support agents conversation

Is Your Phone System Setting Support Agents Up to Fail?

Greg SmoragiewiczLast updated on February 22, 2023
3 min
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Listen in on a couple of your support agents commiserating over coffee and you might hear phrases like “irritating,” “infuriating,” or “impossible to work with.”

If they’re referring to a difficult customer, that’s nothing to be too concerned about. Everyone deserves a chance to vent after a stressful stretch on the phone.

But if they’re talking about the phone system itself, then you’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands.

Because no matter how much training you invest in after the fact, saddling agents with an ineffective setup will always leave them feeling like their rowing against the tide.

Never Had a Chance

The first test of a phone system is whether it directs a caller to the person most likely to resolve their inquiry. This sounds simple enough, but a surprising number still fail to clear this hurdle.

Some systems lack any call routing features whatsoever, sending all callers straight through to a single support line. This forces agents to diagnose the nature of the inquiry at the start of every call before deciding if they’re even the right person to talk to.

Other systems apply a call routing strategy that fails to account for availability or skills. As a result, agents end up receiving calls while they’re away from their desk or fielding inquiries they have no chance at resolving.

All this initial confusion takes a serious toll on agents.

The missed calls, longer talk times, and lower resolution rates all reflect poorly on their professional performance. And at a personal level, nobody enjoys playing the role of the inept employee who constantly has to transfer callers to more capable colleagues.

Flying Blind

While a good phone system takes the first step of connecting callers to the right agents, a great one goes the extra mile by connecting agents to the right information.

Too many phone systems leave the voice channel on an island, separated from all the other customer communication tools agents oversee. This disconnection is literal in the case of landline desk phones. But even VoIP softphones aren’t always guaranteed to play well with other applications.

As a result of this fragmentation, agents often answer the phone knowing nothing more than the name displayed by caller ID.

The resulting investigation usually begins by asking the caller to confirm their contact details before immediately requesting they wait for agents to pull up additional information. As this awkward silence lingers, agents are furiously clicking around their computers and alternating between apps that might contain more clues about the customer’s story.

At best, agents find everything they’re looking for but have still ultimately started the conversation with a 20-second delay. At worst, they return from their expedition empty-handed and the customer is forced to repeat information they already shared with the company.

Once again, the agent pays the price for a failing phone system in the form of a damaged reputation and performance record.

Starting Smart

Companies don’t place agents in these difficult situations by design. In most cases, it’s simply a matter of managers not realizing what’s possible in a software-based world.

With user-friendly software at the foundation of your phone system, sophisticated call routing features can now be applied and adapted in a few clicks. And with a little bit of API-based ingenuity, you can connect the system to virtually any CRM, helpdesk, or collaboration software your agents already depend on.

As a result of these subtle innovations, customer conversations end up sounding dramatically different. Agents can trust routing rules to send them relevant inquiries, study the associated CRM data before picking up, and answer every call ready to deliver a personalized solution.

And with support agents feeling confident about their phone systems, it won’t be long before you’re feeling better about your customer satisfaction scores.

Published on September 21, 2017.

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