Best Practices for Training eCommerce Call Centers | Aircall Blog

Best Practices for Training eCommerce Call Centers

Use these tips to train ecommerce call center agents
by
Nicholas Price

Would it be worth your while to establish and develop a top-quality eCommerce call center if it meant an increase in sales and revenue?

The 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report showed organizations felt that it was important to use digital tools to improve the customer experience. Of the 1,351 organizations from 80 countries that participated in the survey, 81% agreed that they reaped the benefits of increased customer loyalty, revenue, and cost savings after training customer service agents and implementing digital tools. 

The roles of sales and customer service aren’t for the faint of heart. Sales and service representatives have to balance many simultaneous tasks to do their jobs well. Some days, complaints and rejections seem to rule the day. Yet, when a call agent can end a call on a positive note, it’s a great day for the customer, call center agents, and your company.

What Is a Call Center Agent?

A call center agent makes or receives calls for various functions of business like closing sales, answering questions, and solving problems. They serve as direct liaisons between customers and your company. With the end goal of providing a good customer experience, call center agents serve on the front lines, doing their best to make your customers happy every day.

In their role as call center agents, your employees are busy answering questions about your products and services. They’re using various eCommerce call center software programs and multiple communication channels to get the right data and relay it to customers in real-time. Various tools like help desks, knowledge bases, CRM systems, and workflow tools help them to work diligently and efficiently.

Well-trained call center agents are masters at thinking on their feet and making fast decisions. The focus of their role is to build good rapport by delivering unmatched personal and empathetic service. When they’re successful, they’re instrumental in building trust in your company, and that inspires brand loyalty.   

A call center agent’s job goes well beyond merely giving customers the right answers. It’s all about how they make the customer feel by the end of the call. 

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As the first line of service and support, call center agents are often the first to discover significant problems and barriers. In solving problems for customers, they’re simultaneously solving problems for your business. The feedback that call center agents bring to your attention sets you up to fix them expediently to prevent churn.

The Importance of Training Call Center Agents 

Conscientious employees want to do a good job. Additionally, they the right tools and training allow them to perform better at their job. Good call agent training is crucial to the success of your call center, and ultimately, to your business. It’s essential to provide good initial training, and don’t overlook the importance of offering ongoing training.

Periodic courses assist call agents to keep their skills fresh and updated. Group courses are apt to bring common issues out in the open, creating opportunities to keep everyone on the same page so they’re delivering a consistent customer experience every time. Group and individual training sessions will help agents improve trouble spots and sharpen their customer service skills. 

Managers and supervisors also get a lot out of training call center agents. It’s not practical for them to listen in on every call. Training sessions will bring out discussions about the types of interactions call agents are having with customers. Such discussions open up opportunities for managers and call agents to learn from each other, brainstorm new ideas, and role-play challenging calls.

The Stats Behind Call Center Agent Training

Call center agent training will reduce churn in your call center, which means you save time and effort on having to hire and train new employees. LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report shows just how important training is to employees:

  • 94% of employees said they’d stay with a company that invested in learning opportunities for them.
  • 75% of employees would be willing to take a course that their manager developed.
  • 75% of employees would be willing to take a course their manager suggested.
  • Over half the respondents said they valued opportunities to collaborate with instructors and other learners in groups (over 50% across baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z).

An investment in training your call center agents will yield an improvement in your bottom line. According to a survey by the American Society for Training and Development, companies that invested in training their employees enjoyed 24% higher profit margins.

In addition to training call center agents on how to use scripts and tools, a 2018 Deloitte survey showed that millennial and Gen Z workers were lacking in a variety of job-related skills, especially in the area of soft skills like these: 

  • Creativity
  • Persuasion
  • Critical thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Flexibility
  • Organization
  • Interpersonal skills

Training in soft skills helps your call agents to communicate more effectively. Your customers all communicate differently, making it impractical for call center agents to use highly scripted responses. The right training will help your call center agents listen actively and communicate responses clearly.

Building Your eCommerce Call Center 

When building a successful eCommerce call center, you have lots of questions to answer. It all starts in the planning process, which is the first of three steps of building an eCommerce call center:

  1. 1. Planning your call center design.
  2. 2. Hiring the right people and training them.
  3. 3. Implementing the right tools.

The planning stage of your eCommerce call center includes forecasting the call center workload, staffing for sales calls, staffing for customer service calls, and performance management. Software analytics will give you an indication of the call volume for peak and non-peak times. 

Are you planning an in-house call center? Does your design incorporate remote teams or distributed teams? A cloud-based phone system and software integrations open up a variety of possibilities for a virtual call center setup. 

The next step is to hire and train your call center agents. Quality and assurance software programs will help you evaluate your call center agents’ performance and set goals and objectives for improvement.

Finally, you’ll need to identify the right tools to get your eCommerce call center up and running and off to a great start. A cloud phone system gives you a greater array of phone system features than a standard PBX phone system. Cloud phones, also known as VoIP phone systems, also give you the benefit of integrating your phone system with other business software programs like helpdesk, CRM, and a host of other beneficial customer service functions.   

Hiring Call Center Agents

Contrary to what some people believe, it takes skill to be a productive call center agent. When hiring call center agents, look for people that can learn product knowledge or already possess it. Additionally, team members with communication and soft skills should be at the top of your list.

Quality call center agents learn when to use open-ended questions and active listening techniques. They’re able to phrase questions and statements in ways that deepen customer relationships and build trust in your brand. 

