Call centers are often generally regarded as terrible places to work, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are our 13 tips and tricks on how call centers can make their employees’ jobs a little easier.
The average contact center has a turnover rate of between 30% and 45%. And from those who have left, you may hear plenty of horror stories about their time at the call center. In fact, there are so many such examples that it's not much of a surprise when the general opinion about how it is to work in a call center isn’t too positive. It’s stressful, exhausting, and only suitable for short-term employment. But does it actually have to be that bad?
If you search on Google, besides several horrifying stories about call center employees' daily work, you can also find plenty of tips and tricks from veteran workers. Those tips will help you make the job a little less stressful, and maybe even enjoyable. We’ve compiled a list of the 22 most useful tips and tricks on how to make your life in a call center easier, more productive, and more satisfying.
#1 Create a to-do list and sort tasks by priority
It might sound a bit silly when I tell you to create a to-do list, but writing down your tasks and goals can help you manage your work-time better.
- You can see what you have to do that day, which tasks you can do in a flash, and which will take you more time and energy
- You can sort out the tasks by priority and get the most pressing matters out of the way first. This is especially useful if you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do, since it may not seem as daunting after noting it all down and putting it in order.
Besides, crossing out the tasks you have already finished gives you a boost of confidence and makes it easier to deal with the rest of your work.
#2 Don’t multitask
Think that multitasking will allow you to finish your daily task faster? It’s actually the other way round. When doing several tasks at once, not only is it difficult to properly focus on either of the tasks, but you are also far more likely to make mistakes. So completing many tasks at once can actually end up with you spending MORE time working. It’s much better to focus on one task for a specific amount of time (like 30 minutes or an hour) and then moving on to a completely different task, rather than attempt to do both at once.
#3 Take notes while on calls
Making call notes is one of your typical tasks, right? But if you only write down the notes after a call has ended, there’s a risk you might forget about essential details mentioned during it. A much better practice is to make notes during your calls.
- It will help you remember all details and suggestions given to the caller.
- It will save you quite some time you would otherwise spend on ACW - just copy the notes you already took into your call log and you’re done.
#4 It’s okay to not know something!
You might sometimes think that both callers and management expect you to be a walking encyclopedia of answers to all possible questions and issues. But even veteran sales reps don’t know the answer to every question and sometimes need to ask for help.You can’t solve every problem and satisfy 100% of customers, as some things will be beyond your control.
Rather than pretend you know the answer when you don’t (the caller will quickly notice that), admit honestly that you can’t answer the question or issue but that you can contact someone who will know. That will make you come across like a helpful and professional agent, not a “know-it-all.”
#5 Don’t tell a customer you are new here
While it’s perfectly fine to tell a caller you don’t know an answer to a question or how to solve a given issue, you can’t justify it by saying that you were only recently hired. If you do, you might make the customer doubt your abilities to solve their issue, and they might ask to be transferred to a different agent. So even if you are a novice, avoid mentioning or implying it to a customer.
#6 Ask for help if you need it
We all have bad days when the work doesn’t go the way we want it to.
- Is something not clear to you?
- Do you need help using the phone system or other call center tools?
- Do you have a problem with filling in your paperwork?
Don’t hesitate to ask other coworkers for tips or help if you feel like you have too much on your plate. You don’t have to do everything on your own - accepting someone else’s help once in a while and helping others in return is what makes a great team.
#7 Get to know your phone tools and knowledge database
Needing help with an unexpected issue or task that you are unfamiliar with is one thing, but during calls you won’t have much time to ask a coworker for help with a tool or search through the knowledge base.
So to avoid a nerve-wracking situation when you can’t find a necessary article in the database or when you forget how to perform a given task in the phone system (which won’t make a good impression on the caller), take your time to learn how your phone tools work inside-out and what the main features and specifications of the products you offer are. Not only will that boost your own confidence, but your knowledge will also impress callers.
#8 Write a call script
Learning all there is about a product or system is important, but when you have to make several calls during a day, you still might get stuck. But if you have a handy guide nearby, you can quickly get back on track.
Call scripts are incredibly helpful for anyone who has to make tons of calls every day
Call scripts are especially convenient during hectic days or as guides for new agents that are just starting to learn the ropes, as having a pre-written dialogue can take a lot of stress off their shoulders.
A pro-tip here is to add answers to frequently answered questions, ways to deal with rude customers, or tips to overcome sales objections to your script.
