Working at a customer service call center can be a thankless job, but it’s an impactful one. Customer service affects choice of brand for 90% of consumers, according to Microsoft’s 2019 State of Global Customer Service report. And it’s the second most important factor affecting loyalty (more important than price and brand reputation!), according to Conversocial’s 2020 State of Customer Experience Trends.
It’s clear that customer service matters, and to make things trickier, the bar is being set ever higher. Microsoft’s report also found that 55% of respondents had a higher expectation for customer service than they did in the prior year.
That’s right: What you do has a direct influence over whether a consumer chooses your company and stays loyal to it. No pressure, right?
But you don’t need to fret. Below, we’ve rounded up the best customer service tips for call centers to help you do your best work.
18 Useful Customer Service Call Center Tips
1. Invest in call center software
The right call center software will solve at least half of your problems. Without it, you’ll have no way of tracking down a customer’s support history, no way of knowing who’s handling which caller, and no consistent way to gauge customer satisfaction.
Features like CRM integration can connect customer data so you can immediately get up to speed on previous customer interactions and quickly resolve their issues. And with call monitoring and call whispering, your manager can intervene discreetly if you’re in over your head.
2. Optimize your physical setup
As a customer service rep, you’re sitting and typing on a computer for hours every day, which can lead to aches and pains. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure an ergonomic environment, from your chair to your keyboard to your monitor.
Ideally, you’ll have a comfortable desk chair with cushioning and proper back support. Your keyboard will be set up in front of you so that when you’re typing, your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. You’ll have a separate monitor that is positioned so you’re looking straight ahead, not down.
And we can’t leave out the all-important headset. Choosing the best headset makes a noticeable difference in audio quality and can improve the customer experience.
While optimizing your setup may seem like a hassle right now, your back and neck (and callers!) will thank you later.
3. Cut down on background noise
Background noise can ruin the customer experience and turn an otherwise good call sour. The reason for this is two-fold:
- Background noise is distracting for you, making it difficult to do your job.
- It’s also distracting for the caller, making it difficult for them to hear and focus on you.
So for the sake of doing your best work and providing the best experience for your customer, install a noise-cancelling app like Krisp. This is the fastest, easiest way to eliminate distracting sounds. Because while you can’t magically get rid of your coworkers or make the cars outside stop honking—you can use AI to make it as if they’re not even there.
Krisp is easy to install, and once it’s turned on, you don’t even have to think about it. It works silently in the background to isolate unwanted sounds and eliminate them. So all you and your caller hear are each other’s voices; the way it’s supposed to be!
4. Take good notes
Typing good notes in your call center software ensures you have a detailed record to reference in case the customer calls back, or their issue remains unresolved.
Notes aren’t just for you; they’re also for the next agent in the event this customer calls back, and you’re not on duty.
5. Read the notes
Remember that Microsoft study mentioned earlier? It found that “75% of respondents want the agent to know who they are and their purchase history.” Because of this, it’s vital that you read the notes in your call center software or CRM to get up to speed on this customer’s history.
Of course, doing this will take some time. So after you’ve introduced yourself and asked for the necessary information to look up their case, say something like, “I’m just going to take 30 seconds here to get caught up on your case so I can better assist you.”
6. Have scripts ready
The best call center software will have a feature where you can load it with scripts, and depending on the situation, the software will pull up the most relevant script for you.
7. Manage expectations by being specific
When a customer is calling in, they’re already experiencing a lot of uncertainty. They’re unsure if their problem is getting resolved; they’re unsure of who is going to answer; they’re already on edge. It’s your job to provide them with as much certainty as possible without being excessive or unrealistic.
So, for example, when you say something vague like, “Someone will be in touch with you later,” that leaves a lot of room for assumptions. Instead, it’s better to provide helpful details, such as, “Someone from the IT support team will call you in the next 48 hours to provide you with directions on how to resolve this.”
Now, here’s where it’s crucial not to overpromise. If you think the IT support rep will be able to get in touch within 48 hours, that’s fine. But don’t tell the customer 24 hours to make them feel better. That’ll just lead to an angry call from them when they haven’t heard back in that timeframe.
8. Avoid dead air
Silence during a phone call can cause confusion. There’s no way for the customer to know you’re still on the line or that you’re listening.
In fact, a study published in International Journal of Human-Computer Studies found that just a 1.2-second delay during an audio call was enough to make the caller rate their conversation partner as less attentive. Yikes.
While you can’t control feedback delays, if you find that your connection is spotty, let your caller know that. Something as simple as, “We’re having phone issues today, so if there’s an audio delay, I apologize. I’m still here; it just might take a second or two for my voice to come through.”
Similarly, if you need a few seconds to look up a record or consult with a colleague, tell your caller this. Even better, use your virtual call center software to place the caller on hold with music. That way, there’s no silence. The music signals to them that they’re on hold so they don’t think you’re ignoring them or that the call has dropped.
9. Restate in your own words what you think the issue is
Repeating back what you think you heard is a vital component of empathy. You can start by saying, “So it sounds like…” and ending with “Did I get that right?”
This ensures you truly understand their issue, and if you don’t, it gives them the opportunity to correct you. Further, it shows that you were listening, which the customer will thoroughly appreciate.
10. Be careful with “brief holds”
“Do you mind if I place you on a brief hold?”
We’ve all heard and come to expect this classic line. Here’s the problem with it: I’ve been placed on “brief holds” ranging anywhere from 30 seconds to 15 minutes.
