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Call Center News: Why Employees Leave

I just read a great article called, “7 Reasons Why Employees Leave.” The number one reason employees leave  is due to a poor working relationship with their immediate supervisor.

That’s crucial considering the high turnover rates within a contact center. Your Team Managers need to coach, lead and inspire your front line agents. However, since they are usually promoted directly from the front line, Team Managers need training to become effective supervisors.

This training involves three major areas:

1) Coaching and leadership skills:  how to give feedback, coach and motivate your agents

2) Management skills:  knowledge of your company’s human resource policies, employment law, and how to resolve day-to-day staff issues such as vacation requests, sick days, etc.

3) Technical skills:  knowing how to use call monitoring equipment, and awareness of the impact of scheduling, forecasting, queue routing, etc.

New Team Managers require training in all three areas so they can effectively help their front line agents. Using this training to develop a supportive Team Manager/Agent relationship is one way to improve morale and reduce employee turnover.

Call Center Lies

I just read a newspaper article that made me quite angry. This article, available for a time on the Toronto Star web site, tells the story of a call center that deceives customers into buying their product.

Remember, one of the keys to “ethical upselling” is to be, well, ethical!

So when I read this call center was lying to their callers, telling them they were calling from Calgary, Canada, instead of overseas, I was enraged! For one thing, I am Canadian. So I don’t like Agents pretending to be Canadian, just to trick a caller into trusting them.

But, there’s another key point: You can never have a mutually beneficial, ongoing relationship with someone based on lies. Repeat business depends upon trust. Beginning a sales relationship based upon lies kills that trust.

While some customers may be more comfortable buying from someone who pretends to be geographically close, I’d rather buy from someone who is honest about their office location and genuinely wants to help me.

Related tips:
This article gives 12 tips to improve your call center sales results. This related story shows how to train the Generation Y (less than 30 years old) employees in your call center. Here is a list of some popular call center training programs.

Why Your Shouldn’t Cut Customer Service Staff During a Recession

Fortune Magazine has an interesting article on why companies should NOT cut customer service staff during a recession. I agree with that article. Personally, I became more demanding during this recession. I was more cost conscious and demanded better service. I’m probably not the only customer to think that way.

Just this month, my wife and I were shopping at a clothing store. We wanted to buy a couple of items. But when we saw a line up of 20 customers at the cash register, with only 2 staff members to serve them, we put down our merchandise and left. That store lost a sale due to lack of staff.

The same thing happens with call centers, of course. As your average wait time rises, your call center’s abandon rate skyrockets. Thankfully, better workforce management and online technology can help provide better service.

Take a look at their article and tell me what you think. It’s at:

Related tips:
This article gives 12 tips to improve your call center sales results. This related story shows how to train the Generation Y (less than 30 years old) employees in your call center. Here is a list of some popular call center training programs.

Call Centers Move from Overseas to U.S., Bringing Jobs – TIME

I just read an excellent TIME magazine article describing how call center jobs are shifting back to America. But rather than being routed to traditional “brick and mortar” call center buildings, these calls are being routed to home based agents.

There are several advantages to this, such as reduced occupancy costs and lower employee turnover rates versus a traditional call center. There are also disadvantages such as lower employee morale.

Read the article and tell me what you think of this trend. It’s at:  http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1977027,00.html

Free Webinar on “Customer Service: 5 Tips for Handling Irate Callers”

I want to let you know I’ll be running another call center “lunch and learn” webinar on Wednesday, March 24,  from Noon – 12:45 PM EST

It’s normally $27 to register. But, you can register for free, as one of my readers.

“Customer Service:
5 Tips for Handling Irate Callers”

Great customer service includes helping even the most difficult callers with their problems. This webinar will help you and your team deal with “challenging customer service issues” more effectively over the phone.

The material covered in this 45-minute webinar is taken from our full-day workshop on handling irate callers. At the end of the session, you will have new ideas to improve your team’s customer service skills.

For your complimentary registration, go to: http://bit.ly/irate_callers

About the Speaker:

Mike Aoki photoMike Aoki is the President of Reflective Keynotes Inc., a Toronto based training firm.  His call centre, sales and presentation skills workshops help people improve their over-the-phone and face-to-face communication skills.  For tips on how to improve your customer service, sales and public speaking skills, visit:   www.reflectivekeynotes.com

* What is a Webinar?
It is just like a conference-room based seminar, however, you view the presentation through your Web-browser and listen to the audio through your regular telephone or your computer speaker. So, you save on travel costs, driving time and parking.