#9 Analyze your calls
It takes a lot of practice to be able to offer exceptional customer support. With each phone call you make, you will learn more and can use that knowledge to improve your skills for the next call. But when you make dozens of calls each day, remembering every detail from them is virtually impossible.
Fortunately, now you can record all your calls just by pressing one button and store them to analyze later whenever you wish, both to identify your strengths and to find areas in which you could improve.
Our advice is to play those recordings to a coworker and ask them for an opinion - they might point out things that you didn’t think about or give you tips on dealing with specific problems.
#10 Speak slowly and calmly
Customers can immediately sense an agent’s mood from the way they speak. You have surely had many situations when you called someone, and the person on the other end made you feel like you were a nuisance, right? What was your response to that? Wishing to end the call as soon as possible? If the agent sounds frustrated or irritated, that makes the caller nervous as well. However, if agents speak in a natural and upbeat voice, that conversely makes callers feel more at ease.
Talking at a rapid pace can also frustrate the caller. For you, it may sound like you want to give me as much information as possible, but for the caller, it might seem like you want to end the call as soon as possible. Besides, speaking fast makes it difficult for the caller to understand what you are saying.
#11 Smile while talking on the phone
Following on from the previous point - do you know a great way to make yourself sound cheerful when answering a call? Smiling while doing so! This might sound like a strange tip (smiling into a phone recorder?), but according to several bodies of research it does work.
Smiling changes your tone of voice for a more positive one, and your callers can hear it!
You can test it out for yourself - try saying something with a smile and then say the same thing with a neutral expression. You’ll probably notice that your voice sounds more friendly and upbeat in the former case. Starting a call with a smile is a great way to set a positive tone for the whole conversation.
#12 Don’t leave the caller disappointed
When solving a customer’s issue, do not ever leave them with an answer or solution that makes them upset or disappointed, as this might make them leave the company in a flash.
For example, I once called a company selling computer optimization software to tell them that my license was marked as expired even though it should have been valid for five more months. The support agent’s answer? If I didn’t buy the license straight from their shop and didn’t register it through their system then they can’t help me, and I need to buy a new license. Did I do that? No, I simply found a different program that did the same job and deleted the previous one.
Before ending a call, make sure your customer is satisfied with the answer you gave them and that they don’t have any additional questions. In case you will be following up, also inform them when you will call again.
#13 Do put your callers on hold
Customers do not like being put on hold, as it makes the call last longer. But if it will actually help them get their problem solved faster, they are much more likely to agree. If you need to ask a superior or coworker for advice or an explanation, don’t hesitate to put the customer on hold. But that doesn’t mean you can leave them hanging!
- First, ask your customers if they are willing to wait for a while on hold while you ask a coworker for help with their issues.
- If they agree, tell them (if you know) how long they will be put on hold for and that you will get back to them as soon as possible.
- After returning to the call, thank the customer for staying on hold.
- If a customer says that they don’t want to stay on hold (if they are busy, for example), ask them if and when you can contact them later.
Customers prefer getting their issues solved on the first call rather than having to make several. If that means they have to spend a bit more time on the line, most of them are okay with it.
#14 Ask the right questions
You might get callers that will tell you precisely what is happening and with what exactly they need help - they have already checked all possible causes and pinpointed the main problem. But most callers only know that they have a problem and might have the wrong idea of what is causing it.
In such a situation, you might either take it at face value and try to solve the issue straight away (without knowing enough), or you could probe around to find the real problem.
Here’s a couple of questions that you can ask to find out what exactly is bothering the caller:
- What happened when you tried to…?
- When exactly did the issue start?
- How does the issue look (or sound) to you?
- What have you already tried to do with…?
Learning more about the issue that the customer is calling about without jumping to conclusions straight away can help to speed things up (as you don’t have to try out a number of solutions) and enable you to solve the real problem during the first call.
#15 Be exceptionally patient with elderly people
Dealing with elderly customers’ phone calls comes with its own challenges. Firstly, it might be difficult for them to explain to you exactly what problem they have or what they want you to do for them, so you need to give them extra attention and ask them detailed questions.
It might also take them longer to make decisions or respond to your questions, so you need to stay patient, listen carefully to them, and ensure they have understood the instructions you gave them (you can suggest that they write them down) and are satisfied with the way the issue was handled.
#16 Admit to your mistakes
For some reason, plenty of people (and companies) seem to think that if they pretend they are infallible and that they never make mistakes, then customers will be more confident in their service or product. And quite often, that strategy backfires when a company tries to cover up a glaring mistake they made instead of simply apologizing to the customer. We are all humans who make mistakes after all.
