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About a month ago, my shoe order got lost in transit. Naturally, I called customer service to track it down. I sat on hold for 45 minutes, only to be told, “sorry, I can’t help you — our system says your order was delivered.”

Another time, I spent a good hour of my work day going back and forth with my medical insurance customer service and the billing office of a hospital. Neither of them wanted to take the blame for a billing error.

We all have bad customer service stories to share. They leave a bad taste and drive us away from confronting errors with service. It becomes too much of an effort to call and waste precious time, only to be disappointed with the outcome. 

Turns out, there are as many negative reviews of customer service teams on the internet as there are nightmarish stories from call center agents about abusive customers. And as a call center manager, you want your agents to stay far away from both. 

How to improve your call center QA and deliver a better customer experience

Some 95% of consumers worldwide consider customer service a defining factor in their brand choices and loyalty. Your goal is to deliver a consistently positive customer experience at every touchpoint. And, you can help your agents deliver on this expectation with your call center quality assurance program. 

Easier said than done, right? 

In fact, 37% of companies lack time to collect and analyze their QA data, 31% struggle to have the time and resources to coach and train people to read the data, and 25% lack the necessary technology to do so. So, how do you improve your call center’s reputation and quality when you’re operating with this kind of deficit?

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In the midst of all the juggling you do in your call center, there’s room to improve your call center’s quality assurance with simple coaching methods. You can build them into your busiest of days.

Let’s consider four topics that will directly impact your call center QA and improve your training and coaching.

1. Train agents to tell customers “no” and set expectations

Back in college, I used to work on a customer service team for a moving company. I can recall the tensions between the service reps and the sales team. Promises were made to a customer that ultimately just couldn’t be fulfilled. As a call center agent, it’s in these moments you want to be a “yes” person. Often, it’s much easier to say yes to a customer even if, long term, this gets the company or product team in a pickle.

Perhaps a customer calls in with a feature request (for a feature they thought your company already supported). Or, maybe they’re eager for a refund for a product they purchased without doing research. Your responsibility as a manager is to prevent silos from building between your team and other departments. You’re tasked with maintaining customer relationships and protecting your company’s goals.

Role-play this scenario with agents: 

Play back call recordings (both good and bad) to demonstrate how to handle a sticky situation. The one where saying “yes” is the easy route for an agent, but not necessarily the right route. Train agents to avoid the simple “yes,” the “I’ll add it to the backlog,” or the “I’ll take a look!” All these expressions give false hope to customers, leaving them likely disappointed with the eventual outcome.

Encourage agents to kindly thank the customer for the idea. And perhaps, create a customer-facing feedback system so customers can share their ideas. That way other departments get visibility into customer feedback and don’t have to take your word for it. 

Then, follow up on how your agents handle feedback and requests from customers on their agent scorecard. These enable you to track how well agents meet customer expectations. And, they give you a jumping off point to strengthen your call center QA program with better coaching.

2. Encourage agents to staying mindful and alert with angry customers

Your heart rate increases, your face gets hot, you feel something swell in the back of your throat, your voice starts to shake — we’ve all been there. The person on the other end of the phone call sounds demanding, accusatory, angry. Our bodies start to react. We get defensive or nervous. 

Customer service interactions can bring out our emotions in a split second.

When customers start to get angry or frustrated, it’s natural to take personal offense. But, the inability to handle angry customers can result in a bad company reputation and losses to your long-term revenue. In fact, studies show the angrier the customer, the more money they can get from a customer service agent through refunds. You can’t put a bandaid refund on a severed relationship with a customer. Ultimately, you and your company are losing out on loyalty and trust long-term when you concede to customer abuse.

[Read Next] Train your agents to sound the alarm on abusive customer interactions

Coach agents to listen intently when a customer expresses anger. Help the customer feel heard. Give agents examples of when to empathize with the customer and when to apologize.

And, when an interaction between an agent and customer goes south, go back to the recorded call between the agent and customer for a QA review. Then, use in-line feedback on the recording to identify specific areas where the agent can improve their response next time.

