Agent Experience

4 Tips for Contact Center Agents Handling Difficult Calls

Angry customer service calls aren’t good for your brand, but they’re not good for your employees either. Providing the right support for contact center agents can help ensure your customers are having a positive experience, even when they are frustrated or having issues with your brand. Here are four tips to make it easier for contact center agents to handle the most difficult customer service calls.

Create an atmosphere that supports resiliency to stress: Office design can impact stress levels. For example, do you have harsh lighting? Or do you use a circadian lighting system that aligns with natural body cycles and keeps stress levels in check? Incorporate soothing colors into your office design. Bring in plants and natural light. Keep temperatures at a comfortable level—preferably on the cooler side, so agents don’t get overheated. Incorporate noise dampening panels or white noise machines to keep the ambient roar at manageable levels. Ensure that an ergonomic office design supports agents’ comfort and physical wellness during long mentally and emotionally demanding shifts.

Strategically use technology: Technology can help your customer service agents navigate challenging and unfamiliar circumstances. By using scripting software, for example, it is easy to help agents determine what to say when they are confronted with a challenge they have not faced before. Appropriate next-action plans can help provide decision trees that help agents quickly find the right solution path to solve a problem. Self-service dashboards that make it easier to log in, switch status, and access customer background information can help agents deal with difficult clients on the fly.

Train for the toughest calls: Your contact center agents must be trained in the most difficult issues they’re likely to face—and that varies from business to business. For example, it might seem on the surface that a shoe company wouldn’t face a true crisis situation. Yet how should a customer service representative deescalate or address the situation when a bride hasn’t received her shoes the day before her destination wedding or when a grieving person calls to return an order for a loved one who unexpectedly passed away? The best contact centers anticipate what could occur—and audit their own tapes for historical unexpected issues—and provide training on a quarterly or monthly basis.

Be an engaged manager: Managers are often working on the big picture and may be likely to jump in only when there’s a problem that agents can’t resolve. However, managers who work strategically with their agents to help reduce stress on a daily basis not only forge stronger relationships with their team but are also more likely to retain long-term talent. Look for ways to help your agents. For example, if an agent becomes distressed when speaking with angry customers, could a mindfulness practice or another strategy work? Could you grant an agent who just faced a particularly challenging call with an extra 5-minute break to catch his or her breath? Consider looking for opportunities to coach, support, and further train your team on a one-on-one basis to handle your contact center’s most challenging calls.

From engaged management to the latest technology, there are number of ways to provide the support your team needs to deliver outstanding customer service to all your clients, all the time. While it’s easy to deal with a routine request or a happy customer, your contact center’s ability to gracefully manage an angry or disappointed customer can make all the difference in sustainable, long-term, and profitable customer relationships.