in the customer service field must develop a follow up strategy so the customer doesn’t leave empty handed.

Instead of saying “I’m sorry, there is absolutely nothing I can do about this”, try sharing with them other solutions and options to their requests.

5. Emphasize your intention to help.

Customer support doesn’t have to end once you say “no” to the customer.

You must always put emphasize your desire to help the customer. Make it clear that even when you are refusing a certain request, you’d still like to help them in any way you can.

Conclusion

Your customer support team can only do so much. However, saying “no” to your customers doesn’t necessarily have to end in disappointment.

With the right techniques in place, you can end the phone call with your customers feeling satisfied with the support that you provided.

Do you have any tips for saying “no”?  If so, leave them in the comments below, we can all learn from each other.

Photo courtesy – ©Konstantin Pelykh / Dollar Photo Club

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6 Tips for Training Your Call Center Agents

Call_Center_Agents

Call_Center_Agents

Remember that the competency of your call center agents can influence the success of your company. Keeping them stagnant, unrefreshed and thirsting for new ideas will only hinder excellency and will promote mediocrity.

Do you want to keep expanding your agents’ knowledge, skills and capabilities? Then you should be committed to training them frequently.

Training is a good investment that ensures growth within your company where you can see the results manifest tenfold.

Listed below are 6 great tips for training your customer service agents:

1. Mentor

The best form of training is mentoring.

In his TEDx talk, Tai Lopez explained the law of 33%. He says that a third of your time must be spent with people you can mentor and another third for those that can mentor you.

Unfortunately, a study conducted by Intradiem discovered that 80% of executives thought that their supervisors were not competent enough to coach call center agents.

Executives should realize the importance of mentoring. In order to implement competency from top to bottom, top management heads should devote a third of their time in training and mentoring supervisors for the cycle to continue down to the agents.

2. Differentiate low and high performers

Training is not a golden bullet that can hit all types of needs. Some call center agents will need a different type of training program apart from others.

One way of going about this is to identify your low and high performing agents. Set them apart and design a program for each. You can even be specific for low performers by identifying the key areas that need to be improved.

3. Introduce new ideas

As long as the world keeps spinning, new ideas will never die out.

Your company must be committed to learning best practices in the field and discovering new ideas from experts. Attend seminars or hire an organizational consultant that can bring in fresh takes that you might not know of yet.

Outsourcing is also a great way for acquiring new ideas for your company since external resources can help you see things in different perspectives.

4. Structured programs

In training, consistency and structure are factors that need to be considered. However, over 50% of call center supervisors fail to structure their programs.

Performance must be standardized, so in order to do this create a criteria or use metrics that you can implement to objectify your training goals.

5. Involve the customers

Training is a good avenue to re-evaluate your goals.

Remember what you’re here for—the customers. 

Gather all customer complaints, ratings and feedbacks, then interpret the data to get a better look at how customers perceive your services.

Even if the ratings are good, don’t be complacent! Continue to diversify your strategies because the customers’ needs are constantly evolving.

6. Follow up after training

The effectiveness of training will not reach its optimal level unless you see actual results. That is why your goals must be practical and attainable.

Try dividing your training sessions to target specific and actionable goals. After this, evaluate your employees in the workplace to see if they accomplished the objectives.

Conclusion

Maintain a working culture that centers on continuously evolving and improving is the best way to get the most out of your agents. Be committed to training and your company will definitely rise to the top!

© wellphoto / Dollar Photo Club

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4 Common Mistakes that Telemarketers Commit and are Unaware Of

Telemarketers

image

If you aren’t familiar with the tricks of the trade of the telemarketing industry, the chances are good that you’ll find it to be quite a challenging task.

Even the first 20 seconds of the call is crucial as it can determine the entire course of the call. The first few seconds of the phone call can be a make-or-break deal for most telemarketers.

Just to make sure that you avoid the common pitfalls that most telemarketers make (but aren’t aware of), I’d like to share with you these mistakes:

1. Product-centric and not customer-centric

Understanding that your services should be centered around your customers and not on your products is the first step that will bind all things together in perfect harmony.

Most frontliners forget that aside from successfully closing the sales, what matters more is addressing what the CUSTOMER NEEDS.

According to a study conducted by Deloitte and Touche, they proposed that companies that are customer-centric are ahead by 60% in terms of profit as compared to those that are not.

Tip: Telemarketing is most effective when it is viewed as an opportunity to provide information and to address customer needs. Try seeing it in this light instead of seeing it as a sales call. What your customer needs should determine the action you are to take or propose.

