Seven Tips for Smoother Service

1) Check the words in your greeting, and if you’re using the word “speaking,” eliminate it. In other words, you don’t need to say, “This is Chris speaking.” The caller can hear that you’re speaking, and adding this word at the end of your greeting takes away from the thing you most want them to remember—which is your first name.

2) When hiring for the front line, make sure you hire for personality fit as well as knowledge and skill match. Predicting the likelihood that a person will not only stay with the job but also be happy doing it is more a function of the applicant’s personality type than of his specific knowledge or skills. While many centers focus on requisite skills in the hiring process, those that do psychometric testing for motivational factors up front have a higher retention rate and better employee satisfaction and performance.

3) Call center supervisors should meet regularly with team members to find out what they like about the job, what the problems are, and what type of rewards would best motivate them to perform well. It’s important for each supervisor to know what makes each person happy and review on a regular basis to determine what’s been done recently to meet each employee’s needs.

4) When creating your customer access strategy, make sure that you link it to your company’s mission and vision. If your company has established itself as the low-cost provider in the marketplace, the contact center will probably look for automation and self-service options. On the other hand, if your company wants to focus on customization of its products to meet each customer’s unique desires and needs, every call may need to be handled by a live agent.

5) If you must place a caller on hold, make sure you use all four steps in the hold process. The recommended steps of putting a caller on hold are a) ask the caller’s permission to be placed on hold; b) thank the caller and then place him on hold; c) when you’re back, ensure that the caller is still there by using his name; and d) thank him for holding, then resume the conversation. By the way, if the wait time is long, check back in during the hold to let the caller know you haven’t forgotten about him.

6) The best way to screen staff for the call center is generally with an initial short phone interview. While a resume may be needed eventually, what better way to immediately screen out candidates on the front end than with a telephone interview? You’ll be able to assess voice quality and basic communications skills right up front. If you don’t have time to do this live, you can accomplish it to some degree with a voice mailbox where candidates are asked to leave pertinent information.

7) Beware of saying the words “you must” or “you have to” when providing instructions. You want to sound like you’re providing help, not homework, for your customers. Try replacing the words “you must” with “you’ll want to” or “the best option would be to.”

Penny Reynolds is founding partner of Lebanon, TN-based The Call Center School, a consulting and education company.

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