How to Improve Call Center Agent Performance

Call center agent performance depends on the right training and tools
by
Nicholas Price

In the early days of call centers, call center agent performance wasn’t a primary concern for most companies. Call agents provided minimal services like answering basic questions. Call centers grew out of necessity. To a large degree, they were viewed more as a cost center than a growth center.

As the internet has become a staple in our lives, customers have demanded faster, better service. Today’s customers are apt to leave reviews for your company—good or bad. Your online reputation is more important than ever.

The key to winning your customers over is to focus on the total customer experience. For that reason, improving call center agent performance should be one of your highest priorities. Even when you have a well-trained call center, there is always room for improvement.  By ensuring that your call center agents have the right tools and a good coaching program, you’re supporting them on improving their performance with every call. 

The Role of a Call Center

A call center is a department where a team of people work making inbound or outbound phone calls for a particular company in the role of customer support or sales. Call center teams exist in many different sizes. Most often, a call center team consists of somewhere between several people to hundreds, or even thousands for very large companies. Less often, a call center could consist of just one person.

Your call center can be in one of your company offices, but it doesn’t have to be. Many companies are finding value in using remote call center teams or distributed teams which can be flexible in setup and size.

A couple of terms that people tend to get confused are call center and contact center. It’s common for people to use them interchangeably, but that’s not really accurate. By definition, a call center is a team of call agents that have inbound or outbound call interactions with customers using phone calls. By contrast, a contact center uses multiple communication channels including phone calls, email, live chat, etc.

Call centers are designed to handle a large amount of calls and many companies use them to be available for customers around the clock. Call centers provide a cost-effective solution for answering customer inquiries or making sales. They can also serve additional purposes like doing research or evaluating customer satisfaction. 

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Modern call centers typically take advantage of cloud-based phone systems and software integrations to streamline their operations and improve the customer experience significantly.

The Role of a Call Center Agent

Call centers may handle inbound calls, outbound calls, or a combination of them. A representative, or call agent, is the person or persons that manage the calls in either case.

Call agents’ responsibility is to answer incoming calls from customers to answer their questions, resolve problems, and address concerns or complaints about the company’s products and services. Depending on a call center’s purpose, call center agents may also spend their workdays making outbound calls setting appointments, making sales, or gathering information for surveys.

The job requirements for call center agents are usually fairly minimal. Many call centers are willing to hire agents that have a minimum of a high school diploma or its equivalent. It’s helpful if they have a basic proficiency in computer applications, as well as excellent data entry skills, typing skills, and an ability to multitask. Call center agents should have a working knowledge of the practices and principles behind customer service and excellent communication skills.

Call center experience is often welcome by some companies. Others prefer to hire call agents that have little or no call center experience. This approach to hiring eliminates the worry over hiring call agents that have acquired bad habits, and they can train new call agents according to the company’s practices from the start.

Call Center Agent Training

Good training is especially important because call agents often have to handle stressful situations when interacting with customers. With the right tools and training, call agents are better prepared to turn an irate customer interaction into a positive customer experience.

Customer support agents answer incoming calls about customer inquiries and problems. They may transfer calls to tech support, sales teams, or managers when they’re not able to resolve a call directly. Call centers that are created for sales teams place outgoing calls to prospects, qualified leads, and current customers with the goal of closing sales, upselling, getting referrals, and evaluating customer satisfaction. 

Call centers are becoming an important strategy for business growth because they so strongly improve the customer experience. 

Best Practices for Improving Sales Call Center Agent Performance

Cloud-based call centers for sales can be very lucrative for companies when they establish standard practices and protocols. Especially if they are designed to lead customers quickly and smoothly through each section of the sales funnel.  

To do this, sales call center agents need to have vast product knowledge. They also need to apply that knowledge to a customer’s needs. The start of the the sales cycle is when call center agents to start building trust and rapport with new customers. The goal of your sales call center is to generate revenue. A well trained call center agents should have ample opportunity to increase revenue during the sales cycle.

When customers call a company, they expect the agent to answer their questions quickly and thoroughly. Customers rely on sales to gather the necessary information they need in their decision making process. Therefore, call center agents should also have knowledge of any inventory and availability of products and services. 

Call center agents need to be prepared to make recommendations to customers. However, recommendations should be made based on the customer’s pain points. They should also be aware of any problems with a product so they can effectively answer questions and concerns and pass along information about how the company is addressing them.

Patience is important for both the customer and the agent. Customer can get frustrated if a salesperson isn’t aware of their past activity. As expected, people don’t appreciate having to repeat themselves. A call center agent that has all the necessary insights will perform better. They’ll also give a more personalized experience. Call center agents will build trust quicker if they are vested in helping customers meet their needs.