2. You know nothing about your customer

There’s nothing wrong with gathering information prior to performing a sales call. This will even help you in analyzing what products would best fit the interests of your prospects.

To support this idea, 45% of online shoppers would revisit sites that recommend products according to their preferences. This goes to show that these websites used customer-related information to their advantage.

Tip: Your call should be highly personalized and crafted in a way that will meet your customer’s needs. You should obtain demographics, preferences, needs and other things to make your product relevant. Relate your services by drawing hints on what they might be looking for.

3. Unprecedented information

Usual scenario:
1. call up prospects
2. introduce once they pick up
3. get right down to business

A monologue that takes on this structure just makes the nature of the call intrusive and annoying, already taking into account that outbound calls are unsolicited. And in this case, first impression literally means everything.

Tip: Before you start offering information about the purpose of your call, it’s good to start off with statements that relate to your customers’ needs—which is exactly why you need to gather information about your prospect.

After which, you can ease through the conversation by presenting the value of the product/services you can provide.

4. Being passive

Most telemarketers would start feeling discouraged whenever a customer hints disinterest or is simply unavailable to take the call. The key here is to stay active by choosing to influence the situation. Being rejected is part of the equation but it will also challenge you to shift your mindset.

Tip: When customers are unavailable, never forget to offer a callback. Ask them what time would be most favorable for them. Assume that they would agree to your proposition.

What’s next?

 

Are there questions or suggestion that you’d like to share? If you answered that question with a “yes”, then please share your ideas in the comments section below.

© Photo Courtesy: Bahrialtay / Dollarphotoclub.com

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12 Tips to Improve the Quality of Your Call Monitoring

Call Monitoring
Call Monitoring
© viappy / Dollar Photo Club

Call monitoring is one of the best ways to make sure agents are treating customers fairly and helping your company make more sales. Unfortunately, monitoring is only useful if it is done correctly. If you are concerned about the quality of your company’s call-monitoring efforts, follow these tips for improvement.

1. Provide Consistent Feedback

Call center agents need consistent feedback to improve their performance. It’s not enough to deliver feedback once every few months and expect employees to improve on their own. Schedule weekly or monthly call reviews so agents know where they stand at all times. During these sessions, give employees specific guidelines for improving their performance.

2. Listen to a Mix of Calls

Many call center supervisors make the mistake of focusing on bad calls during training activities. Using a mix of good and bad calls makes it easier to teach agents what they should be doing when they talk to customers. Try to use a mix of 50 percent good calls and 50 percent bad calls.

3. Ask for Customer Feedback

Monitoring calls is an important part of managing a call center, but you should gather feedback from multiple sources if you want your monitoring program to be successful. Even if an employee did everything right on a call, the customer might have some useful feedback for all of your agents. Make post-call surveys a regular part of your business.

4. Monitor Live Calls

Delivering feedback after an agent has already completed a call is not always the best way to improve performance. If you have enough supervisors on staff, have them listen to live calls and provide immediate feedback. Delivering feedback immediately makes it easier for agents to identify performance issues and understand what they need to do to improve.

5. Engage Employees in the Process

Your call-monitoring program will not be very successful if you don’t engage employees in the process. Instead of delivering one-way feedback, ask agents if there is anything they want to add about a particular call. If you know why an agent veered from the call script, you’ll be better equipped to handle similar situations in the future.

6. Use Independent Call Monitors

If you have a close-knit group of agents, it might be difficult to deliver unbiased feedback on calls. In this case, you should outsource your call-monitoring activities to a neutral third party. Independent call monitors don’t have relationships with your agents, so they are able to deliver constructive feedback instead of giving in to personal biases.

7. Stay Objective

It’s difficult to stay objective when providing call feedback to an employee you know very well, but you must be objective at all times. You don’t need to be rude to the agent, but you should avoid mentioning personal topics or going easy on an under-performer because of your personal relationship.

8. Use Standardized Evaluation Forms

Use an agent scorecard to ensure agents receive consistent feedback. The scorecard should address common metrics used in the call center industry.

9. Solicit Feedback from Other Departments

Requesting feedback from your marketing, sales, and customer service departments can help you identify issues that regular call-monitoring activities do not uncover. Use an objective survey to allow other departments to provide anonymous feedback about your agents.

10. Review Call Notes

Reviewing a few seconds of call audio isn’t the best way to identify problems and determine how agents should improve their performance. Before delivering feedback, review the agent’s notes from a particular call. In some cases, the call notes help you understand why an agent handled a call in a certain way.