Let agents review your feedback or sit with them to go over these interactions. Perhaps the agent cut the customer off, escalating her anger. Or, maybe the agent’s tone of voice revealed his own irritation toward the customer. Capturing and dissecting these nuanced moments gives your agents specific examples. Then, you can coach them through better responses.

3. Prioritize efficiency alongside effectiveness to get customers to their end goal (faster)

It’s not often a customer calls in just to chat to an agent for an hour. Customers reach out because they have a specific question, problem, or need. Your average customer calling into a customer service line is squeezing the call into their already busy schedule. Lengthy interactions typically don’t help your customer experience.

One easy way to help your call center QA? Coach agents to act efficiently with every customer interaction. Sometimes, this requires a bit of work from you to ensure your call center platform works efficiently to funnel these interactions to agents, too.

What are some easy coaching tools to reduce handle times for your customers? 

Create scripts for your internal knowledge base to guide agents through different kinds of customer calls, emails and chats. Use call recordings and transcriptions with both low handle times and high handle times to show your agents differences in how each interaction plays out. Have agents with long handle times listen to the shorter interactions to identify what trends slow them down. 

Let’s say an agent — Jane — consistently forgets to enter customer information into fields as the customer talks, causing the customer to have to repeat essential information multiple times. This is a bad habit Jane might not be aware of in-the-moment, but when she hears it on a recording, she can take note and act against this trend. 

If you have specific agents struggling to get through calls efficiently, customize agent scorecards to draw attention to efficiency metrics, so you can focus on areas to improve. Scorecards are a great way to measure success in your agent’s handle times. But, they aren’t one size fits all. Create QA strategies to fit your call center team’s (and your customers’) specific needs and goals.

[Learn More] Give agents more meaningful feedback with Sharpen’s built-in QA tools

4. Coach agents to manage escalated calls with poise

Mistakes happen. And sometimes agents lose control of a customer interaction. It’s ok! That’s what you’re here for – to step into an interaction when needed, then coach your agents to handle future issues on their own. 

As agents escalate calls, it’s important to coach them to pass on the interaction smoothly in order to save the customer experience. When creating your call center QA strategy, it’s obviously best to keep escalated calls to a minimum. But, sometimes, your team can’t avoid them.

When a customer has an issue, coach agents to keep strong customer notes during the conversation. Have them record and document relevant customer needs and questions so the supervisor who handles the escalation has full context at a glance. 

Maintain your CRM software and create seamless transitions between channels with omnichannel technology, too. This keeps customer records clear no matter who the customer talks to or how they reach out. When all your systems work together to share information, your contact center employees have all the customer knowledge they need to solve problems.

How to use speech analytics to improve your QA and train on escalations:

When you monitor transcribed calls, use speech analytics to monitor for specific words your customers use. Using speech analytics as part of your call center QA can alert you when customers ask to “speak to a manager” or when they say specific trigger words, like  “frustrated.” Keeping note of the words your customers use helps you shape your coaching lessons to help agents get better at de-escalating calls. 

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Monitoring interactions with speech analytics will also help you fill in the gaps in your internal knowledge base and create better scripts for agents. Escalations often occur because an agent doesn’t have the necessary information, knowledge, or authority to handle the issue. So, create a culture of knowledge. Have a strong internal knowledge base so agents feel more competent and authoritative with each customer. Build knowledge usage into your quality assurance strategy and track it as a metric for your agents. Motivate your employees to learn more about your product and services. Maybe even consider adding a “customer history” section to your agent scorecard, then grading your agents on how often they reference a customer’s past interactions and context with your company.  Reward your team for learning and growing their customer knowledge every day.

The essential relationship between call center QA and coaching

It can be overwhelming to maintain customer happiness and provide a positive experience without the right tools and strategy to help you. Establishing a quality assurance program in your call center starts with coaching and building up your agents.

Focus on particular coaching moments that make sense in your call center. Take advantage of available technology to have in-the-moment coaching.  Personalize your call centertools to meet yours and your agents’ needs to take your QA program above and beyond.

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