Teach Agents to Empathize With Customers to Enrich Their Contact Center Experience

Posted by Rodney Kuhn

2/12/16 1:42 PM

Satisfaction_guarentee.jpgWorking on the frontline gives agents the daunting responsibility of ensuring a first-rate customer experience for callers. Though the ultimate objective is to resolve all issues quickly—during the first call optimally—this is not always possible. When a delay is unavoidable, your agents should be trained to empathize with the customer’s likely feelings of frustration.

In fact, a recent study by Penn State University found that online customer service agents who used emoticons in their responses were considered more empathetic than the agents who didn’t, and, as a result, were viewed more positively. “The fact that the emoticon came within the message and that this person is conveying some type of emotion to customers makes customers feel like the agent has an emotional presence,” said lead author S. Shyam Sundar in a press release.

Maintaining composure and empathy, however, can prove challenging for an already overwrought agent in a high-performing contact center. And with more than 50 percent of consumers reporting that they’ve cancelled a transaction due to a poor customer experience, according to an American Express study, it’s imperative that managers give agents the support they need to “be there” for customers.

Here are three best practices your agents should be employing to provide a more satisfying customer experience:

  1. Acknowledge the problem and apologize: Sorry may be the hardest word to say, if you ask Elton John, but it should roll easily off a contact center agent’s tongue. Let your agents know that it’s not about taking the blame, rather it’s about validating the customer’s dissatisfaction for any inconvenience the issue may be causing him or her. As the aforementioned study found, exhibiting this kind of emotion will enable agents to cultivate a more personal connection with the individual, while also creating a more positive customer experience.
  2. Speak to customers in a sincere manner: The tone of an agent’s voice speaks volumes when it comes to conveying empathy. If the agent says all of the right words but delivers them in a callous, unfeeling manner or sounds as if he or she is reading from a script, then the message will appear as insincere. For agents who come across this way, help them improve their communication skills by allowing them to listen back to their customer interactions. For example, implement workforce optimization software with a built-in automation coaching system that records customer interactions for immediate replay to quickly identify and address issues.
  3. Listen to the facts and feelings your customers are conveying: Customers communicate by sharing the facts, such as, “I recently ordered a dress for a wedding I am attending this weekend, but I still haven’t received it and I’m afraid that it won’t arrive in time.” Hearing the problem is an important first step toward resolving an issue, but so is listening to the customer’s tone. Is he or she angry, anxious or sad? By responding empathetically, i.e., by exuding a calm and reassuring manner, in the face of the customer’s anxiety, the agent will connect more effectively with the individual.

Empathy is an essential requirement for developing a robust, engaging relationship between your agents and customers. Following these steps will help provide customers with a more satisfying experience, while also cultivating loyalty to your company.

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