When recruiting and hiring call agents, look for these qualities on resumes and in interviews: 

Solves problems creatively

No two calls are the same in the course of a call center agent’s day. Look for people that can think and act quickly to solve problems.

Has empathy

Customers contact your business because they need something. An empathetic attitude goes a long way toward dealing with frustrated or impatient customers. Showing empathy is a good way to validate a customer’s feelings.

Multi-tasks well

Integrated software programs and cloud-phone system features allow call center agents to bring up various types of data. The best call center agents can efficiently pull up the right data and switch communication channels as needed to meet customers’ needs.

Communicates clearly

A major part of a call center agent’s job is communication. They need to be able to enunciate clearly, be polite, and communicate their thoughts and solutions. Good communicators have active listening skills and they can absorb and process information quickly.

Remain calm under pressure

A call center agent job is often stressful. The most successful call center agents can keep calm when customers aren’t. They take mental and emotional breaks as needed to maintain an upbeat, friendly attitude on the next call.

They’re team players

Call center managers often set up teams to develop healthy competitiveness and encourage productivity. The right cloud-based phone system offers analytics to assist you in setting up metrics for call center team performance.

Managing Your Call Center

While hiring and training call center agents are primary elements of managing an effective eCommerce call center, you’ll have good success when you consider the common problems with call center agents—notably, turnover and fatigue.

Hiring and training are part of making an investment in your employees. To make the most of your efforts, you’ll want to incentivize call center agents to keep improving their skills and stay with your company long-term.

Remote and distributed teams are a good way to distribute call flow, scale, and make sales and customer service available across multiple time zones. It’s a great way to provide coverage outside of normal business hours without overworking call center agents. Call center agents may be willing to work overtime but asking them to work too many hours causes burnout and leads to employee churn.

Still another problem for call center agents is fatigue. Part of managing a call center team is making sure call center agents are comfortable on the job. Encourage call agents to practice good posture, get plenty of fluids, and take short breaks as needed to prevent fatigue and burnout.

Optimizing Performance of Your Call Center 

When you optimize your call center performance, you can easily reframe it from the standpoint of a cost center to a revenue center. Take advantage of phone system metrics to analyze the customer journey, improve retention rates, shorten call times, and solve problems on the first call. 

Use these five ways to optimize your call center’s performance: 

  1. 1. Benchmark your call center performance against industry standards. Learn customer pain points and use feedback to improve call flows.
  2. 2. Create measurable goals around saving costs, improving the customer experience, and working efficiently. Set short and long-term goals for your eCommerce call center.
  3. 3. Maintain appropriate staff levels to maximize human capital. Employees are one of your biggest expenses. Call analytics come to the rescue with data that tells you how many call agents you need during various timeframes. Strive to create a good agent experience to prevent employee churn. Make sure they have the right tools and give credence to their feedback.
  4. 4. Make a careful review of your technology stack. Make sure all your tools work together seamlessly. Investigate whether new software exists that can improve your efficiency even more.

The right software solutions allow you to set up metrics to evaluate how creating a good customer experience translates to customer loyalty and increased revenue.

Best Practices for Training eCommerce Call Center Agents

Call center agents use best practices because they viewed as the most effective way to do things. The following list gives you some best practices for training eCommerce call center agents. Since best practices are still evolving, you might just develop a few of your own. 

  • Arrange opportunities for remote and distributed teams to connect for socialization. Psychologist and author of “The Village Effect”, Susan Pinker points to her study of 25,000 call center agents that showed that call center agents that had an opportunity to socialize with their peers online for 15 minutes a day had an increase in performance of 20%.
  • Give call agents the scope of your operations. Their role is one part of the larger operation. By sharing how their role fits into other departments, it inspires them to do their part. Share your mission, culture, core values, and vision to encourage a sense of cohesiveness.
  • Give top performers a chance to share practical tips on how they became top performers.
  • Emphasize the call center agents’ role in creating a good customer relationship and how that relates to brand loyalty and increased revenue.
  • Support call agents with ongoing training including role-playing, appropriate greetings, and ending conversations. Use call recording and call whispering for training purposes.
  • Be sure they know where to turn when they run into a problem call.
  • Set up measurable goals and use analytics to provide objective feedback.

Customer Feedback & Call Center Training 

Customer feedback tells about the value you bring to customers and it’s also a reflection of the type of experience they have with your sales and service teams. Seek feedback from customers that aligns with your goals. Automated surveys are an efficient tool for getting timely, genuine feedback from customers.

Aircall supplements its cloud-based phone system with these partners for automated surveys:

 Find them and other software integrations in the Aircall App Marketplace.

Here are a few tips for how to set up survey questions to gauge customer satisfaction rates:

  • Keep surveys short and to the point. Too many questions cause customers to take a pass on giving you feedback.
  • Use answer formats that are quick and easy like yes/no or star ratings.
  • One way to assess a customer’s experience is to ask if they’d be inclined to refer others to your brand.
  • Be timely. Set up automation so customers get a survey shortly after their purchase or after a call center interaction while the experience is still on their minds.
  • Use the same questions over time to evaluate changes positive and negative changes in responses.
  • Don’t forget that you can use surveys on multiple communication channels. The results of each of them have value for your contact center.

Overall, how your eCommerce call center handles calls often determines whether customers will return and refer others, or whether they’ll be checking out the competition. What you need for your eCommerce call center to deliver customer success is the right call center design, well-trained call center agents, and the right digital tools.  

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