11. Select Calls Carefully

For best results, select calls from different types of customers or calls focused on handling different issues. If every call you monitor addresses a billing complaint, you won’t know if call center agents are struggling with technical support problems or other customer service issues. Listening to a variety of calls can also help new agents learn how to handle calls faster.

12. Determine Customer Impact

Your call-monitoring program is only successful if it improves customer service or results in improved customer satisfaction. Any time you make a change to the way you monitor calls, find out how much of an effect the change has on your customers. Run reports to see if any of your key performance indicators improved, or ask customers for direct feedback.

Conclusion

Done right, a call-monitoring program has the potential to help you make more sales and deliver better service to your customers. If you aren’t following these tips already, start following them now to see improved results. Contact us if you aren’t sure how to implement these tips, or if you need to outsource any of your call-monitoring activities.

Featured image – © viappy / Dollar Photo Club

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How to Give Constructive Criticism to Call Center Agents

Call center agents
Call center agents
© leungchopan / Dollar Photo Club

As a call center manager, you have to be comfortable giving feedback to your agents. Good feedback helps agents improve their performance and do a better job focusing on business outcomes, making your company more successful. Keep these tips in mind when you need to deliver constructive feedback to one of your call center agents.

Start with Praise

Call center agents aren’t likely to be motivated by a constant flow of negative feedback. If you must provide constructive criticism, start the coaching session by praising the employee. Giving praise first puts employees in a positive frame of mind so they are more open-minded about what you have to say.

Base Feedback on Your Observations

Your agents are more likely to take criticism seriously if it is based on your own personal observations. When you observe calls, write down notes about each agent’s attitude and adherence to your company’s call scripts. It is easier to give constructive criticism if you can point to specific issues instead of giving generalized feedback.

Maintain Eye Contact

Don’t give feedback while you are reading a script or staring at your computer screen. Wait until you have time to look employees in the eye. Maintaining eye contact shows that you respect your employees and want them to succeed.

Put Aside Personal Problems

Before you deliver feedback, set aside any personal problems you might have with that particular employee. If you go into a meeting with these personal problems in mind, there’s a good chance your feedback won’t be very constructive. If the issue is too big to overcome on your own, ask another call center supervisor to deliver the feedback instead.

Watch Your Tone

When you meet with an employee to discuss performance issues, pay attention to the tone of your voice. If you sound irritated or stern, the employee might think you are being too critical without offering any constructive feedback.

Address Problems in Confidence

No one likes to receive negative feedback in front of their colleagues. If you need to deliver constructive criticism, meet with the agent in a private office or conference room. Discussing performance issues in confidence eliminates the risk of embarrassing agents, making them more likely to work on their performance.

Use Objective Data

Back up your constructive criticism with objective data collected by automated tools. Using objective data eliminates the risk of appearing biased against a particular agent. For example, if an agent has a call handling time that is longer than it should be, you can easily show the agent his call times on an automated report.

Ask for 360-Degree Feedback

Before delivering constructive criticism, ask for feedback from customers and other employees. Gathering feedback from multiple sources sometimes makes call center managers aware of problems they didn’t know existed. Requesting feedback from other sources also makes you more aware of how each agent is perceived by customers and colleagues.

Give Specific Examples

If you are providing feedback about call handling issues, use specific examples to show employees what they need to improve. Review past calls together so each agent knows what is acceptable and what is not. If an agent strayed from your company’s call script, for example, explain why this is unacceptable and provide tips for avoiding the problem in the future.

Empower Agents to Handle Problems

Constructive criticism is only valuable if an employee uses it to improve their performance. If agents do not have the power to create change, things will stay the same no matter how many times you discuss performance issues. If company policies need to be changed to give employees more control, talk to executives about making the necessary changes.

Follow Up on Goals

If you never follow up with employees after delivering constructive criticism, you’ll never know if they are benefiting from the feedback. When you deliver criticism, schedule a meeting for several weeks later to discuss what steps the employee has taken to resolve performance problems.

Explain How to Improve

Some call center agents don’t know what to do with negative feedback, even if it is delivered in a constructive manner. Make it easier for your employees to improve their performance by giving specific suggestions for improvement. If you deliver feedback about an agent’s use of call scripts, let him know he can improve by sticking to the script instead of improvising during calls.