Simple fix? “Do you mind if I place you on a brief hold? It won’t be longer than two minutes.” By adding the second line clarifying the definition of “brief hold,” you’ve successfully managed your customer’s expectations, preventing confusion and resentment.
11. Master the art of small talk
Small talk: we love to hate it. But in the case of a customer service call, small talk has a big role to play. Not only does it warm the customer up to you by showing them that you’re a human being, but it also avoids the dreaded dead air so they don’t think the call got disconnected.
12. Be a human first.
Yes, you have scripts to follow. Yes, you’ve got a job to do. But if you want to truly master the art of customer service, remember this: Be a human first.
That means knowing when to stray from the script and speak from the heart. One of my most memorable experiences of calling a customer service center was when I had been unexpectedly charged a $400 fee when canceling my phone service. I had called and spoken to two different support reps. By my third call, I was ready to scream at whoever answered; I was ready to fight to get this charge removed.
The third call started with the usual pleasantries. The rep asked me, “How are you doing today?”
“Not well,” I replied curtly, as I mentally prepared myself to scream at him for being part of this cruel company that would charge me $400 to cancel my service.
But this is what completely broke down my defenses: He said, with utmost sincerity, “Oh no. What happened?”
I started sobbing. He remained a champ, allowing me to let it out and comforting me with, “It’s okay. You’re okay.”
The truth was that my rude initial reaction to him had little to do with the $400 charge (although that was a big deal!) and more to do with the difficulties that were going on in my personal life at the time. His ability to be empathetic toward me, regardless of the technical matters of the call, completely turned the call around.
As a customer service rep, you have a lot of power to impact someone else’s mood. Use it for good by showing empathy.
13. It’s okay to say you don’t know
Sure, you’ve studied the handbook. You’ve been to the training sessions. Maybe you’ve even taken hundreds of calls. But you can’t know everything, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s better for you to admit that you don’t know the answer than to make one up.
If a customer asks you for something that you don’t know the answer to, say something like, “I don’t have that answer for you, but I can find out. May I place you on hold while I ask my supervisor? It won’t take longer than three minutes.”
14. Practice proper call transfer etiquette
Sometimes, you have to transfer the call to someone who can better assist the customer. That’s fine, but often, the customer experience goes awry during the transfer process: calls get dropped, customers get confused, and no one’s sure who knows what.
Instead of just transferring the call and leaving your customer to fend for themselves, practice proper transfer etiquette:
Step 1: State why you need to transfer the call and who you’ll be transferring it to.
Step 2: Place the customer on hold while you transfer them and inform the new agent of the customer’s needs.
Step 3: Make the introduction between the customer and the new agent.
Step 4: Assure them that they’re in good hands and make your exit.
While yes, this takes a few extra steps, it’s worth it to ensure a seamless transfer.
15. Give the customer a case number and your name
If you can, give a case reference number and your name before ending the call. This ensures continuity if the customer needs to call back. This also gives the caller peace of mind because it shows a sense of accountability.
16. Review and refine the customer journey
Excellent customer service actually begins before the customer ever needs support. If you want to cut down on the number of calls you’re getting, review and refine the support resources you have in place already, including:
- The instructions included with the product
- Your online help center
- Email support options
- Live chat. According to Zendesk research, while phone calls have the highest customer satisfaction rate (91%), chat comes in a close second at 85%. So don’t leave out this support option!
For instance, maybe you realize you’re getting a lot of the same questions about how to install your product. It’s time to look at your product instructions; something about them is unclear. If you can fix the instructions, you can drastically reduce the number of calls about this issue.
That’s just one example. There are so many opportunities to provide more helpful information that prevents a customer from ever needing to make a call in the first place.
17. Keep it positive
This might be the most challenging customer service tip on this list, especially because being a call center agent involves some rude customer interactions. But remaining pleasant with your customer is crucial.
According to the 2017 Customer Service Barometer, 68% of survey respondents reported “a pleasant representative was key to their recent positive service experiences.”
So while, yes, it’s unfair when a customer yells at you or makes snarky comments while you’re just trying to do your job—it’s still not okay to take it out on them. Take a deep breath and save your grievances for when you’re off the call.
That brings us to our final customer service tip.
18. Take care of yourself
There’s no doubt that working in a call center is stressful. In a report for the Communications Workers of America, professors Virginia Doellgast and Dr. Sean O’Brady surveyed 2,100 call center workers and found that 87% had “high or very high stress levels,” and over 50% felt “emotionally drained from their work.”
Customer service reps have it tough because your job demands that you be chipper and friendly, no matter what. Not being able to express how you truly feel for hours on end will wear down anyone.
That’s why it’s especially important that you take care of yourself and find healthy ways to decompress after work.
Need some ideas?
- Take frequent breaks throughout your workday.
- Go for a walk in nature.
- Use those vacation days.
- Turn off your computer and avoid checking emails when you’re off the clock.
- Spend time with family and friends.
- Practice proper sleep hygiene and wind down before bed.
Proper self-care is absolutely essential for high performance at work. Find what works for you, and don’t neglect it.
Transform Your Work at Your Customer Service Call Center
Given the significant influence you have over consumer choices and the immense stress you’re under, working at a customer service call center is no walk in the park. Thankfully, though, there are some tips you can follow to make your job easier.
Here’s a small fix that’ll make a huge difference: Get Krisp noise cancellation for free today and experience distraction-free calls for you and your customers.