Tips for the Call Center: Do’s & Don’ts for Call Center Agents

The job of a call center agent is much more important than most people realize, so we wanted to give some tips for the call center.

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Most call center agent positions are entry-level, which means those working in it don’t get much credit, but they provide a vital service to both their employer and the customers. They are the first people customers talk to, and as such, they are representatives of the company. How they treat the customers will influence how those customers perceive the entire company, which is why it is of the utmost importance for them to understand the best practices for call center agents.

DO

1) Be professional.

This is probably the most important best practice for call center agents. Agents are encouraged to build a rapport with customers, but always remember they are representing a business, and as such, maintaining a professional demeanor is imperative. There’s no way to please everyone, but by remaining calm and professional in all situations, you’ll be less likely to offend the customer and more likely to help them with their problem, which in turn will help them think favorably of both you as a person and the company as a whole.

This also means avoiding inflammatory topics, such as politics and religion. If the customer brings up one of these topics, remain neutral and try to steer the conversation back to the issue at hand.

2) Wait until you hear the customer hang up before you hang up.

It should be obvious that a call center agent should never, ever hang up on a customer, but sometimes it happens by accident. You might honestly think the conversation is over and hang up, but the customer still has one more question. That simple mistake can have dire consequences, depending on the customer, so in order to avoid it, wait until you hear the customer hang up the phone first.

3) Be empathetic of the customer’s situation.

Customers call the company’s call center because they have a problem. It may not be a life-or-death emergency, but try to put yourself in their shoes and understand that their problem is real. They are trying to run a business, and if something is interfering with their ability to do that, you need to be able to understand that and help them in any way you can.

4) Tell the customer where and why you’re transferring them.

It’s common for a customer to call with a question you don’t know the answer to or a problem you don’t have the ability to help them with. In that case you can either tell them you’ll look into it and take their information so you can call them back, or you can transfer them to someone who can help them, but you must be very careful when transferring calls. Customers can easily get very frustrated when they call with a problem and they just get bounced around.

In order to avoid this, you must first be certain you are transferring the customer to the right person/department. If you can check to make sure someone is on the other end to talk to your customer right away, even better. If no one is available at the moment, let the customer know this and either tell them you’re transferring them to someone’s voicemail or offer to take a message for them.

Most customers prefer you take a message because that way they know there’s a real, live person who’s aware of their problem, but your employer might prefer for you to use voicemail in order to eliminate the possibility of call center agents forgetting to pass on the message. Always default to your employer’s best practices for call center agents, as they will differ slightly between companies.

5) Ask questions of your supervisor.

Change is the one constant in life, and as your employer and customers grow and adapt to their markets, you’ll need to keep up with the changes that affect you and how you do your job. You will likely be briefed on any updates before they take effect, but your employer might not cover everything or your customer might have a problem your employer did not anticipate. If you don’t know what to do with a customer’s particular situation, never be afraid to ask your supervisor or a colleague for help. The most important thing is helping the customer get what they need and you’re there to do just that.

6) Take notes and study them in your spare time.

Learning as much as you can about each client will help you avoid trip ups, mistakes, and delays in helping them. Most call center agents have to undergo a fair amount of training before they can start taking live calls from customers. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to remember all that information right away, so be sure to take detailed notes throughout the course of your training and study them every chance you get. As things change and new problems arise, be sure to write them down, along with their solutions. Review all your notes as frequently as possible so you’ll be ready to help customers right away almost as soon as they call you about their problem.

DON’T

1) Lose your temper.

It’s frustrating to have to spend your time dealing with other people’s problems you had no hand in creating, but that’s exactly what a call center agent has to do all day every day. It’s even worse when customers are angry before they even pick up the phone, which is frequently the case. But no matter what the customer says or does, it is the call center agent’s responsibility to maintain professionalism at all times. Yelling at a customer who’s already angry won’t end well for anyone and the agent who maintains professionalism even when they’re getting yelled at for something they weren’t responsible for will stand a better chance of impressing the customer.

2) Laugh at the customer.

Laughing with the customer if they tell a joke or relate a funny story is perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged, but laughing at the customer is another matter entirely and should be avoided at all costs. Stuff your fist in your mouth if you have to. It may be tempting to laugh if you think the customer is overreacting to something or if they don’t speak English very well and they make a simple mistake. Many people are easily insulted and laughing at them when they’re not trying to be funny could put your job on the line.

3) Transfer them if their problem is something you can help them with.

The call center is a fast-paced, high-stress environment in which the focus is frequently on getting through as many calls as you can. When you’re on the clock and a customer is taking a long time to explain their problem, it can be tempting to shove them off onto someone else, but you should only ever do that if you cannot help them solve their problem and you’re redirecting them to someone who can. The first priority of a call center agent is to help the customer, no matter how long it takes. You can try to get the customer on track if they go off on a tangent, but never interrupt them and never transfer them unless it’s to someone who can help them in a way you can’t.

This is not a complete list of best practices for call center agents, but it’s a good start. Simply remembering the golden rule of maintaining a professional attitude at all times will help lead to happy customers.

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