Conclusion

Constructive criticism is a good tool for letting employees know about their shortcomings and providing guidance for performance improvement. If you plan to use constructive feedback, be ready to share specific examples of performance issues. Delivered correctly, constructive criticism can help you improve call center performance without losing valuable agents.

Featured image – © leungchopan / Dollar Photo Club

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Ways to Increase Agents Product Knowledge

Product Knowledge
Product Knowledge
© kbuntu / Dollar Photo Club

Comprehensive product knowledge is an important factor for providing excellent customer service and experiences to the customers. Employees who are more knowledgeable about what they sell are more preferred by customers to answer their inquiries. Outsourced call center agents become the company’s representatives of reliability and expertise. The impression a customer leaves with depends on how an agent supports the transaction from the moment it begins.

Customer service representatives that know the products well are the most effective employees. Call center outsourcing agents who have this ability are able to generate more sales, have faster problem resolution times, and better performance in general.

Here are ways to prepare call center agents with the skills they need to exceed a customers expectations.

1. Regular and Standardized Training

Consistent training is an efficient method of making sure that agents are able to master the standardized processes from the same resources. Training should be conducted accordingly with the frequency of product updates.

2. Firsthand Participation

The effectiveness of a training session only comes into effect if it is practiced and put into use. A firsthand experience guarantees familiarity over the various products and services being offered to the customers.

3. Great Compensation

Training programs are effective. However, compensation and rewards must be added in order to motivate inbound and outbound call center agents to perform better. Companies can use a “points” system to recognize top performing agents and encourage those who are not meeting expectations.

4. Training Modules and Guidelines

A shared database, or reference booklet is useful for agents who want to access accurate information anytime. Guidelines such as information posted on bulletin boards and desks can also be used as cheat sheets. This kind of reference material is both practical and effective.

By implementing these small changes, managers can transform agents into experts that can convert leads into sales in no time. Turn a boring telemarketing spiel into a sales transaction effectively and watch your agents’ numbers hit new peaks.

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Most Effective Ways to Turn an Irate Customer into a Happy One

Irate Customer
Irate Customer
© ArtFamily / Dollar Photo Club

Philippine call center agents will always encounter angry customers, especially in an inbound call center setting. Even companies with the excellent customer service and product line encounter irate customers on a day to day basis and it is very important to fix the problem immediately.

Here are proven and tested ways to appease irate customers.

Apologize

Apologizing sincerely is the best way to express regret over the incident. In cases such as natural calamities or delays because of third party vendors, agents should always make sure to apologize even if it is not their fault and find a way to solve it. An apology should contain empathy that tells them they are being listened to, their importance and that the company is on their side. Learn to earn the customers trust as well.

Assessment

Assess the customer’s problem by asking what it is all about. Let them talk about their issue before asking any questions. If you question about their capability to fix it before they could explain further, the caller might see it as an insult instead of assistance.

Settlement

Earn back a customer’s loyalty and trust by always giving them something extra. Customers have gone through a lot which costs a lot of time. The least you can do is to extend an extra pleasant customer experience and service for them.

Follow up

Problems and fixes will vary according to the situation, but after-service should be done regardless of how small the problem is.

Customer service does not end after the product has been replaced or when the service is troubleshooted. It is important to make sure that the customer is satisfied after providing the initial customer service. There are three ways to facilitate after-service.

• Promptly – Following up promptly shows an agent’s sincere concern for the customer. This practice should be done if the problem has been transferred to another representative or escalated to another department.

• In-house Update – The call center agent should follow up within departments about the concern of the customer.

• Finalization – Conclude the transaction with a formal letter of agreement or a call that signifies the stability of a client relationship. This approach assures the customer that the problem has been solved already.

Do not forget to keep records of all the transaction so it will be easier to pull them out if another situation arises.

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Ways to Reduce Hold Time and Dropped Calls in Call Centers

Dropped Calls
Hold Time
© Vladislav Kochelaevs / Dollar Photo Club

It is a customer’s worst nightmare to be put on hold. Callers who seek out the assistance of call center agents are in a hurry and want solutions fast, which is why every second matters. “Please hold” are two words that can severely  damage the customer experience. At times, it can also raise tempers up. In worst cases, many of these calls result in hang ups or abandonment.

A customer’s problem determines the amount of patience he has on the phone. It is less likely for a caller to hang up if the issue is believed to be unresolvable without the aid of an inbound call center agent. Dropped calls are usually the result of callers who have found a solution while waiting in queue. A BPO with high dropped call rates does not look good to potential clients. Instead of using the dreaded phrase “please hold”, give the customers other options that they can choose from.

