call handling

A little empathy goes a long way...

‘Your call is very important to us…’

‘Is it?  Really? I’m pretty sure if it was that important to you, you’d answer it now’, she sighs and mutters under her breath whilst listening to yet another impersonal, mildly patronising on hold message for the zillionth time this week.

So what is it that irritates us so much about being on hold or sometimes seemingly lost in the depths of an IVR system?  These messages sublimate – and quite often infuriate – us, and all because they are missing one vital trick: empathy.

Empathy is not the same as sympathy – nobody ‘holding the line’ or waiting to hear what feels like an endless list of options needs sympathy.  But a little empathy goes a long way.

Empathy, in dictionary definition terms, ‘is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’; the requirement for this from either a system of messages, or from a call handler, is self-explanatory really; know who you’re talking to, and gauge the messages or conversation accordingly.

Pre-recorded messages can only go so far to creating an empathetic tone; because of their nature they are not tailored to each individual caller, they have to ‘cover all bases’.  But if you’re operating a call centre, having empathetic call handlers could just be your key to success.  Your call handlers are talking to your customers in real-time, and if they have received comprehensive training, should be able to tailor the art of their conversation to correctly match the nature of the call.

If you really want your callers to believe their call is important to you, all you need is some investment in training and understanding how to convey empathy; often the opening few seconds after a call is answered are the most vital – get the callers’ back up, and you’ve lost them.

Empathy Statements

Take, for example, the following three statements:

  • ‘A member of our team will look into this for you’

  • ‘I will ask a member of the team to look into this for you as soon as possible’

  • ‘I will look into this for you today and let you know the outcome’

Adding that personal touch makes a huge difference; the first statement is completely anonymous, conveying the message that someone somewhere might get around to looking into the problem at some point – it doesn’t give a huge amount of faith to your customer that the issue will ever be resolved.

The second statement adds a little bit of a personal touch with ‘I’, however there is no immediacy in what’s being said – the ball is just getting passed into someone else’s court.

However the third statement has a personal guarantee that your call handler will be addressing the issue themselves, whether this be immediately whilst the caller is on the line, or as soon as the call has ended, and they will re-contact the caller with their findings.

The caller will feel at ease that their issue (however trivial it may seem to your company) is resolved by the actual human being they are speaking to, and will be resolved as soon as possible.

Think about the language used by your call handling team, and by the pre-recorded messages you have installed on your phone system…you may well find there is a more empathetic way to operate your company’s phone system.

For any advice, why not give us a call on 0161 850 3033 and we’ll see what we can do to help.

What you can learn from the Zappos company culture

Online retailer Zappos has long been the beacons of customer service excellence. It was the highest ranking newcomer in Fortune magazine's 'Best Companies to Work For' the company goes to great lengths to make sure both customers and employees are happy. 

Take a look at the video below to see if there's anything you could implement with your teams.


How call centre metrics impact customer service

We all know the frustration of badly recorded IVR messages, a muffled at the other end of the line presenting a baffling array of department options then being placed on hold and listening to terrible music. Do we ever think about the people at the other end of the line? There’s pressure behind these calls for measuring and judging staff on several different factors that we often overlook.

Call centre staff usually have their work measured and assessed on their average call times with a customer, the amount of calls they make or take in a day and of course customer feedback. Are all these factors really contributing towards good customer service? Or are they merely ensuring the numbers at the end of the month are on target? What impact do these metrics actually have on a customer’s call?

In any work environment being assessed can leave you with a sense of self-doubt, even when you know you do a good job. Whilst it may be better for a company making or taking calls to have their staff abide by a strict max call time, this won’t necessarily benefit the customer or resolve their issue if an agent is rushing to get them off the phone. A three minute call doesn’t quite justify half an hour on hold.

Many large companies choose to outsource their calls to a call handling company, which can mean agents need to know the ins and outs of several businesses and be familiar with different call handling styles and queries. For example I had three calls in the same day last week from a telephone provider, from the same agent each time in an outbound call centre, demonstrating the desperation some agents face just trying to hit targets.

There are several areas call centre staff are rated by:

  • Call handling times
  • Sales tactics
  • Feedback and surveys   

The issue is that, to really get to the bottom of where improvements need to be made in a company, calls need to be monitored by senior members of staff, yet their time is precious (they don’t have the time to wait on hold, unlike the rest of us, clearly) thus instead of listening in to their staffs’ calls they merely take the averages and turn this into statistics, which are often unreliable.

Call Centre Helper note the importance of realising what your customer wants and then using this information to make changes to the products and services you offer. This is where you see the real indication of what improvements are needed, rather than being focused directly on how staff handle a call and pressuring them to shave seconds off their call times. They note that “Monitoring from the caller’s perspective will give you an overall impression of what it is like to call your centre. It will demonstrate how frustrating it can be to wait in a queue and how friendly or annoying your voice messages really are.”

Perhaps it’s time to call your own company and experience a call from the customer’s point of view? If you think you could do with an update and improve your company’s image then contact us today for a quote for our professional IVR message solution. Maybe next time you’re put through to a call centre agent spare a thought for the real reasons they’re rushing and pushing!