Sales Call Center Best Practices

Sales call center agents are sales professionals and it’s essential that they take a sales-minded approach to every call. Given the information they have, they should look for opportunities to cross-sell, upsell, or ask for referrals to keep the revenue going. In fact, according to Salesforce, high-performing sales teams are 2.8% more likely to agree that their organizations place a heavier focus on customer interactions.

To help guide your team take advantage of available best practices. Use the following to guide your team and improve sales call center performance: 

  • Prepare for outgoing sales calls by reviewing the call history and understanding the customer’s needs and preferences.
  • Listen to previous calls, re-read emails, and check social media posts.
  • Provide personalized service.
  • Review customer information to make sure you have the right client information.
  • Be sure to have the context of the call to answer questions quickly and avoid errors.
  • Always be on the lookout for clues to help customers take advantage of promotions or sales campaigns or drive the sale up while the customer is on the call.
  • Use a cloud-based phone system and software integrations to provide a seamless customer experience.

Best Practices for Improving Support Call Center Agent Performance

A customer’s experience with your company relies heavily on how call center agents respond to their questions and concerns. With every interaction between a company representative and a customer, it’s an opportunity to build on the trust they are placing in your company at the time of the sale. When a customer has a good experience with your company, it’s an indication that they can expect the same response every time they call. Customer experience is the key to developing loyalty and inspiring new sales. 

Customer scripts are a useful tool for call agents, but they should really only form the basis for call agents to respond to customer calls. Call center agents may not be able to resolve all problems directly, but they should be able to redirect calls to someone who can. Salesforce research shows that 75% of customers said that connected processes are very important to retaining their business. Customers expect seamless handoffs between departments with little or no waiting. 

Support Call Center Best Practices

The following best practices for improving support call center agent performance follow: 

  • Establish KPIs so you can set benchmarks for call center agent performance.
  • Communicate goals to support call center agents.
  • Use KPIs and goals during call agent performance reviews.
  • Utilize call monitoring to score calls based on how the call agent handled calls with the goals of giving them a target score and improving their customer support skills.
  • Enable call whispering to help in training to silently whisper tips and reminders to help call agents during calls.
  • Use call barging for managers to break in on difficult calls and help resolve them.
  • Leverage analytics to measure KPIs and make sure call agents know what the KPIs are.
  • Use surveys to get customer satisfaction ratings.
  • Ask your call agents for their perspectives on areas for improvement and their thoughts about adding software or other tools that will assist them.
  • Provide mandatory regular training with a focus on the customer experience.
  • Create a centralized knowledge base that’s accessible during calls.

Metrics to Better Measure Call Center Agent Performance

A cloud-based phone system puts valuable metrics for your sales or support call center at your fingertips. The data lets you tap into information about call activities, customer service, and productivity. 

These are the metrics that you get with an Aircall cloud-based phone system which is easy to set up, implement, and scale: 

  • View data on the number of inbound and outbound calls.
  • Analyze the total time spent on inbound and outbound calls.
  • View the percent of missed calls out of the total inbound calls received.
  • See the percent of voicemails that customers left.
  • Examining average customer wait time before they’re connected to a user.
  • The average treatment time which is the amount of time before a voicemail or missed call is archived by a user in the phone app.
  • View the average duration of inbound and outbound calls.
  • Analyze the average number of calls per user which is calculated by using the total number of calls for all users at the present time.

Tools for Call Center Agents

To compete with the kind of customer experience that today’s customers expect and the type of customer experience that your competitors are offering, call center agents need the right tools. A cloud-based phone system with robust call center features and the capability to use it with business applications are more than someday wishes—they’re “must haves” for excelling at giving a great customer experience.

Your sales and support call centers should provide basic equipment like a computer, headset, and internet connection and a full-featured cloud-based phone system by Aircall. As long as call agents have access to the internet, call center software allows them to work anywhere, and they won’t need to have a traditional telephone line.

With an Aircall cloud-based phone system, call agents don’t have to install any type of call center software or hardware. All agents need to do is log in and get to work answering your calls. With Aircall, you get the benefit of great flexibility. You get a wide array of phone system features beyond what other phone system providers offer, like call routing, interactive voice response (IVR), call queueing, call whispering, and call recording, just to name a few.

Aircall also already works with a wide variety of software integrations. Aircall’s App Marketplace describes other business tools that work well with your phone system.

Some of the most popular software integrations give you opportunities to add these functions with examples of programs in Aircall’s App Marketplace: 

CRM

Helpdesk software

Productivity and performance analytics

Communicate with multiple channels—chat, social media, email, etc.

Survey tools for assessing customer satisfaction in real-time

E-Commerce

AI & transcription

You may be using some of these integrations already. If none of them are quite what you need, all you need to do is have a developer to create an app using Aircall’s open API.

Cloud-based call center software is a necessity for enhancing the customer experience through your call center. A cloud-based phone system and the right software integrations will have a huge impact on your call center agents’ professionalism and effectiveness which will yield greater customer satisfaction and increased sales.

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