Easy DIY Options

Easy and self-servicing solutions are more convenient than letting customers wait on the phone. Examples are mobile apps, FAQ pages, and even video tutorials. With these easy-to-use applications, customers are able to do things themselves, and at the same time, rid the call center of abandoned call volumes.

Mobile and Desktop Channels

Not all customers are comfortable talking on the phone. Open non-voice channels such as email, social media (Facebook and Twitter), live chat and even text messaging. This can also be a great option for customers to contact again after the call has been ended without the issue first being resolved.

Always Perform Callbacks

It is always appreciated when customer service representatives call back when they’ve promised to do so. Callbacks are not only limited to phone calls, but are also applicable when a follow up is done through email. This method reassures clients that their concerns are not neglected. It shows that the service provider cares and chooses to fix the issue even outside the first transaction.

A Call center that truly cares for its customers will always provide excellent customer service. Pleasant customer experiences leads to a good reputation, and most importantly, repeat business.

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Effects of Good Communication Lines in a Call Center

Communication Lines
Communication Lines
© UMB-O / Dollar Photo Club

Solid relationships are built through good communication. In a Philippine call center, it is very important that communications are kept clear as to maintain a sense of efficiency and urgency. The opportunity to communicate with colleagues leads to better teamwork and even increased productivity rate. Here are the benefits of having good communication in the workplace.

Promotes real and engaging conversations

Technology has enabled people to communicate even better with almost everyone around the globe. However, its effect on society has made real live conversations a thing of the past. When call center outsourcing encourage employees to have face-to-face conversations such as meetings and coaching. Though effective tools that enhance communication is very important, having real interaction helps agents in dealing with customers as they practice their interpersonal skills. Sending emails and chat messages are the primary tools of BPO employees to communicate. These types of technology are essential when it comes to keeping up with different time zones and a fast paced environment. However, real conversations are important to build rapport among co-workers.

Acceptance of Constructive Criticism

Coaching agents not only improves their performance but as well as gives the opportunity for employees to speak out about their performance. Therefore, it will improve their communication skills. Assessment should be concise and encouraging. Generic sounding comments will most likely not have an impact on employees. Constructive criticism should be given for inbound and outbound call center agents to improve and realize their mistakes.

Improves Listening Skills

Agents who constantly exchange feedback become good listeners in the process. An employee with good listening skills can help delegate accurate information within the workplace.

Philippine BPO centers that improve communication channels have employees who are more productive and motivated. When agents have the freedom of professionally communicating with each other, teams become stronger and will give better performance results.

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Managing the Effects of Stress in a Call Center

call center
Stress in a Call Center
© WavebreakMediaMicro / Dollar Photo Club

Stress is a common experience in any workplace and there are many factors that contribute to it. Meeting deadlines, shifting schedules or the pressure to make sure that customer concerns are met while keeping metrics high are only some of those stress contributors.

Call centers are the most affected by this kind of stress, having a negative effect on their performance and attitude if it is not addressed. Bothered employees will not be productive, or as productive as they can be.

In order to help address the stressful situations at your call center, learn to manage the stress with these tips.

1. Productivity

Stress is the number one cause for a decline in efficiency. Agents who are stressed are not able to focus and will not perform well. There will also be more absences and tardiness. Help by trying to understand what might have caused such stress and figure out solutions together.

2. Customer Experience

Employees who bring their personal problems at work become stressed and grumpy. When this happens, the customers are the first ones who get to notice. Avoid having low customer service ratings by reminding agents to leave their worries behind and just work pleasantly. Motivational activities are also a great way to improve their mood prior to taking calls.

3. Resignation

Exhausted agents often think about resigning. The effects of stress are physical, mental, emotional and even psychological. When employees are burned out, all they want to do is quit. Avoid increased tension by providing them a healthy work environment to balance their professional and personal life.

4. Expenses

The cost of replacing agents are expensive. Advertising, hiring, training and paying for premiums are all put to waste if an employee quits right away. High turnover rates are also a sign of poor management. Avert the frequency of replacing agents by offering newly hired employees with benefits and a working environment that they were promised with.

An office environment is made better by creating a positive work-life balance atmosphere for everyone. Agents are more productive when they are excited about going to work and concerned with operations and each other. A call center that does not have constant employee turnover will have a happy work environment since new agents and tenured ones are able to get acquainted even more.

Call Center agents work in a stressful industry and it highly affects the customers if they are stressed. It is essential for management to look after the level of stress in the office for everyone’s sake.

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