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Mar 31, 2006
What are your tips in training your agents on how to avoid "dead air" during calls? -- Arty Philip
– Arty Philip
Dead-air is inevitable without a seamless system and in my environment of sportswear for enthusiasts we can fill voids with simple questions. We can either ask ‘what do you like about the item?’ on orders, or ‘what don’t you like about the item?’ on returns. It’s a great way to engage and learn.
It may depend on the industry you are in and how your product/service is marketed. I would suggest that promotions/incentives to clients be pushed to fill that time.
We are in the wholesale travel indusry, and our sugesstion to our agents is to use the moment to make travel agents aware of incentives or promotions available to them and their clients. This can be done with mentioning at least one promo depending on the time they have to fill. -- D.M
As a CSR with a cellular communications company, I'm cross-trained for various skill sets. My method of filling dead air depends on the call type. For most calls, general chit chat (how's the weather, up-selling if opportunity is there) to informing the caller that while I'm working on their issue (creating network ticket, changing multiple service plans, etc) they will hear background noise but that if they need or want to interrupt me to please do so. I find that most callers are comfortable with that and will usually put me on speakerphone while they work on something of their own. -- D. King
We coach our agents to use short phrases like "It's going to be a moment to..." to give an expectation that something is happening during times when dead air may happen such as data retrieval. We also coach to use Hold for times that require extended periods of silence. Small talk is also used by more experienced agents. -- M.B.
I've trained my agents for years to take this time to confirm what they are doing. If they are filling out a form you can train them to repeat what they are entering. If they are researching an account, it's not bad to let the member know what they are looking for. This approach deals with dead air and provides an air of confidence to the customer by letting them know that the agent is taking action. -- JJ Popowich, LACERA
While conversing with a customer, if an agent remains quiet for more than three to four seconds it's called "dead air." Dead air is a major problem with most of the agents while on calls. The only way to reduce dead air is to train the agent about the process or the product throughly, so that every rebuttal is at their fingertips. Make sure that the agents have a mock call session with either the trainer, team lead or quality assurance to avoid dead air on calls. Also, regularly monitoring calls and giving feedback then and there about how to avoid dead air can also be of great help. At the same time, it's mandatory to let the agents know what dead air is all about and also the negative impact of dead air. -- Bipasha, Tenet Systems Pvt.Ltd
It often helps when the agent discusses what they are doing -- especially while handling customer complaints. They can repeat back any notes documenting the customer's complaint and describe the actions they are taking to resolve the issue. This helps minimizes dead air while letting the customer hear that the issue is correctly understood and documented, as well as what actions are being taken to resolve the issue. Thus, instilling confidence in the service. -- Timothy Kim, 1800Flowers.com
Being that we handle mostly inbound sales calls, dead air can absolutely "kill" the rapport with the customer and thus the sale opportunity. We are constantly educating and re-educating our agents on using that time to establish rapport (chit-chat) and more importantly to probe for the customer's WIN's (Wants, Interests and Needs). -- Kevin Spence, ASG
I learned a long time ago that the average advocate does not interpret how long "dead air" seems to the member. Frequently, during our calibration sessions we will ask the advocates to stand while there is dead air on the line so that they are aware of how long the member is actually waiting. We emphasize to the advocate that time seems much longer to the member because they usually do not know what is happening in the call. -- Arni Scheving, Auto Club Group
Avoiding dead air during calls is a major problem which representatives face. Normally it's not possible to talk to the customer continuously during the call, because while checking the information in the system our mind is diverted towards the information the customer is asking about. Avoiding dead air fully depends on practice. No set of rules can solve this problem. -- A.Antoine Prasad
Dead air is something that has to be avoided in customer service and sales-related accounts. However, if your account or business model would be data collection/ gathering "Dead Air" is something that is common, due primarily to avoid giving out comments that may bias the opinion of a respondent to a poll. So, you need to calibrate this as well with your client's CTQ (Critical to Quality) list for QA. -- Ed Diccioco
Dead air can be managed by informing the customer of the steps or process in a simplified manner which agents follow on a call. Keeping the customer in the loop is essential as it helps the customer to know the nature of problem and helps us to manage the dead air. -- Piyush Narayan Hatwal, IBM Daksh
It's great information provided here to avoid dead air, as this is the main problem faced by the new agents while on the floor. Reconfirming the details or what he is telling and listening to him and replying in a empathetic tone will build customer rapport. -- Kawaljit, Microwave Communication Ltd.
It's an undisputed fact that any call, if you have dead air, will most likely make the customer feel lost and at times the customer might well think that you do not have adequate information. The best way is either to keep the customer informed of what is being done or for that matter honestly project the time it's going to take for an agent to complete the task at hand. -- Vartika Tripathi, EXL services
I honestly accept the words Vartika Tripathi had highlighted for managing dead air, but I would like to add something more to it. A process in a call center is nation or country specific but I would rather say it's culture specific. If you show interest in the same culture you can get much stuff to talk about and finally you can manage dead air and also leave a long-lasting impression on your customer. -- Piyush Narayan Hatwal, IBM Daksh
One has to be keen to other's culture and talks so as to manage the dead air. However, at the same time, one also needs to keep a check on oneself so as not to deviate oneself from the call reason.. After all, AHT is also as important along with customer satisfaction. -- Divya S Kumar, Hewit
My suggestion to avoid dead air and risk of discussing unwanted stuff on the call is, analyse how much time the question will take to resolve and use hold procedure. If you need to talk to the customer about any cultural aspect you need to be knowledgeable about what to talk about and what not as it may work against you in building rapport. -- Rahul Pal, Compucredit
Well, what Mr Hatwal mentioned is, indeed, of great value but my slight apprehension is about the unawareness of the agents, where if they get into slightest of rapport building talking about the culture, they can in great likelihood end up making a fool of themselves. Besides, as we know, not all the customers would be okay talking about anything else except getting the resolution. -- Vartika Tripathi, EXL Services
This time should be spent getting additional information from the customer to narrow down their issue. Questions such as what happened, how did this affect you, what have you done, etc., could point you in the right direction when looking for a resolution. -- DGM
I think avoiding dead air on calls is very much dependent on how comfortable the handling agent is with the language he/she is using to interact with the customer. It depends on a lot of factors like vocabulary to accent to knowing the customer's culture.
The agent may choose to use global dead-air-avoiding questions like how is the customer doing or choose to ask specific product or service related questions which might help him/her to satisfy the customer better. In my opinion, dead air can easily be avoided in case the agent has in depth knowledge about the product or service he/she is supporting and is very clear about his/her support boundaries. -- Ashish Saxena, Wipro Ltd.
Referring to comments #9 and #10:
As a consumer, not a call center employee, I find that if the CSR tells me that he/she is reviewing the account, etc., that is sufficient. AT&T Wireless has a way of placing the customer "sort of" on hold, where the rep can hear any question or comment I may have, but it is silent from their end. That works for me.
The comment about absolutely avoiding dead time is wrong. I don't want to hear a commercial about upcoming events (Time Warner Cable?) or any other feature that the company thinks I may want to hear about. I like to sometimes just relax while my concerns are being addressed. If something is always playing in my ear, it may take a moment for me to realize that the CSR is back. No more commercials. -- B Lasher
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