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5 Ways to Improve Communication with Your Customers

In a contact center, your agents are the first line of contact for your customers.  They are the starting point, and often, the finish line, determining whether or not your customer is satisfied and remains so.  There are many ways that communication can be improved in a call center or a contact center, and most begin with the agent themselves.

Better communication

Hire for Empathy

Empathy is not a skill that can be taught.  You either have it or you don’t.  An empathetic representative will listen to a customer's concerns and authentically express that they, too, are concerned about the issue.  If a customer feels the agent they are speaking with understands and identifies with their concern, they are often more likely to be satisfied with the solution.  Allow your agents time to be empathetic and to listen and assess the customer's needs.  Scripts and metrics that measure performance based on how quickly a call is resolved can be counter-productive.

Offer Multiple Options for Service

The days of telephone customer service aren't ending.  Reaching an agent by phone is still the easiest and most widely used method of communication.  However, in the age of social media, many companies are installing live chat, email, and video chat formats for contacting customer care centers.  It is important to offer cross-platform methods of communication now that social media, peer reviews, and blogs drive customer opinion.  Hiring agents who are proficient in both verbal and written communication is paramount to success.

Use Positive Language

Words are powerful.  A few simple words can mean the difference between a customer who is satisfied with your service and a customer who feels unsatisfied.  Take, for example, the difference between these two statements, posed after the customer has asked about the availability of an item that is currently unavailable: “That product is unavailable at this time and cannot be shipped to you but it will be available next month” and the following statement: “That product is currently unavailable, but I can go ahead and place the order to ensure it is shipped next month as soon as it arrives in our warehouse.”  While the first statement isn't untruthful, nor is it negative, the second statement's tone conveys care for the customer.  Instead of focusing on what cannot be done, focus on what can be done. 

Offer Opportunities to Provide Feedback

An unhappy customer will tell anyone who will listen about why they are dissatisfied.  In the age of Facebook and Twitter, these two outlets alone provide your customers with an audience that can easily reach thousands of people.  Give your customer a way to tell you directly why they are dissatisfied. Help your customer feel empowered.  And don't neglect the opportunity to monitor and discuss neagtive calls with your agents, loking for positive changes that can promote future customer satisfaction. 

Encourage Effective Listening Skills

When an agent actively listens to a customer, the customer to feels confident their concerns are being addressed.  Fostering trust and confidence encourages the caller to be more forthcoming with information that can help identify and resolve the issue more effectively.  Active listening means fewer misunderstandings and gaps in communication, which usually translates to first contact resolution.  Again, focusing less on handle time and more on resolution, requires you to give agents more freedom. Allow your agents time to listen to, and ask questions that help them better understand the customer's needs. This is imperative to promoting overall customer satisfaction.  Include listening skill metrics in agent coaching sessions and help them develop this critical skill.

These are just a few ways to improve communication between your front line agents and customers.  Enacting any or all of these tips can promote higher customer satisfaction, increased retention rates, and more loyal customers. How has your contact center improved communication with customers? Share your tips and stories in the comments.

This post originally appeared on the Call Center Weekly blog.