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Strategies for Dealing with Failed Communications in Call Centers

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Not all calls in a call center are routine. This lesson reviews some of the most common communication failures in call centers and discusses tips for resolutions of the problems.

Call Center Routine

We all know how a great call center call should work. The agent answers the phone. The customer asks a question. The agent answers the question, and the satisfied customer thanks the agent before disconnecting the call.

Wouldn't it be great if all calls worked like this?

The reality is that many calls do not go this smoothly. Call center calls that do not run according to plan can be a great challenge to the call center agent, but there are things you can do to prepare for tough calls.

Your ability to deal with these types of scenarios professionally and successfully offers your customers great service and a wonderful experience with the company.

Remember that empathy, or expressing an understanding for how another person feels, is one of the best ways to start any challenging call center interaction.

Empathy helps to defuse challenging situations.
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In this lesson, we will work through some common challenging call center scenarios:

  • When an answer is unknown.
  • Needing to rephrase.
  • An undesired solution.
  • Uncooperative customers.

Unknown Answer

First, let's consider the scenario of the unknown answer. The speed of resolution is the No. 1 factor in customer satisfaction with call center interactions. The No. 1 frustration customers report is being put on hold for an undetermined amount of time.

Not knowing the answer to a question from a customer requires that you not only take extra time to find an answer, but also that you most likely need to put the customer on hold. Neither of these is considered best practice.

So, what should you do if you don't know the answer to a question?

Most importantly, do not lie or make up an answer! This will only create more problems for the customer (and yourself) later.

Research and redirect (transferring the call to another agent) are the best options.

While maintaining a positive tone, explain that you will need to research the answer to the customer's question. If you must put the customer on hold to research, make sure to give him or her a time frame for being on hold.

Giving the customer a choice of whether to wait on hold or to be transferred to another agent allows the customer to have a sense of control over the situation.

For example: ''Thank you for asking that question. To help you with that, I will either need to put you on hold for a minute or two to research, or I can transfer you to my manager to get that answer. Which would you prefer?''

You could also offer to call or email the customer back once you have found the answer to the question. These options show that you value the person's time.

Explaining in Different Ways

Knowing the answer does not always guarantee quick resolution. While most customers will understand the resolution immediately, some will struggle to comprehend your instructions.

Empathy is of the utmost importance here. Remember that you are familiar with the product and the resolution you are giving, but the customer may be having this issue for the first time and may not be as knowledgeable about the product as you are. Do not repeat the same words in a second attempt to resolve the situation.

Instead, think of synonyms to express the resolution to the customer in a different way. Avoid the use of jargon, or technical terms, with which the customer is not familiar.

If a customer does not understand ''Rotate the control implementation panel 90 degrees clockwise,'' he or she might understand ''Turn the knob on the top right to the right about a quarter of a circle — like you are turning clock hands from 12 to 3.''

Not What They Want

Sometimes the only answer is a bad answer; for example, when a product is outside the warranty and cannot be returned, the customer will likely be angry.

Make sure to listen to the customer's perspective, offer to report the customer's concerns to management, and ensure that you show that you personally care about the situation by maintaining a positive tone and offering empathy.

If you have any discretionary powers, you might consider offering discounts or store credits to appease an angry customer.

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