* What do I need to attend?
* A computer, web browser and high speed Internet access
* A speaker/headset for your computer, OR you can use your phone to dial a local Toronto number to hear the audio.

For your complimentary registration, go to: http://bit.ly/irate_callers

10 Tips for Handling Irate Callers

By Mike Aoki

Help your caller solve their problems

“Customers don’t call with compliments, they call with complaints.” I learned that lesson the hard way as a brand new CSR at the phone company, nearly 20 years ago. Out of 50,000 calls, only 3 people called to thank us for their phone service; 49,997 people called with complaints.

That’s the purpose of a customer service call center:  to help your clients solve a problem. However, before you can help your clients with a problem, you first have to deal with their anger.

Here are 10 customer service tips for dealing with irate callers:

1) Stay calm and try not to take it personally:
* When a client is upset, their emotions can become contagious. Remember, your client is upset about their situation. They are not upset about you.
* Acknowledge the client’s right to be upset: “I’d be upset too, if that happened to me.”
* Breathe deeply, unclench your muscles and focus on the client’s needs rather than your own reactions.

2) Let the client vent, without interrupting:
* If you interrupt the client, they will become angrier.
* Instead, let the client vent until they start to slow down. Listen empathetically to their issues without interrupting: “Tell me what happened next.”
* Continue to acknowledge their concerns.

3) Acknowledge the client’s emotions and apologize, if appropriate:
* Once a client’s feelings are acknowledged, they will usually become calmer and more open to solutions.
* If appropriate, apologize. This does not necessarily mean you agree with the client’s position. It means you emphasize with how the client is feeling.
* Some possible phrases are:
o “I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this.”
o Many people would feel the same, if it happened to them.”

4) Help the client focus on their current needs:
* Clients may ramble when they are upset. They may even continue to argue with you, after you’ve agreed with them. When someone is upset, their bodies are flooded with adrenaline and they can no longer tell what’s on topic, or off.
* Talk slowly. Calmly ask questions to re-direct the conversation back on track.
* Check for understanding at each step: “If I understand you correctly, you plugged in our product and but it didn’t power on.”

5) Give the client control over their level of disclosure by asking permission to ask questions:
* Some clients may feel threatened when you ask them for additional information.
* Ask permission to ask questions about sensitive topics.
o For example, “To help you, would you mind if I ask you a few questions? Some of them may seem very personal, so if you’re not comfortable with a question, please let me know.”

6) Avoid jargon:
* When people are upset, they may react angrily to jargon or unfamiliar words.
* Avoid the use of jargon, unless you are sure the client will understand it.
* Keep your phrases short and simple. Don’t use company acronyms unless you think the client will understand them.

7) Keep it simple:
* When people are upset, they lose the ability to take in new information.
* Give only one instruction at a time. Walk the client through the process step-by-step. Repeat directions frequently.
* Confirm any key client information by repeating back to them any key phone numbers or appointment information.

8) Seek a full resolution, if you can:
* Offer a solution and then ask a “confirmation question” such as, “How well that does work for you?” By asking, “How WELL does that work for you”, you are focusing your client’s mind on the benefits of your solution.
* If the client agrees, proceed with your solution. If they disagree, ask additional probing questions so you can find a better solution.

9) Offer a partial resolution, when appropriate:
* Sometimes, you may be unable to fulfill a customer’s entire request. But, you can still offer a partial solution.
* Offer to help with part of the task: “While it takes a week to repair your original item, we can offer you a loaner item you can use.”
* Offer an alternative time: “While we can’t have it delivered overnight, we can have it sent to you within three days.”
* Offer an alternative resource: “If you need the item immediately, we also have a store located on 123 Main Street, in your city where you can pick it up.”

10) Agree to disagree, if you must:
* Myth: “All conflict can be resolved.” There are some customer service conflicts which should NOT be resolved. For instance, if a client asks for something that is illegal, or violates safety regulations, you need to refuse their request. You may also have to refuse their request due to company policies.
* In situations like this, explain why you are unable to fulfill their request. People don’t want to hear, “It our policy…” They want to be treated as intelligent adults and told the reason “why” their request can’t be satisfied.

Use these 10 tips to help your Agents and Supervisors deal with irate callers and escalations.

© 2010 Reflective Keynotes Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Related tips:
This article gives 12 tips to improve your call center sales results. This related story shows how to train the Generation Y (less than 30 years old) employees in your call center. Here is a list of some popular call center training programs.