So whether you made a mistake during a call with a client or made an error in your paperwork, admit to it and fix it. That will show you are taking responsibility for your actions and are willing to face the music if you mess up. And trust me, nothing makes a customer more impressed than when an agent can sincerely apologize to them for making a mistake.
#17 Take a break if you need it
With so much happening during the day, you might have problems finding time for a short break - especially if you have a never-ending amount of calls and issues to solve. But you probably also noticed that if you spend hours in front of your screen or making call after call, your energy and productivity plummets.
Whenever this happens, take a break! Having a short rest to step away from your screen and have a little walk can refresh your mind and let you get back to working at 100% again. You can use the break to make a cup of tea or coffee, have a snack, check your social media, or...
#18 Move around!
25% of Americans spend more than 8 hours a day sitting, and 44% say they don’t do any physical activity during the week. We all know that sitting for long periods is unhealthy - we have heard about it plenty of times already. Especially in call centers, where the work never ends, you might feel like a large part of your job is spent on your bum.
But what to do when gyms are (mostly) closed, and the last thing you can think about when returning home is doing a workout? There are a couple of exercises you can do between calls: from shoulder raises, arm circles, chair squats to calf raises, imaginary jump ropes, and wall push-ups, just to name a few. Afraid of getting weird looks from your coworkers? Walking during the day or climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator can work just as well.
#19 Use the mute button (just be careful)
Mute buttons are great for three things:
- short pauses during a call when you don’t need to put the customer on hold
- having a way to get an angry customer to vent their frustration without you having to listen to them
- for venting off whenever you have an especially difficult customer
But as plenty of “mute button failure” stories can attest, trusting it too much might result in a pretty awkward situation. Double-check the mute button before venting to make sure your caller won’t hear you.
#20 Learn how to deal with rude customers
It’s one thing when a customer voices their dissatisfaction about a faulty product or service, but entirely different when callers resort to offensive language, verbal abuse, or maybe even threats.
What can you do in such a situation? One solution is to remind yourself that the customer isn’t angry at you, even if the insults seem to be directed at you. They’re mad at the software, at the company’s policies, at themself for making a stupid mistake and having to ask for help, or just angry because of something completely unrelated to the call and need a way to vent off. You just appeared conveniently in their way, so don’t let them get to you. Be polite, apologize for the inconvenience, and keep calm - even if you feel tempted to talk back.
Our tip on what to do after such an encounter? Take a break and give yourself time to calm down. You can vent off to a coworker about the caller, do some stretching exercises, rest, or have a snack and cup of tea. If the caller was especially aggressive, report them to management.
#21 Personalize your workplace
We spend around a third of our lives at work. What does your workspace look like? Do you have just a computer, a phone, and many office-related papers on your desk? If you sit for the whole day at a dull and grey desk in a cluttered room, it might be hard to remain upbeat, productive, and motivated. So why not turn your corner, cubicle, or room into something a bit more welcoming?
To brighten up your desk, add personal items (family photos, travel memorabilia, mascots, etc.), funny posters, plants, or any other stuff that makes your workstation a bit more of a cheerful place to stay in (like a cute mug and set of work snacks - I do have those!).
Of course, remember you are still at work - so cluttering your desk with trinkets or using beach photos isn’t the best idea.
#22 Leave some tasks to automation
Besides answering or making calls, you surely have dozens of smaller tasks you have to do every day - updating your database, checking your metrics, writing emails, and all other tasks that are a part of your ACW routine. But do you really need to do all of those manually? Not in 2020!
There are plenty of automation tools on the market nowadays that can free some of your time and let you focus on your customers. For example, CloudTalk can offer several handy ways to automate some of your daily tasks and make your work life a bit easier, such as:
- Automatic call queuing - all incoming calls are sorted into different queues based on previously defined rules, and are automatically directed to the right agent.
- Call recording - CloudTalk can automatically record all calls and store them inside a database, where they can be accessed at any time.
- Call notes - allow you to add comments to any call you want, either during or afterwards.
- Smart dialer - this feature automatically compiles phone numbers into a list and lets you go through them one by one without dialing manually.
Call center tools can also help you save valuable minutes on your ACW tasks, which means you will have more time to help your callers.
The work of a call center agent does require tremendous amounts of patience and nerves of steel - and with growing customer expectations, this probably won’t change. But does that mean that call center work has to be a nightmare? Using our call center tips and tricks can make your call center life a bit easier and more satisfying, so why not try them out today?