Good communication skills are critical for call center agents. That’s nothing you didn’t already know. But people communicate differently, and flawless communication is a hard thing to achieve. How do you train agents to be the best communicators possible?
Chances are, good communication skills are high on your priority list during hiring. But even with a great call center staff, those skills can be honed and improved through proper policies, training, strong leadership. Here are some tips to give your agents the best chance of success.
Training is crucial to the success of call center employees, but many call centers move through training too quickly to get new hires on the floor. Take the time to properly train your employees in a practical and hands-on way. Walk them through various customer scenarios, and have them practice how they would handle the situation. Talk to them about different communication styles, and instruct them how to respond. If someone is screaming, what’s the best way to calm them down? If the person is having trouble explaining the problem, how can they ask the right questions to fully understand it? Role playing is helpful in training because it gives the agents hands-on experience.
Have your team sit down and meet with new hires before they hit the floor. This can be done one-on-one or in a small group setting. Introduce them to senior agents, supervisors and department heads. Have team members explain their roles and explain how they can help in various situations. Knowing names and faces in advance makes employees feel more comfortable if they need to approach someone for help when there’s a problem – communication or otherwise.
Tap successful agents for mentoring
Your top agents can be wonderful mentors for other call center employees. You can introduce the buddy system, pairing the best communicators with new or struggling agents and seating them next to one another. The agents with something to learn can directly observe how successful communication sounds, and they’ll be able to model that. You can also enlist top agents to lead some sort of communication training course or seminar to share best practices.
Assign tasks based on skills
People naturally have certain strengths and weaknesses, and that can actually be a benefit in the call center. Think of how a restaurant operates. The waitress doesn’t need to be a good chef, and the chef doesn’t need to know how to carry a tray. If someone is well spoken but more of an introvert, assign them to web chat or social media customer service. If someone is great at conflict resolution, direct irate callers to them. We can train people on how to communicate best, but we can’t change who people are. It’s better to play to their strengths.
Explain why good communication is so important
To be invested, call center employees need to understand why good communication is so important in the call center. Explain that they have the power to shape the customer’s experience. They have a direct role in creating brand loyalty. They can either be creating customers for life or sending customers right to the competition. Once agents understand how important their role is to the brand, they will be more motivated to provide a level of service that builds customer loyalty.
Patience is one of the best skills an agent can have. The job can be stressful, and call center employees will undoubtedly have to deal with unhappy or irate customers. The key is not taking any of that personally or reacting to it in a rash way. Above all else, encourage employees to remain calm no matter what happens. Getting angry never makes the experience better – for the customer or the employee.
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